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Looking at the Technology Trap


Here is a great look at the problems that seem to be plaguing the campaign and nonprofit advocacy groups playing around with old strategies and new technology. The site of David Wilcox, Drew Mackie and Terry Grunwald is really looking at some very interesting approaches to self-organizing. The important leap is to scale up (as they do) into some strategic shifts in the "approach" to creating and delivering social change.

New technology, old approach
* Funds for equipment, not training
* Techies in the driving seat
* Decision-makers are stragglers
* Funds target only individuals and existing organisations
* Many still excluded
* Technology cynicism sets in

The trap. Either the computers are still in their boxes - or they are up and running but driving people crazy. Or maybe a few people are reaping the benefits, but others are left out.

New technology, new approach
* Online access and training for all
* Public services online
* Technology enables partnerships
* Many to many communication
* Training on strategic technology use
* New personal opportunities

The ideal for those seeking to really Make the Net Work.... but it takes time, and changes in people as well as technology.

The leap is to look at the possible future campaigns. The strength of network-centric strategy is the it focuses on integrating new nodes the full power of the network as they join. I am not sure that new approaches and new technology should be strictly limited to "online" components. The shift in approach includes some changes to workflow, communication and strategy off line.

It is good work.

It is time to Decentralize Control of the Presidential Debates: Sign the Petition

We, the undersigned, support Open Debates' campaign to reform the presidential debate process. We believe that the presidential debates should serve the American people first, not political parties. We support replacing the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates with the nonpartisan Citizens' Debate Commission, so that inspiring formats can be employed, pressing national issues can be addressed, and popular independent and third party candidates can be included.

Left to Right: Top to Bottom (Not really)

Here is a cool display of the way eyes move on a web page. They zip around from the top corner out to the rest of the page and then climb from the bottom. Where is your high value information? There is also lots of interesting things about fonts and ways to slow the eye as it moves. The article is worth a read.


We observed that with news homepages, readers' instincts are to first look at the flag/logo and top headlines in the upper left. The graphic below shows the zones of importance we formulated from the Eyetrack data. While each site is different, you might look at your own website and see what content you have in which zones.

So on your action page the valuable real estate covering volunteer actions, key points in your campaign or your brand dominating the high value areas? We are going to need to reshuffle our layout a bit.

Ipodder for Advocacy

Ipodder (and I would assume a soon to be launched service for mp3 feeds) could drastically change the value of audio content as a stream of knowledge.

As the percentage of campaign workers with mp3 playing equipment starts to rise (millions) there is a huge potential to load the devises with high value listening materials beyond Monkeys songs stolen from Mike Nesbitt..

Ideally, new campaigns will use these devises as another information stream to help build awareness of core participants, educate staff, train volunteers and inspire actions. The audio leaps across digital divide issues. Future campaigns will create dedicated issue advocacy channels for download to individual Ipods.

The new service from Ipodder allows users to create custom feeds of mp3 files. A few good campaign staff could set up marks to Ipodder feeds. Offering disconnected communities access to conferences, conference calls, campaign discussions, news programs, listserves converted to audio text, key articles or editorials converted to audio, etc.

Users will be able to brief themselves on an issue with a download stream of campaign audio content. They could listen while commuting in order to stay up to speed on the issues everyday.

iPodder is an application that uses RSS to determine when a new MP3 is available, then downloads the MP3 and places it on your portable audio device. Ipodder has a feed URL management, update scheduling and handles any type of enclosed file. As you sync your tunes it will grab your audio feeds from the campaign.

It has the potential to be an audio bloggosphere.

How to walk Supporters into Action

Here is a wonderful example of a "get busy" page for campaigns. The directions are clear. There are lots of options. They point people to others resources, tools and events.

I also like the classes of supporters (On Your Ass, Part-Timer, Election Gorilla)

Check Out the Action Guide List as an example of Nice Design

BTW: They have self-organized volunteers at more than 200 events nationally in the next 30 days. They are using a great tactical set of tools to support a strategy of distributed engagement.

Bush vs. Kerry: Email Newsletters Rated: Must Read This Alertbox

Here is a good analysis of campaign emails from the guru of usability. It is essential that today's political and advocacy campaign strategists watch for the lessons coming out of the presidential campaigns. There is a billion dollars going into the election machine. What are you learning from them?

It is amazing that on cheapest and most affordable tool both Bush and Kerry camps are not doing a better job.

