Map of a Movement : Where are leaders working on childhood obesity? Are you on the map?

One of the projects I am working on is focused on addressing the issue of childhood obesity.(learn more about the issue at RWJF) 

During the interviews and assessment phase before the project, we interviewed lots of leaders in the movement working to reverse the epidemic that wanted to know who are the other leaders in their cities.  We heard "If we only had a map".... when we decided to build the map, we wanted to make it so everyone could "own it" this is their map.

We went the extra mile (ok 10 miles) to make it like a youtube video. This map can be embedded on lots of sites (including your own). You can just grab the code (copy) and paste it on any site.

As people join the movement, they are added to totals of supporters on the maps all over the internet. As leaders join the movement, they are added to the map with a way to contact them all over the internet.

There are a few advanced features like the ability to customize the map size, add your logo or change the zoom (if you work on any of the issues related to childhood obesity or want to support those that do please start spreading the map far and wide.)

This map is pretty netcentric. As it creates new pathways for people to connect to each other, it creates a shared resource, and it becomes a feedback tool for showing how and where the movement is getting organized to reverse the epidemic.  

Let me know what you think? How many places will we see this map distributed in 6 months?


Engagement Unpacked and Debated

Gideon Rosenblatt is enjoying “retirement” digging into some important concepts that feed social change.  His riffs are must read content for serious organizers (online and on land). I like his focus on teasing apart the spectrum of “engagement”. I love his work.  I enjoy debating with him via blog post to sharpen my thinking and figure out what he is saying.  These posts are thought provoking. 

Engagement is important to define. However, I don’t think I like the way it is defined here. I don’t like the way he set up the word engagement to be tied to productivity. I also react negatively to the idea that  to the idea …

“The art of engagement centers on knowing when to invest in relationship building and when to tap relationships to get work done.”

In this framework, you are not engaged if you are in a relationship (connection of ideas and discussion) and you are not engaged if you are doing weekly tasks for someone.  It is only engagement by connecting the relationship to tasks.Or as the Church used to say “faith without works is dead”

“Engagement is what brings tasks and relationships together. Engagement is the process of building relationships with people and putting those relationships to work to accomplish some goal.”

In this model, unless we use some really loose definitions of task and relationship then solidarity, alliance, alignment and accompaniment are not engagement. Learning from another (is that a task or transactional?) This definition makes “issue engagement” focus on a defined set of relationships and tasks.  I don’t think that is consistent with my experience.

Getting work done with other people is hard. Getting work done by people that you don’t pay is harder. In this framework, engagement is a proxy for making people work because they like you. Again, I disagree.

It is hard to work with people when you don’t pay them. However, there are lots of reasons for failure outside the relationship/task balance. When you are not paying them, they need to either like the work (you don’t matter) or they like you, or they expect rewards in the future, or the do it because they hate who you are also working against. Are you “engaged” with other people when you are at a rally together but don’t know each other?

Finally, this framework of engagement also seems makes engagement “scarce”.  I am struck that engagement in the model is not regenerative. You “discharge” relationship points to get things done and when you are “broke” of relationships you have no capacity to get tasks done together and still be “engaged”.

Engagement is about promise and entanglement. Like one of captains on Star Trek “Engage”. Engagement comes from the “engagement period”. The groups that are great at engagement are the groups that know how to create promise. These groups entangle their allies together close and far with attention and listening and excitement.  Those that excel at engagement often align people into action but it is important to unpack and tease farther apart failure to effectively “work” an engaged public in a productive direction and the failure to be successful at engagement. 

If you want to build engagement create promise and entangle with your audience (listening, work, learning, accompaniment, campaigns, actions, etc). If you want the engaged group to be productive empower your network leaders to get things done, and invest in the network capacity of the engaged group to share, collaborate, adapt, and act collectively.


Oil in the Gulf Widget

I like these tools to help tell the story. This widget misses a few important tweaks that would make it more valuable for both the user and PBS.

1. Sign up for updates on this story. (Name recruitment for PBS). Thank you emails should have links to charities and actions in them.

2. Donate to news coverage of the gulf coast spill. (short video talking about the cost of covering the story)

3.  The logo link to news hour should be all the Gulf spill coverage NOT the homepage.

4. Tell your story of the Gulf like 

5. Watch the Mos Def the Gulf Aid track, 'Ain't My Fault.'

 Oil in the Gulf.

No Excitement About Recovery on Facebook

I have been hunting around for data like “google flu” those shadows cast by real people doing things that provide insight on big trends. I was looking at Facebook Lexicon to see what trend data could show.

I would imagine many people post something about “new job” or their friends congratulate them on “new jobs” via facebook. So I punched it into Lexicon.

You can see the Facebook crowd mirrored the economic collapse with some variation there is just not that many folks posting about “new job” on facebook.   I assume when we see this line start to climb, we will know the job part of the recovery has started.




Make sure to use these tools to access the trends in data that impact your campaign efforts. I find these as interesting insights into the language to use (new jobs is how people talk about it “unemployment” doesn’t even register), the traction major themes are getting (see old post on health care).

Get Thee Behind Me, Disco Duck! » Digital Diner

I am playing a bit of a punk to the wise elders of tech....Gavin and Michael.  I don't disagree with feelings of these riffs against walled gardens, lobster traps and annoying ads but I don't think the advice that emerges works.

I would suggest... 

  1. Don't design for yourself. (Perry White reference alone makes this point)
  2. Providing your vision, comments, staff time and content and only asking for email name alone is akin introducing yourself online.
  3. It is not that big of a deal for people to "skip to homepage" through the splash page. Those pages are the best ways to start collecting information on users.
  4. People are not on Facebook or "being pushed to Facebook" by groups. They are there for their friends. They are on Myspace in equal numbers. It is the nonprofits that need to listen and organize where the people are. Going where the people are at is reducing the barrier.
The problem is that many groups look at relationships as "lobster traps". Groups want to engage people to pick their pockets and political capital but want the lightest possible relationship (they can't service many relationships). Groups seldom want those people to talk back. The threat is that it is not controlled or directed in the same way as traditional platforms and the groups lack the skills, tools and organizers perspective to be able to let members serve each other.     

Get Thee Behind Me, Disco Duck! » Digital Diner.
Michael Gilbert (who I think of as my own personal Perry White) suggested I repost my response here, on the Diner. (I think he’s worried that I haven’t posted much stuff in the last few months. Not to worry Michael, it was just a dry spell caused by excessive time travel.

Tools I Use to Connect, Scan and React to the Web

After tweaking and refining over the last several weeks, I finally believe I have a system of software and web services figured out that support me in my work to connect with peers, scan the web and react and publish my thoughts/reaction to the conversation. etc.  

About me.  I do not write code. I don’t know how to operate a tar ball. I want things easy and out of the way.   This entire package is a few dollars a month for typepad (hosts this blog ). I tend to work long hours and spend a bit of my nights scanning the online space. I don’t mind putting the time in to set up each of these because they pay off pretty well.  I have a Vista laptop with all Office 2007 tools and an Iphone.

I am an Executive Director at a nonprofit organization a part of my job and work consists of;

  1. Scanning the field for several projects (hundreds of feeds), grabbing notes that I may need or I want to share with other that are interested in the same project.
  2. Working over the notes and developing some into riffs on networks and advocacy, or storing those notes for later cooking.
  3. Publishing my thought process online, the raw materials and any final products. Sometimes, I need to create long and short riffs on the subject but also I am content to point people to other peoples brilliant content online. 

As a network and organizer, my instinct is to leverage a vast and far flung collection of people accelerate my learning, broaden my view and deepen my thinking.  I need to keep my ear to the web.

I am not interested in web traffic. I don’t do this for ad revenue. I am mostly interested in more fully developing my thoughts.  I am interested in getting things done in campaigns. I am interested in providing our partners and clients with a really solid understanding of what is going on across the online organizing space.

Additionally, my online activity is a bit “social”. I am interested in sharing information with a small group of friends, peers and coworkers in the progressive movement. I am interested in conversation.  I do some of my reading and reacting to stay in touch benefit from, and help my friends.  

I don’t want it to take more than an hour or two to scan, grab, kick around, react and publish.


I love to meet people for coffee. I spend 40%-60% of my day in meetings or on the phone with people.  I love the value and richness of face to face and phone conversations. Phone calls are the best for me but if I have time to tune in and kick updates around with peers I don’t like the demand that email correspondence puts on us for social interaction.  I feel really bad when I can’t reply to someone's email.  I also no longer feel comfortable sending random update email to friends trying to get us all caught up. In addition to my email, I stay in touch by communicating via

  1. Facebook (in browser and on iphone app, pulls in feeds)
  2. Linked-in (just for professional connections and keeping contact pipeline with lots of people)
  3. Twitter (Tweetdeck for the PC …Tweetie for $2.99 on iphone)
  4. My blog (typepad – only problem..I wish I could change my domain name without messing it up.)
  5. Google reader ( with 117 feeds and a shared feed)
  6. I comment on others postings.


  1. Twitter – My favorite part of twitter is see “who follows and who”.  The open connections are the most valuable part of the system to me. It enables me to reach very “far” across the web to connect with people that are outside my circle of information but still trusted by traceable by degrees of separation.  I try to track lots of people right now as I am using it to see what is interesting. Many of the people that I am really close with are not yet on twitter so I use it to scan the larger field.  I assume i will really use it more for work in the months ahead.  I think the #tag stuff is brilliant.
  2. Facebook – Scanning  my close network. (my family, friends and coworkers and friends are on here)
  3. Google Reader (Great Tool. It grabs almost everything I need. I can look at it from my phone and it has share and share with notes that are a part of my site. Star for later)
  4. Email ( I don’t want things coming into my inbox. )
  5. Project related feeds on sites (Instead of the google reader) like the bottom of this site (

Working Over the Results

  1. Onenote 2007– Screen Capture.  It really works like a notebook. You see something that is interesting and you highlight it and send it to Onenote (it is a tool in IE) or you can grab the screen and create a page from what you are looking at.  You have the option to send any onenote page “send to blog”
  2. Windows Live Writer  (I love this)– As you are surfing a page or reading in firefox…you highlight the interesting section of the page and hit a little icon that windows live writer puts on your toolbar in firefox. A post opens up with a title and the content already linkined and in the post. It has one button publishing to send the text and images directly into your blog. 
  3. Firefox – quick publish – blogger. I set up a blogger account for “clips” I don’t use the blogger account to write anything (it is linked to a wiki) I just highlight and hit the right mouse button to see “send to blogger” and off the clip goes. 


  1. Typepad – 14 bucks a month. It works.  i have been using it for years. They keep adding features, attacking spam and make sure the feeds work with almost every service (facebook, widgets etc.)  It is easy to keep free of spam and has an Iphone app.
  2. Blogger – just for clips.
  3. Drupal – full content management system and preferred platform for most of my sites.
  4. – REally easy wiki. I have watched old hippy organizers use it so i know the technology is not a barrier. (unfortunately, the branding is difficult) Moving money into SC schools like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!

Donor’s Choose is opening a money pipeline into the classrooms in SC.  teachers in these classes want beanbag chairs, rugs for cozy corners for reading, prewriting sets for kids with motor skill problems, etc.  Teacher requests directly from SC classrooms.

Education in the spotlight: Support classrooms like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!

By Katie Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 5:44pm

If you were watching President Obama’s address to Congress last night, Ty’Sheoma Bethea probably stole your heart, like she stole ours. The eight-grader from Dillon, South Carolina was in attendance because of the letter she wrote to Congress, about her school’s terrible condition.

Ty’Sheoma wrote, “As you know, we have a lot of problems with our school.  President Obama has visit our school and were able to see why we should need a new school.  Some of the promblems are, we can not afford anything so we can not go on school trips or do school activities unlike other schools…”

She concluded her letter with, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congress men like yourself and one day president….”  To make a difference in high-poverty South Carolina classrooms like Ty’Sheoma’s, you can start here.

All the best,
Katie & Alex Carolinas

image Blog: Education in the spotlight: Support classrooms like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!

Don’t Look at the News. Don’t Watch C-span

I love this site in just 10 seconds I get a snap shot of all the words on the congressional record for the day.  This is all the speeches, bills and who is talking about them.

What does this image tell you in a glance?


Capitol Words

1. It looks like California and Texas are discussing jobs and economy.  It looks like the states in the middle are pretty quite (are the GOP members not active in the committees?)

Wish list:

  • It would be cool if there was a red state / blue state version to see how they differ.
  • It would also be cool to look at the differences between D and R.
  • I look forward to a moveable timeline
  • I would like to be able to compare word clouds of politicians.
  • I also think it would be good to be able to click on the word for a report of the references. The trend is very cool.
  • links to advocacy letters or public comment periods associated with those words.
  • an improved and larger widget.
  • an ability to normalize the color maps based on the percentage of all things said by their state (CA and TX) dominate because of delegation size. (for example is it by % that TX talks most about the environment?
  • some way that I can grab a page like MD( and keep with a timeline on the top of a local political page (then have a blog and commenting under it)  or a word ( see the workds around the work environment and the legislators talking about it in a block of time.
  • ability to search phrases. Tags: ,,

The Agitator – Screening Process for Evangelist : Social Market

This post got me thinking….

How Find Your Missionaries | The Agitator - Fundraising, Direct Marketing and Advocacy Strategies for Nonprofits

How do I find out which of my missionary prospects has the "right stuff"? Until we have a scoring model that can pre-identfy these folks in a donor file (something our partner DonorTrends is working on) I guess there’s no substitute … I have to ask or "test" them!

So, I’d come up with a simple missionary request for my prospects (actually, a few requests over time to really probe my prospect pool) … something that involved outreach — such as passing along a message or sending in a prospect name. The donors who responded would be my missionaries. …I’d then attempt to "graduate" them to some explicit donor-to-friend fundraising promotion. I’d conduct as much of this program online as possible, using the latest viral marketing and social networking tools. And I’d create a recognition program to keep my missionaries motivated.

This is good but I think most groups are missing the deep outreach to new members.  The people likely to be “missionaries” are the “sneezers”  which has more to do with the rank in a social group, the topic area and personality type.  In “grapevine” there was talk that it is the new members that are your most likely evangelist.  They just “found you” and eager to tell friends of the “new experience”.    Social marketing is not about donors and loyalty.  It is about buzz. i don’t think the process outlined really gets at the evagelism you seek.

I would start mining the data of new people that arrive.  Focus on the tools and behavior that the new people engage in and and make sure they have the tools they need to “invite” friedns and keep confident that connecting with your cause or group was a great idea.  

Focus on launching services to as existing base and see how they pick up and open issues and then see if i could get them to perform.   I would focus more resources on the “new customers” that are just coming to you for whatever reason and understand why your group is attractive in the current context.   Getting old members that joined 5 years ago to give you a few nnames is fine but I don’t think it is going to be the approach that will give you the best ROI. Tags: ,,
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Madoff's Fraud Destroyed my Job and Threatens my Cause: Ongoing Network Failure.

While much of the coverage so far is focused on the investor victims of the Madoff fraud, I am interested in watching and supporting some of the other "victims". The people and organizations that are the on tail end of all those investments. The people that can say "Madoff Fraud Destroyed my job and threatens my life work and cause." I am inspired to look at the reactions these people in the Madoff fraud ecosystem as a early warning of how our broader sector may react to the looming collapse of individual donor, foundation and government revenues in 2009 - 2010. 

The Madoff case must serve as an accelerated case study for the rest of us on the edge of the economic disaster (and by "the rest of us" I mean you, the US, economy, everyone working for a nonprofit, everyone). 

I don't know all of the details but after surfing the Madoff stories, it seems the predominate reactions in charities are focused on responding to the needs of the organizations, grasping for ways to replace the revenue and selling assets.   Here are some of the examples...