Both campaigns are stuck in last century's understanding of media, and it's obvious in their budget allocations: their email newsletters clearly lack sufficient resources for design, implementation, editorial, and user testing.

A painfully true statement for many of the groups with campaigns. I would say the email tool is really the most important communication channel at this point but also easily the most neglected.

The article also has a good overview for your website goals:

A political campaign's website has three main goals:
1. Energize the faithful. Get them excited about the candidate and give them talking points to influence their friends and family.
2. Collect donations.
3. Answer undecided voters' questions, and hopefully convince them to support the candidate.

The third goal is mostly important for primaries and less-important races. For presidential elections, fewer people are both undecided and sufficiently interested in politics to actively seek out websites that contain information on the candidates' positions.

Keeping supporters fired up and supplied with arguments is a perfect job for email newsletters for two reasons: they can form an emotional bond with subscribers, and they can immediately react to the news. It's not surprising that both George W. Bush and John Kerry are publishing email newsletters from their websites. What is surprising is how many mistakes both candidates make in their newsletter designs.

Take a look at your campaign websites How well do they do?

Announcements and instructions contain information about using the campaign's website, especially news about new features and upcoming chats. The Bush campaign is particularly active in scheduling chats with various campaign leaders, which can be a good way of generating a sense of community around a website. (I didn't evaluate the actual chat content or the chat interface, both of which are often poorly done on other websites.)

Media A.D.D. Why America Can't Focus?

David Broder ask many of the right questions..why are we so confused in the age of information? Why can't our collective attention (manifested in modern media) focus on important tasks and issues for more than a few news cycles?

I'm suggesting that this is one of those too-frequent moments of mental overload, when the best thing you can do is put some distance between yourself and the TV screen and not try to absorb it all at once. You can help keep it in perspective by looking forward and asking which, if any, of the sensations dominating the 24-hour news cycle will be important to you, say, four months from now. Say it's next January. The hurricane season is over; Florida and the Gulf Coast have largely recovered. US Airways is still flying snowbirds to the South (bankruptcy to airlines meaning little more than another device for cutting workers' pay). Rather has joined Tom Brokaw in semi-retirement. Martha Stewart's five-month jail term is almost over. And the campaign rhetoric already looks absurd: How could we ever have wasted so much time on National Guard "orders" and Navy commendations from decades ago?

Is this a temporary collapse of reason? or a broader systemic trend? Is there anything we can learn for campaigns for society from the way you need to teach children with ADD? Jakob Nielson cranked out the concept of societal attention deficit disorder years ago.

Attention deficit disorder is a syndrome characterized by serious and persistent difficulties in the following three specific areas: Attention span. Impulse control. Hyperactivity.

Surf the ADD teaching literature. It is solid campaign planning strategy for the new age. Advice includes establishing the proper learning environment, surround students with good role models, encourage peer tutoring and cooperative/collaborative learning. Avoid distracting stimuli.

ADD sufferers do not handle change well, so avoid transitions, physical relocation (monitor them closely on field trips), changes in schedule, and disruptions.

Make directions clear and concise. Be consistent with daily instructions. Simplify complex directions. Avoid multiple commands. Repeat instructions in a calm, positive manner, if needed. Help the students feel comfortable with seeking assistance (most children with ADD will not ask for help).

Keep in mind that those with ADD are easily frustrated. Stress, pressure, and fatigue can break down their self-control and lead to poor behavior.

It is freaky that most of this advise could come from political, communications or advocacy training camps. How ca these dynamics be leveraged in upsetting the opposition base and planning new campaigns?

Nearly 50,000 people have already signed Tom Mauser's petition to renew the Ban on Gangster Guns

As Wes Clark says..."If you want to have a military weapon join the armed forces or a local guard unit." Assault weapons need to stay off the streets. More shame on the NRA and it's lap dogs.

This past Monday, President Bush and the Republican Congress brazenly blocked the renewal of the federal Assault Weapons Ban. Uzis, AK-47s and other military-style assault weapons are legal again -- for now.

The blocking of the renewal has already become a major issue in the Presidential election. Supporters of the ban in Congress are already gearing up to SAVE THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN. If we work together, even the NRA's lobbying machine will not be able to stop legislation supported by nearly 80% of Americans and every major law enforcement group.

Nearly 50,000 people have already signed Tom Mauser's petition to renew the Ban -- click here to see a map showing this nationwide support. Tom started the petition because his son Daniel was killed at Columbine High School by two students. The Columbine shooters used an assault weapon -- Tom is fighting to keep these weapons out of the hands of children, criminals, and terrorists.

Feeling a little voiceless? Don't be bullied by the NRA (I think in an old fashion fist fight the anti-gun crowd would kick butt). Let your friends and family know the NRA can be beat.
Do something for peace here at home!

Invite just 10 friends to Speak Up! Sending the petition to mothers, fathers, friends, and relatives. We can help keep American families safe from crime, terrorism and needless accidents. Assault weapons are unfair to people, police, communities and deer. There is no need for them on our streets.

(Here is the orginal post on the tools)

Note to Self: Use PLain Language and Avoid Jargon

I often think that campaigns and advocacy efforts can learn a bit from the "knowledge sharing" business and consulting teams. It seems like running an efficient campaign team often is presented with the same challenges of corporate CRM (customer relationship management) or CMS (content management systems) and like the large corporate folks that buy the systems one of the biggest barriers is to use and execution. Our campaigns struggle with "use" issues.

The simple fact is that staff simply don't 'share knowledge', they conduct whatever work activities are required in their jobs. In our terms this may include sharing knowledge, but to them they are 'updating client details', 'discussing project schedules' and the like.

In short, it's essential to think about what actual day-to-day problems you are solving, to communicate with end users in plain language, and to avoid jargon.

Looking back at many of my post, you quickly realize my language is anything but "plain" however, I feel like the focus of network-centric advocacy is about translating the learning from a diverse set of fields into thinking about the day-to-day challenges of advocates working on campaigns and social change.

Usability Doesn't Matter: Do Something Useful

Here is a rant form Joel on Software that is useful on many levels to advocacy groups and communications experts. Much of Joel's points can be pollinated over to advocacy campaigns, memberships, etc. MoveOn started with crappy email.

But there's a scary element of truth to it—scary to UI professionals, at least: an application that does something really great that people really want to do can be pathetically unusable, and it will still be a hit. And an application can be the easiest thing in the world to use, but if it doesn't do anything anybody wants, it will flop. UI consultants are constantly on the defensive, working up improbable ROI formulas about the return on investment clients will get from their $75,000 usability project, precisely because usability is perceived as "optional," and the scary thing is, in a lot of cases, it is. In a lot of cases. The CNN website has nothing to be gained from a usability consultant. I'll go out on a limb and say that there is not a single content-based website online that would gain even one dollar in revenue by improving usability, because content-based websites (by which I mean, websites that are not also applications) are already so damn usable.

So, in an advocacy context we have content organizations that are forever struggling with "brand" and control of image. (Joel might suggest that it is a waste. ) We also have applications (action organizations that should focus around function.

Software used in teams usually fails to take hold, because it requires everyone on the team to change the way they work simultaneously, something which anthropologists will tell you is vanishingly unlikely. .....(success needs)... lots of design decisions which make it useful even for a single person on a team, and lots of design features which encourage it to spread to other members of the team gradually until everyone is using it.

The coalition and partnership approach feels like the failing strategy requiring each new campaign to get everyone to change SOP. However, an incremental built network-centric approach feels more like the design shift in advocacy.

And finally, there is this painful nugget ...strategy of "let them feel like they are winning" which can be applied to so many of our campaigns. Rights, habitats and species are disappearing but there are folks out there talking all about the success of the campaigns.....

Indeed one of the best ways to deflect attacks is to make it look like they're succeeding. It's the software equivalent of playing dead.
No, it doesn't work 100% of the time. It works 95% of the time, and it reduces the problems you'll have twenty-fold. Like everything else in sociology, it's a fuzzy heuristic. It kind of works a lot of the time, so it's worth doing, even if it's not foolproof. The Russian mafia with their phishing schemes will eventually work around it. The idiot Floridians in trailer parks trying to get rich quick will move on. 90% of the spam I get today is still so hopelessly naive about spam filters that it would even get caught by the pathetic junk filter built into Microsoft Outlook, and you've got to have really lame spam to get caught by that scrawny smattering of simplistic searchphrases.

Fitness not Seniority will Determine Advocacy Trends of Tomorrow

Scale-free points out an interesting study of discussion groups in a university setting.

The 10 most influential people in the network we found that only two (20 percent) of them are instructors. The large majority of hubs were "regular" students. They "earned" their designation as hubs through participation, not through holding a formal position. In a self organized network, centrality is determined by fitness, not seniority.