  • Jewish Funders Network announced a $5 million loan fund
  • Groups raised emergency money for organizations (to pump revenue into the organizations) MoveOn, OSI.
  • Each group is dropping into survival mode to respond (selling assets including art. cutting costs)

I assume there are big layoffs in the works at the dozens of charities but I couldn't find a story that pulled them together.   If it were "one big company" like Enron (linked in group 1000+) or Lehman Brothers, etc.  There would already be big collaborative network of former employee groups and groups. Staff would meet up and support each other, create spin offs, find ways to help each other cope and survive.  But in the nonprofit sector, we are traditionally fragmented, smaller shops and compeditive with each other when in the same space (ironically for the attention of donors and media).  In normal times, the staff, volunteer and work is buffered against collabortive impact by this fragmented, compeditive and redundant model.   However, times are different.  We are seeing entire "clusters" like the Madoff network getting hit at the same time. The next "cluster" will be the broader nonprofit sector.

How will the larger sector react?

In the larger ongoing nonprofit crisis  (assume 50% reduction in nonprofit revenues within 2 years) the challenge seems to that such a traditional reaction strategy will not work. Watching the reaction to Madoff fraud is not a scaleable response.

As a sector, we will not find a way to replace the massive volume of revenue (trillions in foundation endowments, grants, government grant cuts and individual donations) The money is going to disappear and no nonprofits are going to be around to buy or want a share of your 2 year old copier and the empty desk in your office. Mergers are expensive and high risk in good times. The broader sector will not be able to bakesale enough emergency funds.

The cuts are coming and all of our favorite issues are going to be facing a Madoff cluster collapse soon enough.  As hard as it is to think about, the survival strategy can not focus on the fate of each individual group survivor.

Decisions need to be made at the micro and maco-level of what can go. Groups and resources are going away and they are not going to return. People are going to retire.  Orgnaizations and brands, services and campaigns are going to collapse on a large scale.

The question is not if the "winner and looser" group choices are going to happen. They are. The question is how are those choices going to be made?

Do we want the macro level decisions made for us? Do we want government contracts, big donors and foundation program staff to restructure and plan the future of our sector, staff, friends and the redistribution of our assets? OR should we do this differently than other recessions? Should the network of people most effected by the crisis do the macro level thinking from the bottom up to the financial decision makers?  Would Enron employees wait until the collapse if they new it was coming to rethink the way they work?

What could be different?

I am not seeing the staff, boards, foundation program officers, donors and people who received the benefits of Madoff "investments" connecting to each other into open communications channels to figure out their combined response. 

In the Matoff case, I am not seeing new combination of the resources they want to save (Can the arts and museums organizing parties for the human rights groups? Can the groups consolidate a central communications or fund raising campaign? Can the combined staff of the peace groups, human rights groups and  survivor networks find a way to look at the network balance sheet (across all the recipeint groups) and design a combined reaction and a better way to move resources (people, intellectual property and hard capital amongst each other) to achieve something important (rather than collapse int lots of little groups or closing shops)?  Can they establish a lend-lease program among the network of victims whose entire business and campaigns are now threatened by the destabilization of revenue?

Yes, all these are "unconventional" responses. But at the heart of todays culture is a connectivity that unlike the first depression, offers all of the individuals /groups a real chance to share data, insights and informaiton.  A real chance to collaborate on big large scale management projects, and a capacity to build trust and crate collective responses.   

I am not seeing a bottom up plan develop on how to react as a network.  I am not seeing a Madoff lay offs retraining program or ways that all the distributed groups and people impacted can network and reshape the way they react.  The best reponse answer is "there" in the network of people impacted by the fraud. The challenge is finding it quickly, bubbling it up and distributing it for collective action.

I wish them the best of luck and I hope the rest of us can learn from thier answers and solutions. They are a few months ahead of the rest of the economy.

I am currently working with others on (nonprofit reponse to the economic crisis wiki ) for a bottoms up and network based response plan. I encourage anyone that has them to post comments here or visit the wiki with links to other bottom up and peer to peer reactions to the Madoff crisis in the nonprofit sector. (or links to peer groups working on the response to the broader economic crisis for our sector.)

(this is one of the posts the I really like and got me thinking)


With all the bad economic news over the past months, the Madoff scandal might seem like long-ago history to some (sort of like Lehman Brothers, remember them?). To whole communities however - communities of donors, of nonprofits, and of individual activists or issues - Madoff's impact is still present and ongoing. As in natural disasters, there are both short-term and long-term needs and responses. The Madoff ripoff, a truly man-made disaster, will require the same kind of timeline and attention.

Forget a Rerun. Watch Clay Shirky tonight.

Clay is a great thinker in this space and the impact of the culture revolution on organizing. Clay lays out a nice summary of the shifts and what they may mean to group expression and advocacy.

It is through immersion in this type of understanding that drives us to start to think of an Advocacy2.0. Stop asking how does the network help me do what I am doing today better. Ask how does the network change the strategy to get what I want?

Tag cloud and analysis of 952 ProgressiveExchange emails. (what has this list been talking about in a glance.)

I have a killer project in the works. I am not sure Net2 application and/or presentation does the project justice.Progressexhange_folder

The Advocacy Email Index will change the way we scan emails and understand the movements. Who wants to be on our our allies email list? This project will help us scan and navigate thousands of emails more easily. Users will figure out new ways to find allies and swarm issues.

I want to know what all the groups at Green Media Toolshed are talking about (clients, or peace movement, yada..yada) Green Media Toolshed has 194 member groups. I wish I knew what issues they are working on today, this week, over the last year. What is important to them? What are they discussion with their members in email? I want to know so I can swarm on issues and support folks. I want help our members network better and self-organize on issues. I need a technorotti or digg for the issues of the movement.

My inbox is full and I can't seem to read newsletters fast enough. Our best content is in our enewsletters. I need to be able to process email faster. I might know more about training needs, expertise and partnership opportunities. I need to know the words and trends in my network. (images of progressive exchange - inbox folder and tag cloud. It is all email subjects since Jan 1. What does it tell you?


The Advocacy Email Index
will identify key words used in emails to members. We need to know who is talking about what, and where. By illustrating the community “chatter”, this tool will empower messaging, appeals and issue framing. It will help our disconnected and fragmented movement swarm.

Vote for it. Pop it on net2 and we will get it finished.

We also ran on Center for American Progress emails....over on our blog.

A better title would also be great. (comments)

Real Youth Voices: YouTube - Hope: Myspace and YouTube Organizing for Peace

Here is an example of a high school peace activists (skyracer90) mashing together his own calls for brotherhood. From the way he has included a Twista song (powerpoint/video) to his connection with S.T.R.O.N.G (STRONG mySPACE) to the way Myspace connects him with 500 members.

He also was able to set up a multi-media, network building site all for free. In many ways, this site is more engaging than many of the site and much of the content our professional movement produces.

Link: YouTube - Hope.

Music: Hope by Twista ft. Faith Evans

Please visit S.T.R.O.N.G. "STRUGGLING TO REUNITE OUR NEW GENERATION". They are great people who are trying to put an end to gang violence. Visit them at:

This site is expressive without fancy words, collective (without tell-afriend), open for feedback and connected to culture and organizations. It is smart and a growing example of what our groups should be putting out there and encouraging members and staff to produce.

A few years ago a site with this open feedback and multi-media streaming would have cost thousands of dollars. Why do we still have so many brochureware movements?

Nonprofit Advocacy Blog Strategy

What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care? by Zafar S. Shah has inspired me to crank out my top five reasons I blog as an Executive Director of a small nonprofit.

1. "Online Thinking Space" - The number one reason I blog is to flush out my ideas into a communication. I am often get these thoughts (Oh we should sell ringtones that generate revenue for nonprofits, we should decentralize our content, someone should work on polling the people who work for nonprofit community to find their common stories and values, etc .etc. but until I sit down and google the concepts, play around with the idea and crank it out as a post for my friends (the 34 of you that read this thing) the idea sits as a one line to do in a notebook.