The analogy is that in the dense communications grid that has become our modern culture, "centrality" is going to be increasingly determined not by brand recognition but by the ability to serve, connect and feed those that want to engage on an issue. Today, a handful of people working with low cost mass communication tools (email, blogs, websites, etc) will "take" connections from senior or more established players that are not "fit". This is a dynamic we see playing out at every level of political and campaign organizing from migration away from DNC and RNC to 527s to small local start up groups organizing larger numbers then old established brands. The article is worth a read to explore the dynamics of "centerness", "hubs" and fitness.

Strategy of Web Dominance and Bush Defense on the Bush Documents

Here is a great snapshot of how a strategy of "web dominance" can playout. One multiple angles on message gives it lots of volume. The messages can saturate the debate and discussion space to frame a debate.

Well, along similar lines, and listening to Limbaugh just now, I can see that the Right's "Bush Guard memo forgery" is taking shape. The entire Wurlitzer - the Right's media echo chamber that is able to repeat a lie over and over and over until it is the ONLY story in the news - is cranked up and telling the public that CBS has been caught engaging in a smear against Bush using forged documents. Never mind that the document (one document, no plural 's') in question is legit.

Keep in mind that this is not just Limbaugh. In a NY Times Op-Ed this morning William Safire has a piece titled "Those Discredited Memos" (note that he uses the plural...) And it doesn't stop there. It hardly even STARTS there. Today a Google News search for "Bush documents CBS" locates 2,460 stories. (According to reporting from Salon, a Republican PR firm that is also involved with the Swift Boat smear is engaged in driving this story.)

This also has all the earmarks of typical right-wing smear tactics. It starts with a small, unproven accusation. The Right's Wurlitzer picks up the accusation and amplifies it until pretty much everything else is deflected out of the news. Soon every story on the subject assumes the truth of the original accusation. As soon as each new accusation is refuted - a refutation never even mentioned in the Right's stories - new accusations emerge, leaving the original accusation and refutations behind. Within days the accusations are escalating so fast that no one can keep up - by the time one accusation is addressed two or three more appear, which creates a fog that is impossible to cut through. The cumulative accusations -- all assumed to be true in the stories put out by the Right media -- become a general attack on "Liberals" or "Democrats" in general. The entire episode "proves" that the public should dismiss ANY story from the "mainstream" press or any authority figure that previously might be thought of as "responsible."

The ultimate debate is the reflection of the message volume created by the distributed network. Using a dense communications grid the volume overpowers the strategy used to "control" message and defend the truth. This is not uncommon from the same approach to science debates in environmental issues or many other progressive thoughtful issues.

The Value of Low Exit Barriers

Gideon continues find brilliant articles exploring and highlighting o network dynamics. This is an amazing bit of thinking around products and the direction of new services in the years ahead.

I like the article (see below) but Gideon's quote is also provoking, "
This article is a worthwhile read for the distributed, networked view it paints of what will one day be possible. The blocking factors, it appears, are less technological are more a result of old mindsets about business models and user models. " Actually, I look at the services of (my as accepting Gideon's challenge. The strategy of seems to respect mindsets of is easy to set up, surf and leave.

The article talks about the strengths of these new products in ways that may be the key to the future of advocacy. " both of them let you quit: From the user's perspective, and Flickr support near-optimal entry and exit strategies. You can deeply and automatically mesh your own information with them. And you can undo that meshing. Participation in the services is thus an "at will" arrangement. If you maintain well-structured information, you can as easily mesh it with another comparably-equipped service."

Ask 40 nonprofit groups, advocacy or poltical campaigns what they do with "in active members" , they might sell or swap your name, hunt you down via databases, snail mail you, etc. Their are huge barriers to exit which become reputational barriers to entry.

The ideal campaigns should start considering how "You can deeply and automatically mesh your own information with them. And you can undo that meshing. Participation in the services is thus an "at will" arrangement. If you maintain well-structured information, you can as easily mesh it with another comparably-equipped service" applies to their work no matter how frightening such talk may be to fundraising and membership departments.

You Plant It You Grow It: Problems with Building a Collaborative Movement by Funding Competitive Organizations and Brands

This is the preface for the hand guide being developed on planning and executing network-centric campaigns. The audience is a group of funders and campaign planners (that don't read blogs). The goal is to present a framework for examining traditional approaches to creating social change, building capacity, making donations, building campaigns. etc. The language and guide will hopefully also be used by my peers trying to find a smarter way to pitch their bosses on these concepts. (you know who you are). Please give it a read an jump on over to the collaboration space to join in the fun.