2. "Build my research library" - I see cool things, rants and concepts and articles that I know come up in my work. (I.e.. someone is going to ask me about internet ads someday...Here is a cool example of an effective ad...bang it becomes a post that I can share and that becomes available on my little Google side bar search)

3. Vanity and Dreams of Greater things. - I am so sick of walking into conferences and meeting with nonprofits only to hear all of us complain about the stupidity of foundations (don't worry if you read blogs you are probably not one the idiots everyone is complaining about) and the way that if they only changed our work would be solved. I dream that someday folks will find the rants and perspective here interesting enough to read it (beyond you 35 people) and slowly the target audience will find messages that help them change the behavior of key opinion leaders. I also hope that my rants give my friends the sound bytes, factoids, examples and stories that they can use to further expand the movement of folks that are willing to look at the network capacity of our movement.

4. Virtual Mentor - Being younger, inexperienced and running a small organization is a huge challenge. In Fortune 500 companies most of us punks would be climbing middle management and being cultivated by senior managers to help us access experience, wisdom and network. The online thinking space has been a huge help in getting building ties with a handful of external mentors so they can see my "thinking" and offer feedback to improve the design and execution of my ideas.

5. Comfort with Mistakes and Being Wrong - I am the type of yahoo who gets lots of thoughts and thinks better "externally". I am not the quiet contemplative type person that tends to think better alone ( I think this comes from the way my mom used to help me work thorough life while we sat in the kitchen). There are some people that (think, edit and speak) and there are some of us that (converse, think,speak,edit) I typically edit last. Unfortunately, it means that I say (blog) lots of dumb things (I still wonder what the hell I was thinking with the computer virus attack on Democratic Primaries post?) but I get to throw them out here and get snagged by fellow bloggers. It catches the mistakes or reinforces good ideas and helps me edit more of my thoughts (beyond 8-6 work conversations). 60% of these post could hunt me in the future and I know the language, witting and thoughts are often way more convoluted than I would ever kick out in a meeting or for work products. I also mess up typing and spelling all over the place. However, I am pretty comfortable with the idea that I am not stupid and that cranking stuff out on the blog helps me refine my thoughts. I am verbose. I am comfortable that I make mistakes and I am not perfect. The blog merely reflects my thought process if it is smart and thoughtful and this line of thinking would be helpful in a campaign I can work with groups. If your staff are ahead of me on this thinking and they write perfect and never make mistakes then you don't need my help so I am comfortable that the blog is a bit of a reflection of the kind of person that shows up everyday. Seeing my thoughts online and may actually just serve to make me more comfortable with the idea that some mistakes are OK.

My general thoughts on the article
Another interesting push for the nonprofit community to consider the value of making more of the thinking and learning of the organization available to staff, friends and the public. while the topic is not new and there are old blogs and rants on the nonprofit use of the blog as a tool in their work, Zafa makes a contribution to the chorus pushing nonprofit staff to be more transparent through use of the blog as an easy content tool.

Related Post:
Weblog Strategies for Nonprofits
Blogs as Training Tools
Going Beyond The Internet: Blogs from the Front
Web Dominance No Longer Tactical Strategy for Campaigns

My favorite clips from this new article:

When she encouraged her staff to blog about their work, Sisnett recognized another benefit of nonprofit blogging: She could now easily keep up to speed on her staff's work and the progress of various, concurrent projects. Soon, between the executive director, the technical staff and volunteers, Austin Free-Net had three staff blogs full of updated and archived information that could easily be incorporated into strategic plan updates, VISTA reports, press releases, newsletters and grants. When a colleague, a sponsor or even a journalist needed information about a project or issue, Sisnett could refer the interested party to a blog.
blogs with an "internal focus" have made it easier for organizations to capture the knowledge of teams and support their collaboration. "Rather than only a linear discussion list for a team," she points out, "individual and collaborative blogs make it possible to see ties among team members and issues they are working on."
While blogs entail a requisite amount of timely attention and care, the work you put into them is not "just blogging," Sisnett adds, thinking about how the research and learning behind her blog have improved Austin Free-Net's projects and partnerships. "That work affects all of your organization's work."

Blogs | Gossip | Advocacy


Lifted from danah's site

from Stephen Vandyke

This post from danah is on the way news travels and the impact of blogs on the information flow. danah's subsequent rejigger to develop an infographic for the way gossip flows and the individual nature of geek vs. hipster inspired me to think about the infographic of advocacy information. Groups all think that our issue is the most important. Our "Dark Matter" is also a source like gossip. It is a combo of policy wonk chatter (Congressman X is attacking national forest ), stories that motivate people and actions that affect people (news from the NIMBY movement...power lines, walmart, development being planned that relate to larger policy failures.) These issues peculate with lots of groups referring to these new "Sources" which are in turn become initiatives of organizations or foundations to meet donor (or create) demand and then information flows out as RFPs, web sites, press releases, action alerts, grassroots groups picking up new language and programs, etc. The feeding of the secondary sources intensifies the cycle. Finally, the politicians and donors start to move like mainstream "offline" outlets. Just like danahs individual-centric overview of gossip, general advocacy follows many of the same dynamics.

I am sure there are a few of these infographics on advocacy issues. I should try to hunt them down.

The thing is, things twist all around when you do that. The "Dark Matter" becomes the SOURCE, personality tests become the "Dark Matter" and "Offline Media" become the "Traditional Big Media." Plus, instead of having greater/lesser blogosphere based on visits/day, you have hipsters/dorks based on internal perceived fashion (note: everyone thinks that *they* are the hipsters and that everyone else are the dorks so these graphs are inevitably individual-centric). What's important though is not getting to some "MetaNews" but affecting Friendster Profiles and getting loads and loads of support in the comments. That way, everyone knows that you're gossip is way more valuable than anyone else's. And then, of course, there's Gawker.

Movement As Network: Brilliant Adaptation of Network-Centric Approach to Advocacy by OneNW

In a fantastic development, the good people at OneNW have joined the small chorus of rock solid seasoned field people to challenging the current "template" approach to planning and supporting the advocacy movement. In a smart paper, Gideon and the staff have taken the network-centric approach into some new and exciting directions. Their work is a significant contribution.

These guys (like GMT) are in the desktops, systems and offices of lots of environmental groups. They have years of hands on campaign experience and a great staff (Jon and Gideon are in that class of trusted good guy gurus). They are smart and they are "on our team". (I will save my dissent with specific points for another day). Today I highly recommend you download and read the paper

Great stuff! I love the clarity of statements that I needed to dance with for several months. Environmental movement is a Network!

Great Findings:

The environmental movement is a network that is more than the sum of its people and organizations.

This movement has invested in too much institutional overhead.

Organizations need to focus on what they do best, and outsource the rest.

The majority of local environmental groups work on niche issues and solutions that will never attract large membership bases.

Funders need to help free the most important of these organizations from focusing on this distraction.

These statements have been in the works for a long time. OneNW is going to start working to building the new movement as a network. I look forward to helping them in any way I can.

It will be difficult to remain focused on the main arguments and there will be push back from funders, organizations and old guard organizers. However, the stakes are really high (future success of the advocacy movement) and the early converts to network-centric advocacy need to not only preach about the strategy but work miracles as well.

"If we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them." - Paul Wellstone

Advocacy Toxicity - Technology is not the Solution to Failed Advocacy

danah boyd continues to dig in some really interesting spaces. Her mix of social and technology studies are wonderful. There are some great gems of wisdom that cross over to the advocacy movement (environmental, civil rights, Dean, whatever). danah's contribution fills out some gaps in thinking about the networked advocacy movement. Her post has focused me on the shift that needs to take place is in our advocacy strategy. It is not about our tools or technology but in the failures of our campaigner planners to continually reevaluate the context for social behavior.

danah discusses social network technology (FOAF RyZE, LINKed Etc. ) much like the way I see many of our advocacy groups. We construct movements and advocacy groups and advocacy strategy that wears down rather than empowers. We create a new context with the evolution of each organization (issue) which seems like they never go away. We create a new reality of "advocacy toxicity"- so many calls to action, requests for support that the public does nothing.

Her thoughts are almost always worth reading. It is a long post so I have grabbed the 4 bits of it that I really like. danah's point on social software is highly transferable to social engagement models (advocacy groups) which are last generation's "tools" for organizers.

apophenia: my etech talk: revenge of the user

Social behavior doesn't have a technological solution. We're all involved with social software because we see needs that technology can solve. Yet, by building the technology, we don't simply address or fail to address those needs; we create new realities. At this point, we need to think in a new way. We need to think about what new realities we formed, what new problems evolved, what new needs happened. Then we need to iterate.

Social behavior doesn't have an advocacy group solution. We are involved with our nonprofit advocacy group of choice because we think that groups address the problem yet by building up these nonprofits to address concerns (wetlands, ducks , etc) we create new realities. Groups become the hub for knowledge, magnets for resources, increasingly predictable etc. We need to think in a new way.

The biggest trick in social software is to realize that, just like we can't predict the behavior that users will have, we can't force them into behaving the way we want them to behave while simultaneously giving them freedom to be social. The only thing that we can do is try to understand what is motivating new behaviors and figure out how to adjust the technology accordingly. We must recognize that, for any social software, disparate users will have disparate uses. But like any good city, we have to figure out how to create a live and let live environment, where those who want to visit XXX stores will do their thing without driving the moms with small children insane. You can't kill unwanted behavior without also killing desirable behavior. This is a design challenge, an architectural challenge and a social challenge. And, of course, a business challenge. If we want to make social software that meets the needs of a disparate group of people and not just ourselves, it's time to take up this challenge. Otherwise, we'll spend forever frustrated, failing to understand why other people aren't like us.

danah has teased out "the curse" of advocacy leadership. As a group advocacy groups are befuddled that so many people don't know or don't care. Additionally they are shocked that the public can still "find out" but then behave the same way. The dominate models of engagement seek to shape activists in the same fashion as they have always been shaped.

We have a design challenge in our advocacy movement.

Some people want to be seen; some people want to be hidden. By making everyone far more accessible, those who have something desired become more visible targets. While trying to elevate those in need, give them newfound access to their networks, we can't overwhelm the targets and expect them to play along. How do we meet the needs of different people?

People should be able to comfortable, and EASILY, determine who should be introduced to who. If we figure out how to empower the bridge without wearing them down, they're far more likely to want to participate in the technology we create. Right now, we disempower them AND wear them down; this is not a survivable model. When Jason Kottke posted to Craigslist looking for someone to manage his social networks, he was dead on: this is more of a pain in the ass than valuable.

Advocacy work is often perceived to "supposed" to be a sacrifice. The movement (planetworks, moveOn, e-volve) and companies (grassroots and get actives) of the world are evolving entire new ways to manage your advocacy profile..(see planetworks) or distributed profile models. What we are not doing is checking the multiplier effects to see if the end result is a wear, disempowering or survivable. What would happen if I jumped on all the lists and memberships of groups I cared about...justice, human rights, children's issues, clean air, clean water, education, church reform, school reform, DNC reform, sprawl, biodiversity, local affordable housing, elderly care, corporate responsibility, trail and bike path development, etc. The calls to action, donation appeals and pipeline of engagement would wear me down. Engagement models today are not a survivable model. We need to think again.

More Free Wisdom from the Chief-Blogger of the Dean Campaign

Jon Stahl and a handful of good people in the PNW environmental community have been working hard on the importance of generating your own story to distribute. This strategy should increasingly be used by environmental nonprofit organizations as it becomes easier for nonprofit groups to develop "news" and send it directly to audiences via electronic tools (email, newsletters, xml feeds ). Jon has an older blog post that is worth digging up in light of this new post

Dogwood really understand the advocacy power of making news, and commenting in real-time on breaking news. And they're putting that understanding into action. Check out what they're doing -- I really think it's a model for small grassroots advocacy groups.

Jon has linked to and teased out some great wisdom from Interview with Matthew Gross, Howard Dean's (former) blogger-in-chief.

Jon and I tease pretty much the same wisdom from the interview.

What this means is that people are going to have more options to get involved in national politics. It also means that campaigns are going to have to become their own media channels, and find ways to reach out to an increasingly segmented American audience. Campaigns will have to decentralize as the electorate becomes more decentralized. And I think the Dean campaign has shown the way for other campaigns to do that.

The Internet has the ability to nationalize any race.

But the Internet's not a trick. You still need a good candidate with a good message.

And the media still exerts an enormous influence. That influence can be countered by the Internet, but the Net doesn't eliminate it.

This is a great set of insights and builds on the path that both GMT and OneNW are working to promote across the movement. The real challenge is to methodically plan campaigns to adopt to these tactics, to plot new campaign strategy and to figure out how to decentralize your campaign while also making sure that you have the talent, good message and core team needed skilled and equipped to work with traditional media and execute the campaign.

Eurekster: Free Tools for Coalitions and Campaigns : Build Your Teams Collective Research and Filter Capacity

This is a cool little toy (Eurekster) that I have been playing with for a few days. (Thanks for the intro from the E-volve list) . The tool is essentially a basic search engine. (I put the favorite link in my IE toolbar and click there when I am doing work related searches.) The search results seem as good as Google.

IE. "Network Advocacy" on Google = 1820
"Network Advocacy" on Eurekster = 2204

I have been playing with Eurekster a bit more and I am really digging the way that we can be aware of each others searches and favorite sites (without me knowing it is you) . Anyway, its pretty cool and I am thinking that it could be very useful for a campaign or coalition.

Step 1.- Core campaign team signs up and invite each other to join. The core team becomes a part of each others eurekster search network.
Step 2. - Everyone on the team installs the search toolbar or sets up a favorite link so the group uses the search as a primary search tool in regular work flow.
Step 3. - Members regularly watch resent sites and recent searches to see if they can help each other find key information or work together on a project.
Step 4. - Also use search as a to-do list for the day (I.E. GOTV mobilization in the Denver Area or Develop a content page on Energy Pipeline impacts).

Sounds Easy. What are the potential Payoffs?

The team gets to see recent search terms of the team with masked email links to the people who are doing these searches. The tool enables the campaign to "swarm" hot issues, the days to-dos and hot stories faster. The campaign team can sense emerging issues and needs based on what people are searching for. What would it tell you about your campaign if you saw lots of searching around a bill, article, or legislation?

Team can see the recent sites other team members are surfing (where is the team spending work related online time..have other members just been, the press room of a congressional committee , the main national organization working on the campaign or a local group or blog with lots of content on a specific subject.) Eurekster starts to dynamically generate the list of repositories for work related information.

The team can see each others "top searches". This is a valuable sense of what information the network of the campaign is looking for and could identify needs. We need to do some more content on how to write a press release or a check list for lobby days, we need talking points on the wildfires, we need factiods on BLM, etc.

The team can see top sites on the issue Is it a news site or the site set up for the campaign? This can show where the top content is that the network relies on. It can also encourage members of the group to publish work that they have already developed but not shared because they don't know the value of it.

Finally, The most important features besides the "secure" shared filtered search is the social networking component. If people in your campaign have been doing searches or visiting sites a little email icon appears next to the search or site. You can't tell who was where but you now have the capacity to contact whoever was working on that site or search. THIS IS HUGE.

THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURE IS THE EMAIL LINK "You are receiving this email from Marty on eurekster. They saw you visit 'Joshua Tree National Park (National Park Service)'. Your identity has not been revealed to Marty but it will be if you choose to reply to this email. If you would rather not be contacted like this please change your user preferences here:"

This allows you to send an email to the person that spent time on the site or sent the search. A way to say "hey I can help" or "I need that too". This will help build (weak ) ties among staff that don't know each other .