Movement building is hard work. Advocacy and social change is difficult to manage. Grant making, social service, policy analysis and campaign planning is really challenging. Mobilizing communities is hard. In a field where so much needs to be done with so few resources it is almost impossible to think boldly, experiment with innovation and pilot new ways of doing business. Mistakes are hard to accept when the resources could be used to for so many other important purposes.

If you spend any time in the garden, you quickly realize that you grow what you plant. You may not succeed in growing everything you plant but peppers will not drop from your apple tree, roses are not going to pop out of your tomato garden and carrots are not going to emerge as watermelons. An engineer would say “process dictates outcomes.” Unfortunately, the outcomes and outgrowths of a hundred years of activism has still left communities behind and people unconnected to the rights, services, benefits and justice they deserve. The “planting” and “processes” are not generating the outcomes needed or the services these communities are demanding.

Wave after wave of the economic cycle, government programs, top down organizing and mobilizations have failed to lift quality of life and political power in many issue areas. Policies, projects, organizations and investments that seem like they shouldn't fail do fail because the work is hard, complex and challenging. Sometimes progress is intentionally blocked as an exercise in control by opposition parties. The goal is create change and to build a movement, the processes or seeds to growing a movement may not yet be clear.

The situation now demands even harder work, creative thinking, experimentation, innovation and piloting new types of projects. There will be failures. Some projects will not bear fruit. As a group, we seek reshuffle what we know about strategy for creating social change while adding some new elements, skills and perspectives in order to reassemble the parts into a new framework, doctrine and guidance on the work of movement building. The vision is to plant new seeds and invest in new processes that will not result in the same outcomes as in the past but something different and something better and more useful.

There has never been a foundation that focused on strategically targeting the network levels of a movement. Given the new understandings of networks and network theory and the increasing connectivity of our society it is a perfect time to start building a new movement on these ideas. There is no doubt that if carefully managed the network-centric ideas will start to shake out and new principals for network based campaign planning and grant making will emerge.

(Join me in working on the guide at Network-Centric Advocacy Workspace)

Wisdom from the Wild: Wealth Bondage Teases Out Some Wonderful Advice Winning the Game of Tit for Tat

Here is a wonderful site that I peek in on from time to time. Where a handful of connected nuts hide behind pen names and twisted images to speak truth and have some fun.

I have seen some wonderful discussions there between the crazy rants. I really like the new post on the Game of Tit for Tat that wraps up with these suggestions for advocates.

1. Personal courage - speak out while the price is still acceptable. The more who do, the less the risk; until the hidden hand of truth and openness reestablish the conditions of real evolution, not winner take all, but civic cooperation and emergent systems under conditions of candor and transparency.

2. Praise those who show courage. Synchronize through praise, dance, marches, bumperstickers, signs and signals. Do not let it be said by the bullies that resistance is futile, that the hero will die and be forgotten. Keep memory alive.

3. Satirize, criticize, scorn, shame, blame and give a bad reputation to brands, politicians, PR people, marketers, think tank thinkers, pundits and all others who usurp the role of truth-teller, and provide semblances only.

4. Stow (don't show) your education - do not deconstruct the values for which you, or others, may be required to suffer or die. For that would be a betrayal. Be true to the truth. Live in truth. Bear witness. Deconstruct not human rights, plain truth, courage and candor, but those who dissimulate. Start not with the best writers, for God's sake, but with brands, politicians, think tank bs, and corporate hype. (We are not ruled by those steeped in Milton, Shelley, Keats. Deconstruct what our leaders read - Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Management Secrets of Genghis Khan, The Rapture Series.)

5. Link to create a resonant network of social capital - whether face to face, on the phone, through email, or your blog; bestow attention on those who see past the spectacle, and who are synchronizing on a more humane and sustainable way of life.

6. Pass up tainted honors - Do not cooperate with malfeasance. If offered "credentials" for a political convention, or time on a talk show (c.f. Chastity Powers for WB TV Tonight), or a position at a think tank, ask yourself about what it is you are cooperating with, and what it would cost to defect? Will you defect on air, challenging the host, the corporate business model, the advertisers? If not, why are you there? Why simper before millions, displaying your shameless desire to please? Set a better example, and turn down the tainted gift. Become a rallying point in your own right. Do not ride the bully's shoulders, to speak the bully's message, or be complicit in it, and think that makes you tall. Your presence on the bully's shoulder is demoralizing, it shames us all.

7. Pool effort, talent and money - "giving" from the gifted in defense of the commons from which and to which all gifts tend.

8. Organize online and off to bring cooperation games, and coordinated action, into not just business, but our civic life as well. Democracy is not just a spectator sport.

I am not sure why this speaks so well to the folks I respect but it does. It seem to be a strategy that intermingles humility with leadership, humor and honor, solidarity and truth over personal gain. It is a strategy that flows from talented advocates.

Tools for Self-Organizing: TownHall Style

There are some really smart organizers working with the folks at Townhall. In typical web fashion, our groups should be reproducing these new tools and content with some minor changes (better content and message). I love the selling point for conservative meetups "Take the opportunity to find your ideological "safe zone."" -- translation.... piss poor logic, crazy religious fanaticism, sloppy science, and blind trust in corporate America will not be challenged.

The ideas that should be used and improved if your campaign is going to get serious about fostering peer-to-peer organizing include:

1. Meetup Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
2. Meetup Tutorial (Powerpoint presentation)
3. Clearly expressed Core Values
4. Meetup Mission Statement and Objectives
5. Meetup Code of Public Conduct
6. Shared Best practices for group organizers and participants.

Host Tool: Welcome Letter Template
Download this Microsoft Word document, edit with your group's information, and send to new members of your group as a welcome and invitation to join you at the next Meetup.

Have fun and poke around on Townhall they are a well funded community that are not sparing much expense in developing approaches and tools for organizing.

Environmental giving from private foundations misses the boat

Here is an interesting look at the funders role in advocacy infrastructure and some thoughtful voices speaking truth to funder power. The work is noteworthy not only because it lays out a good statement of the problems but offers some framework and ideas that challenge the standard approaches.

Environmental giving from private foundations misses the boat when it comes to systematically addressing the major problems we face in providing a catalyst to significant environmental restoration, protection, and generation of an environmentally friendly and sustainable human impact upon the earth. Have we noticed that we have been losing most of the political and ecological battles over the last ten years while we continue to approach grantmaking in the mode of 10, 20 and 30 years ago?

The article does not line up 100% with the core strategies that emerge from a network-centric approach. Process dictates outcomes. The outcomes are not acceptable so we need to look for some shifts in the process that generates those outcomes. At the system level of the movement, it means changes in campaign strategies, changes in organizational work and changes in the funding the process.

Self-organizing Responses to Emergencies: Can it Be Improved?

The local PBS ran a three shows on 9/11, World Trade Center and the rebirth of ground zero. It is amazing how emotionally stirring the events and images of that day are even after the raw wounds are scared over with time, joys of life and the swing back to normalcy.

There are a few quotes I enjoyed dwelling on as my wife and co processed our grief. The most powerful is the counter-weight to the terror story is the story the responders represented. The clear focus that we should be "terrified" by the 19 hijackers that would be willing to give their lives to destroy total strangers seems like the "big story" but when you look at the thousands of stories of firemen, police, volunteers in the buildings that rushed into death, climbed into burning rubble and put themselves in harms way to save the same total strangers the 19 wanted to kill ... an entirely different frame of the events of that day starts to emerge. The story should not be people want to kill each other but a positive view that a majority of human nature is good, giving and self-sacrificing for their fellow man.

I was equally interested in the response (distributed, unorganized, decentralized) when Tom Munnke highlighted the NYTimes story about the common response to disasters and the ways mobs pitch in and help without much coordination.

"..we immediately noticed was that there was a great deal of improvisation. Again, this happens in hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. In New York, you had this incredibly complex event - something that was very much like a natural disaster, but also a crime scene, a national security emergency and the beginnings of what some were calling a war. At the same time, the city's Emergency Operations Center at 7 World Trade Center had been lost in the attack and the command structure had been shattered. People had to improvise."

Among disaster professionals, there's a lot of talk about how in emergencies there has to be one authoritative voice running things. But one of the things you see in a crisis is devolution of authority to the lower levels of organizations, and that happens, in part, because there are so many decisions to be made.

In general, the dynamics that we see in network-centic campaigns are temporally "installed" in the event of a disaster. Network-centric advocacy call for building strong social ties, identifying and strengthening a common story, building a dense network of communication ties, sharing common assets, providing support services, and clearly identifying the window of opportunity for collaboration.