Finally, this tool would help people that join a campaign in progress quickly get up to speed on the favorite sites of the campaign the searches and needs and offer them a way to plug in where there skills are. It would show what the people on the team are working on (to do searches) and an email link to help those folks connect. This is huge.

I can't wait to see some healthy campaigns play with this if each campaign of 50 added this and then were able to add volunteers and Board members ..we could see campaigns decentralize work very quickly.

(more to come) ..If you know me expect an invitation to my eurekster network.

Steroids, Cows and Iowa: Update your Campaign Strategy

Lessons from the Iowa Caucus, the mad cow and Bush's new war on steroids have inspired me to ramp up the volume on my rant that the advocacy movement need to update our basic advocacy architecture and campaign strategies to adopt to a much more dynamic political landscape. We are fighting campaigns from 20 years ago. We are directed by "strategists, funders and leadership" that were part of the great policy successes of the second wave of conservation (1960s- 1980s). They come from an era of advocacy when there was relative parity in electoral power and organizational growth correlated with increases the ability to project political power. The tempo was more predictable and the agenda was more controllable.

Those days are gone.

1. Momentum matters.
Kerry seemed to pile up an amazing amount of good will with a few amazing stories that broke at exactly the right time. I was moved by the appearance of the Republican Sheriff from LA - Jim Rassman, Rassman was pulled out of the waters of a river in Vietnam under heavy fire by John Kerry. The story was not predictable and it framed Kerry perfectly. It highlighted his service to the country and reinforced his ads. It also grabbed him when he was tired from campaigning and on an emotional roller coaster that a campaign entails. Kerry's genuine display of emotion shattered his negatives (viwes that he was a stodgy, distant and aloof). It was beautiful and totally unpredictable.

2. Internet Tools matter most to complement Momentum.
Every campaign website now has decentralized tools (Dean, Kerry and Bush) making it easy for local volunteers to "run with the ball". Anyone who joined Kerry or Edwards camps in the final days could instantly self organize. They had all the content and tools at their fingertips. They could instantly start sending email, postcards, print labels, sign up sheets and posters. The volunteers could download the talking points, fact sheets and opposition research to defend their new candidate (in 1988 you would have needed a huge organization to win but no longer). Kerry was also able to raise $365,000 on the bump.

3. Message and content matter.
You need to know what you are good at and know what your core strengths are. Kerry was flying a helicopter (looks good and in charge) Dean was getting insider endorsements (how does Carter excite Dean's base or reinforce the outsider message?)

4. TV and Media Matter.
The rise of Edwards with paper endorsements and the bloody air wars totally affected the results. When the smartest campaigners in the country that have endless budgets for ads, door knockers and grassroots face time they still invest heavily in a smart communications campaign. Spend more time on cultivating smart communication plan and less time on reports.

The Mad Cow (merits an entire rant)

1. Life is unpredictable but not really. Adopt.
Four years after starting GMT, I have seen countless real world events come to dominate the media landscape. These events result in major shifts policy debate, public opinion and environmental laws. These trigger events are often to difficult to predict. Our current cycle of "idea- proposals- grant cycles - building campaign- launching campaign -rinse -repeat" will not work. Events and opportunities to move policy are short. These event driven campaigns are difficult to squeeze thru the step-by-step membership and fundraising approach and almost impossible to predict for individual groups on a 12 month budgeting process.

2. The environmental movement was not prepared to take advantage of some of the major stories of 2003 (events like Mad cow, the Northeast blackout, California wildfires, Propane tanker fire in NYC harbor and the random governmental dismantling of air or water protections).

Bush's Steroid War (I like to call it the army doesn't like aggressive and uncontrollable recruits initiative or the protect our meathead constituency so they can reproduce a new generation of GOP plan )
1. They are in charge.
There is no single way that funders or organizers can accurately predict the events that will set the agenda in 2004. The advocacy movement does "not control" any of the great soapbox leavers in the one party America. Therefore, it is important to begin to reorganize capacity to support groups that will end up on the “front line” trying to manage the response to trigger event. If we can not control the agenda, we can at least begin to better inject messages into the public debate during the moments when no one is in control.

2. The policy agenda and the terms of the debate (to the extent possible) are going to be carefully controlled by the current administration.
Tighter regulation of pollution, tougher enforcement of the law and protection of clean air, clean water, public right to know and green space are not on the agenda. Steroids are.

Iowa Caucus GOTV teams (and NH) Are Likely Targets of Computer Virus


There is something shady afoot. The online newsletter PoliticsOnline blasted out a virus on the day of the Iowa Caucus. Is this the first Internet attack on the Internet campaigns at a critical moment that could swing an election? Are hackers able to influence politics? The Virus starts today and ends the day after the NH primary!

The distribution of the worm is very small and expires very quickly by design. One of the few sites that it targeted is PoliticsOnline. The virus does little damage but it could clog email systems where lots of people are exposed. I have been on PoliticsOnline for over a year and I have never had them send me a virus. Why today?

Could it have anything to do with the election and the PoliticsOnline focus? PoliticsOnline is a great little online newsletter that provides email news about some of the ways campaigns are using technology. I would assume that the target audience is very political and that a large swath of technically savvy campaign folks subscribe to the PoliticsOnline newsletter. A targeted virus could disrupt the email communications of a campaign and make relying on email for GOTV and coordination difficult. It will be interesting to see who launched the virus and if any campaign took last minute precautions against relying on email.

We will see how this plays out in campaign tonight. However, a full investigation is definitely called for given the timing of the attack.

Symantec says W32.Beagle.A@mm was sent at 4:25 am and had the Bagle is a mass-mailing worm that was found on 18th of January, 2004. The worm sends messages with the subject 'Hi' and random EXE attachment names. It has been programmed to stop spreading on 28th of January. It looks like Norton catches it.


Demystifying the "Magic" of the Dean Campaign Approach to Advocacy

Jim Moore takes an insider peak inside the Dean campaign with Joe Trippi. I like the trends and "findings" that Moore asserts at the beginning of the post (points A to G). Moore finds that campaigns are different now because of very network-centric concepts:

1. Speed (time to battle) is used to eliminate defensive options of your opponents options.
2. Power Distribution (distributed capacity to grassroots field staff and volunteers).
3. Improved situational awareness (everyone is in the "know" fostered by connectivity) of the whole picture.
4. Scaleability and inter-operability (participation by large numbers)

You can spend years looking at the Dean campaign and try to figure out how and why his campaign has "magic" or you read through Department of Defense literature n network-centric systems and realize that political campaigns and advocacy movements are just coming up to speed on things they have developed over the last 20 years. These campaigns are repeatable and based on sound operational theory.

Grassroots Organizing in the Age of Connectivity

American political struggle has always reflected the characteristics of its age from the early merchants leveraging new economic power to political bosses organizing urban masses of the industrial revolution. Political struggle adapts to new climates, economics and social trends.
Today, we live in a body politic that is increasingly connected to each other and overwhelmed with information. The most active participants in modern movements are more likely to be approaching points of “decision paralysis” caused by an onslaught of calls to action from too many important causes. They are barraged with personalized appeals via email, snail mail, targeted magazines, and newsletters generated by the ubiquitous desktop publishing.
The resulting choice for millions of Americans is not to engage. Many people deliberately avoid focusing on issues that seem distant to their lives. Large segments of the population have reduced the long-term engagement with organizations, issues or causes.
In addition to information overload, the public increasingly wants to protect their privacy. They are actively working to stay off the “radar” of direct mailers, spammers, email campaigns and calling lists (over 50,000,000 households registered on the FCC “Do Not Call List”). This large subset of the public has not walked away from holding opinions on key issues. They have walked away from the current models of civic engagement. These “non-joiners” will self-organize into play groups, book clubs, meet-up meetings, running groups and paintball teams but they won’t join churches, bowling leagues, political parties and civic associations. The challenge to grassroots organizers is to match a significant portion of mobilizing and advocacy efforts with these new behaviors while also exploiting the advantages provided by emerging technologies and communications mediums.
Network-centric advocacy is the adaptation of advocacy and traditional grassroots organizing to the age of connectivity. The extent to which network-centric advocacy can contribute to revolutionizing civic engagement is not yet easily quantified. However, the evidence increasingly supports the case that the campaigns that embrace these approaches see significant increases in political power.

Trends May Support Network-Centric Fundraising

Jim Moore points out some great trends and general guidance on the ways folks can fundraise online. Don't request money for a general organization. Jim thinks that the data is going to indicate that the way to get online fundraising to work effectively is to pitch specific projects. People are not interested in supporting a general nonprofit but they will pay for things that are "immediate, tangible, transparent and personal." This trend shows there is a potential for loose networks to raise funds. It is possible to raise support for activities without a major brand backing the operation.
The other interesting points to consider include: Trends seem to favor investment in specific, targeted political television ads over general contributions to MoveOn. org. Is this because brands are not as important as transparent strategy? Or is it that these efforts are appealing to a new type of investor?

Technology-Amplified Collective Action

Howard Rheingold kicks out some much needed message volume on the importance of using connectivity to turbo charge collective action. His voice adds to the handful of activists promoting new campaigns and encouraging groups to think about decentralized "wings" that are designed to exploit the connectivity of our society.

Activists should now concentrate their efforts in this last sphere—technology-amplified collective action. The above examples are just the beginning. The capabilities of media are multiplying the number of people who use their mobile phones as Internet connections and text-messaging media is growing explosively. And activists are only beginning to experiment with ways to multiply their ability to organize collective action.

Influencing elections and legislation is the sine qua non of effectiveness. In the next few years, peer-to-peer, self-organized, citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real political influence, be successfully contained by those whose power they threaten, or recede as a utopian myth of days gone by. What progressives know now, and what we do soon, will decide which of those scenarios unfolds

Speed counts. The activist community needs to use the window of opportunity created by the current climate to build the infrastructure for network-centric action. We need straegies that build Strong social ties, common story, shared communications channels and technologies, shared network support services (HR, legal and fundraising mechanism) and a "seeded" team of network catalysts to plot pilot campaigns. We need to "grease the skids" for citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media.

These networked campaigns are not magic. We just need to think of more ways to engage the non-joiners and plot campaigns that feed off the waves of interest in a society that moves too fast.

Testing Networks Capacity to Achieve

I ran across this great little article on Defense Department Test of Network Tools on Smartmobs. There are a few nuggets for advocacy efforts and those of us building and testing network-centric advocacy campaigns. The key benchmarks that the Defense teams are worried about seem to focus on interoperability, pushing capacity "out" and information saturation.

While the systems and applications are very different, it is still not difficult to look at network-centric advocacy strategy and use these as part of the test matrix for our strategies. First, interoperability in our context relates to how well groups build components of the campaigns (content, posters, communication tools, ads, organizing materials, etc) so they can be useful to other groups working on the issue. Just like technology systems we need to make sure that brand, proprietary systems and licensing present little challenge. Second, advocacy campaigns can look at campaign tactics and investments and try to look at the ability to "push" capacity to the fringe. Can a local group of moms in Florida pick up your tools and campaign investments and move your agenda in the local community? Is your campaign working to "pull" people into your organization or "push" you view points and campaign materials out to the edges of the movement? Finally, the article provides campaigns with a new information exchange benchmark. Are all the participants that support you able to access the very best and most current information on the campaign? Do your field operatives have the data and information needed so they can adjust strategy?

Honesty, is a brutal thing on a campaign trail but a truly network-centric effort assumes that the strong social ties and dense communications grid will help those movements that are honest in reporting the dynamics of the campaign. The biggest threats to success are often the senseless rallying of the faithful with cloudy overviews of the political and financial realities facing the campaign. I am not sure third tier candidates loose much by admitting they are not going to win in the current climate. They should play more cards on the table so the supporters know why it is important to back them. (Green Party may have provided more of an impact and had longer-term success if they were open with voters rather than painting a picture that a vote for Ralph could "win" in 2000.)

"Information typically has been retained in agencies' channels until the product becomes intelligence," said John Osterholz, director of architecture and interoperability for the defense CIO office. "We don't want to hoard data until it is done. We want to provide it as soon as possible."

Our campaigns need the same approach. Give the good people on our team access to the entire picture and all the tools they need to help.

Emergent Democracy, Direct Democracy and Network-Centric Advocacy

A next stage in direct democracy cannot be reached without policy and tools to build trust with leaders, socialize issues and the chance to participate in process equal to the lobby and those who hire them. Premature attempts to go direct will only bastardize the process as it was yesterday. - Ross Mayfield

Emergent democracy is only going to emerge as groups and movements begin to internalize the implications of pushing advocacy and policy within the networked society. We need to invest in the social connectivity (cheaper because of technology -meetup, web conference, conference calls) for individuals to build the trust levels needed for a new wave of self-organizing advocacy campaigns to succeed.

All poltical advocacy and campaigns are currently conducted by organizations (c-3, c-4, 527), the people and staff of those organizations are still tied to self-interests, governance and ownership of the organizational entity. These organizations are merely exploiting the network nature of society for their own aims. They are not generally adopting the broader agendas of network participants (mission statements and donation managment often get in the way of environmental staff jumping into an antiwar fight. Laws prevent them from election work, etc.)

The samples of truely grass roots fluid self-organized (unregulated) teams plotting campaigns, attracting resources of talent, skills and funding and leading in a new direction are very rare. (9-11peace, poets against the war, FCC fight?, Amber Alert Legislation, Millionmommarch) Succesful network advocacy campaigns are even harder to find (the geeks and self-organizing teams are not making the proper connections with the political wonks.) Poltical wonks still have not seen "wins" so they are resistent to let go of the limited resources they control to untested network-centric advocacy efforts.

"Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots."-Joi Ito

YES...However, we are all very excited about the possibilites and not building the "nuts and bolt" strategiges and support structures groups need to influence policy. We are not selling groups like the AARP, civil rights or unions that they should "free up" resources to serve network-centric campaigns. The DNC or NAACP are not going to hand over the political power to a loose band of out of work tech folks without seeing successful campaigns.

The Dean campaign is unique in that they are linking network connectivity with strategy. They walked down this path because they were the underdog with no resources. (vs. Kerry, Gephart, etc) They have effectly learned to plug folks in at the volunteers comfort level. Most importantly, they "have religion" so it won't be difficult for them to translate the openess of the online community to a completely unconnected grassroots world. They are shooting for message volume not message disapline, they are shooting for issue dominance not brand dominance. They are absorbing enerrgy with effciency. The core team seems to understand and therefore they will continue to devise network-centric approach to oganizing those left on the other side of the digital canyon.

What we really need is more talented pople to focus and on connecting the resources that we do have creatively and scaling self-organizing involvement stuctures with our core activists. We also need to invest in strategies that counter balance the self interest forces that pull movements apart (a task that could more be easily accomplished in connected world but one that is by no means assured.)

I hope a new crop of thinkers start talking about investment strategies and tools for exploiting emergent democracy because those with the resources to create this new super level of engagment are only going to "buy-in" when we can layout why it is the only real path to help them realize their own goals.

Avoid Fist Fights with a BeeHive

In a fantasitc exchange among power media gaints, the House Majorty Leader and a small virtual community coordinated by five staff. The little guy wins in a networked society. MoveOn benefitted from the further attention to the cause, highlighted a serious issue, and made the opposition look small and petty. Nice work.

Right wing crank yankers
Pariser is more surprised by DeLay's stunt...because, as he says, "This is the guy who's the majority leader. He has a responsibility not just to members of Congress, but to the whole country." ...The progressive Internet organizing group has reduced two pillars of the right-wing establishment to pulling petulant phone pranks. On Tuesday, the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay..

This response raises some interesting challenges for MoveOn. The more MoveOn staff get dragged into the spotlight the more likely they become a "single" point of failure. Hopefully, MoveOn will expand the "guest" voices but not really target existing recognized spokespeople (big nonprofit or poltiticos) but instead expand the voice of regular members that could take leadership of MoveOn for a moment then disappear back into regular working life.

How would the same call and tactics have worked if instead of Eli the target from MoveOn was a local cop, teacher, nurse, etc.? Hello, Chicago Trib a Nancy the Nurse from MoveOn suggested I call you about the Novak colum. Here is her number 555-temporary MoveOn cellphone. 4000 calls from Nancy the nurse. Tom Delay staff screaming about the ability of some random nurse to shut down his phone system. MoveOn needs to adapt some strategies that will freustrate the counter punch of its opponents.

The Failure Points of Network-Centric Planning

Measures of Effectiveness for the Information-Age Navy: The Effects of Network-Centric Operations on Combat Outcomes by Walter Perry, Robert W. Button, Jerome Bracken, Thomas Sullivan, Jonathan Mitchell.

I ranted on the fun part of the Information Age Navy two days ago (Here) but there are a few more snips that I want to explore. It seems that in the theater that the navy team is interested in the computer or scenario modeling they are finding the weaknesses in network behavior. As with all great research the conclusions come to "no kidding" results. (Fatty food can be bad for you research.)

The first one that they try to point to is related to scale and collaboration payoff. At some point in the evolution of a network campaign the rewards are outweighed by increased complexity.

Instances may occur in which burdens of network complexity outweigh gains of increased opportunity to collaborate

There are a few reasons that this statement could be true in a political context. First, I would say the "you are going to lose anyway" law will skew the calculation of gains. The anti-war protest may have reached this point a month before troops rolled into Iraq. Potential network participants started to look at the gains and opted not to participate. Second, the largest factors that dictate the "truth" of the statement center on network complexity and network friction. If bringing new participants "up to speed" takes a larger investment than opportunity payoff then the network should not welcome additional participants. Conversely, if it takes too long for the network to calculate the value of and deploy new participants then the participation is not offset by gain. Finally, the quote assumes a "rigidity" or inflexibility in the deployment scenario that may not be "as true" in a social movement context. (Missiles and planes moving to attack a country ) is a much more defined moment than a campaign. In most (but not all) network-centric advocacy context if the "new" node has huge potential the campaign can "reset" the timeframe.

The quote adds clarity to the things that a campaign or movement "must have" to scale. These tools center on speed, information exchange and awareness, and the ability of new network members to quickly plug into tasks that matter.

This is definitely appropriate in national campaigns and advocacy movements. The large professional staff will often attempt to "go it alone" because the complexity of organizing and working with lots of smaller groups is perceived to be burdensome. (Kerry, Clark vs Dean campaign styles). Key questions to ask as groups plan a campaign should center on "success". What can we do alone to win? What happens if we start to succeed and more people want to join in the effort? How do we reduce the joining friction? How do we absorb as much energy, talent and resources as society is willing to offer without becoming a choke point in the engagement process? Can we make use of someone that wants to offer $1 or 2 minutes of time as well as someone that wants to give us $100,000 and offer 10 fulltime staff to help for 3 weeks. I would bet Dean Campaign can answer yes to both and most others can not.

The Perry paper has another quote that in a social context swings focus away from the tools and onto the strong social ties:

Among the factors that affect the value of collaboration is the knowledge the decision making team members possess about critical elements of the operation and their level of experience acting as a team. A team capable of highly effective collaboration is not apt to benefit from additional members-regardless of the new members knowledge
The quote is about trust and network tactics. How does the network of people implementing a campaign trust each other? What does the network do to reinforce that trust and practice the "team" between campaigns? The other fact that the quote points to is that once that team is assembled and running another new team should form to execute an independent but complementary action. ( I think this could be linked to the GORE-TEX management strategy mentioned in Tipping Point or Linked - 150 employees per unit, don't expand the plant to 200 start another building for the next 150-)

The ditty that has me really stuck is "The downside of networks, the larger the number of connections in an operational network, the more likely nodes will experience “overload” . I worry that most our people and certainly most of America feel like they are "overload" already. As the movement becomes more networked we are going to need to devise strategy and tools to assess each participants connection capacity and a "protection tool" to prevent overload. I see emerging intermediaries as examples of that framework. Move-on could be seen as a overload protector for individual move-on members. Move-on shifts from campaign to campaign, environment to politics to anti-war but they are very careful not to jump at everything. In a new network-centric advocacy movement participants will need some sort of individually controlled filter. ( I know this is a sloppy end but this overload question might need to fester for a while before I find any clarity)

"Free" Network Tools Wisdom from the Dean Blog

Jon Stahl pointed out this fantastic thread on Howard Dean's campaign blog, his supporters from around the country (173 comments so far) are dropping great tips for online organizing tools. They already have one of the most successful social toolsets built to date. Dean is dominating the battle for web dominance. In a very open way, they used a thread to harvest ideas and energy from supporters.

My favorite suggestions which are consistent with network-centric advocacy include:

1. Self-organizing batch email tool by location
2. Self-organizing phonebanking tools
3. "Bugzilla" for issue identification, policy drafting and ranking
4. Karma system for blog comment filtering
5. Distributed media production room for multi-media projects (like steve johnsons suggestion)
6. Clear talking points volunteers (distributing spokespeople)
7. Reminder system to step-by-step participation focus on little things to help ("write your grandma")
8. Ability for the user to opt off all snail mail. User defines methods of communications.
9. A way to create small "working groups" or forums where supporters could organize
10. Webcams in key offices
11. Ability of anyone to download and print ANY of the allied literature and posters
12. Lots of UI wish list (calendar, timeline, etc. Easy universal login and profille)
13. Photos and details on key activists
14. Discussion forum and email listserve
15. Outlook address list upload, FOAF
16. Audio and music files available to download for events..greatest hits and speeches
17. Use of guest host, speakers and bloggers
18. "lunch for Dean" dragging a lunch crew into the issues.
19. Distributed door knocking tools to create walking list
20. Collective document creation
21. The continued random acts of associated kindness (dean food program)
22. Distributed list of elected officials to lobby for endorsements
23. Distributed Media Outreach tools

These are fantastic. They are not asking the central hub for more things or money. They are looking for tools that enable the supporters to engage each other directly. They are looking for ways to distribute the workload of a presidential campaign with each other.

NetGen Wants Small Group Organizing

Kudos to danah boyd for taking notes at an Intel briefing on NetGEN. Her blog is coffee. She is also consistently one of the most interesting blogs I read.

"Melora Zaner from 3 degrees came to speak at Intel about the Net Generation". The advocacy movement is missing the entire Internet Generation (12- 24yrs) from our actions, style and causes. As a movement, we need to read as much as we can about our next group of replacements voices.

NetGen's prioritization of communication forums is interesting. Face-to-face dominates. Next comes cell phone (SMS or not). Next IM (usually AIM). Then email. Many had Live Journals which are more valuable as a form of communication than email. Email is assumed to be tracked by parents; cell phone conversations are not. Email is for dealing with parents. If there's going to be asynchonous behavior, use LJ (group commenting).

"NetGen deeply desires small group organization online" There are those in the movement that hope to "train" these younger folks into supporting the large old style advocacy. They will fail. NetGen are the future of our movement. We need to find mechanisms to foster effective political and civic engagement models that support small group self-organizing and work with the tools and channels they respect.

The bad news is that the communication channels Zaner finds are not being used by the advocacy movement. It also raises serious questions about the way we work to reach the older cohort of Netgen. How many advocacy campaigns and movements have geared "organizing" activites around the ways that NetGen talks to each other? Let's start developing our message and campaign tools to move across the channels that the NetGen uses.

The good news is that the NetGen will be very prepared to engage in network-centric advocacy. They are comfortable with the tools they need to maintain relationships over long distances. They can quickly organize thoughts and plan actions in chat rooms. They can reach each other very effectively (cell phones and AIM are always on) with fast connecting technology. They will not let anyone dominate the social discussion for very long but if you find a way to appeal to them they will plug into campaigns very quickly.