Disaster events bond survivors and victims in a powerful way across race, gender, geographic and socio-economic lines. The events create a new combined story that is reinforced via multiple channels of personal experience, news and peer-to-peer interaction. The centralized network of communications fails (power, phone lines) and peer-to-peer start connecting (short but intense 2 way communication among volunteers int he field). In disaster events, "ownership" rules often disappear...rescue crews open stores to take bottled water, restaurants start serving food for free, rental car companies wave one way drop off fees, courier radios serve rescue crews, someone with a basement lets neighbors come to shelter,etc. ) The window of collaboration is clear (not a life long commitment to disaster relief) it is the temporary bond of the city or the storm. (i'll go back to ignoring you after the snow is gone but for now we can talk syndrome).

Campaigns need to learn from these examples. Groups need to lower the barriers to sharing resources, people and talent. Campaigns strategist can focus on defining the tight window of collaboration and setting up the campaign in such a way that at that moment peer-to-peer groups without communications ties to the core staff will still be able to participate in the response. The dynamics of these event driven group response are a rich area for exploring ways to empower network-centric strategies.

Channel You: Challenge The Network News

Here is an interesting look at the future of the advocacy communications grid. It is going to move from email and text increasingly into rich media, images and video.

Recently U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attested to the revolutionary power of the wireless uploading of digital images to the Internet. Testifying in Congress about the sudden widespread appearance of photographs and video of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, he did not address this subject as a technological optimist. Rumsfeld is the farthest thing from a dotcom stock analyst circa 1999, or a computer visionary. Rather, he stuck to the brutal reality, explaining that the combination of cheap digital cameras and the Internet had fundamentally changed the dynamics of news making during wartime.

Today, everyone has access to the latest high quality consumer electronic devices. Every cell phone has the ability to capture images, even movies. Once people begin to use these devices to record the significant events in their lives, there is no way to prevent them from slipping cameras into any location. When sensitive material is captured in digital form, it takes on a life of its own. Circulating across the Internet, it becomes a fact in itself. It is impossible for a military organization to control the flow of disbursed, distributed content production in a network environment.

If you are looking to build a movement over the next 12-18 months are you thinking about the ways that these new richer communications can help build the common story among your core group of workers and activists? Ar you thinking about the ways your supporters can help you collect and tell a new more personal and more interesting story. Are you investing in strategy that enables them to tell their own stories and successes?

Database for Environmental Enforcement Actions

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse a project of Syracuse University is releasing a unique new series of special bulletins about environmental enforcement during the Clinton and Bush years. The bulletins, based on very extensive Justice Department data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, authoritatively document the shifting policies of the federal government during the last twelve years.

This is one of the best government databases available. Make sure you read these and see how they relate to your issues. Journalists will use and quote data from TRAC. these are just being released so you can put your own message and branding on the data.

The first bulletin in the series focuses on all environmental charges, how the criminal enforcement trends have changed, and is now available at:

TRAC promisses future bulletins will zero in on such subjects as shifts in the administration-by-administration record concerning violators of the pollution or wildlife laws and the wide variation in how federal prosecutors around the country process them.

TRAC is able to provide scholarships to a limited number of environmental groups that would like access to case-by-case information. For details call Paula Ben Gabr at 315 443-3563.

Is membership a cheap shill?

Maybe, I am looking for it ( buy a chevy and now it looks like everyone has a chevy) but It seems like there is a growing discontent with the model of engagement for creating social change. These calls for new experimentation with open communication, more choice and peer to peer connection are going to get stronger as folks look at the hundreds of millions of dollars that were invested in progressive voices to see the handful of leaders out maneuvered and out spent in a symmetrical struggle for power that the left continues to loose.

Worldchanging has a great rant on network-centric advocacy and Ale's perception of failures of the ngo community.

Right now, most advocacy NGOs consider their members like you and me mostly as a source of small donations. By and large, they couldn't care less what we think, how we act, who we know and how strongly we're committed, as long as we keep writing those $35.00 checks for our "memberships." By and large, those memberships bring us nothing -- sometimes a tote bag or a coffee cup or some lame newsletter; often an increase in the amount of junk solicitations clogging our mailboxes. These "premiums" betray NGO membership for what it frankly usually is, a cheap shill, playing on our guilt or idealism, for support by people who'd rather not be bothered with us, and who, in any case, look at us almost exactly as late night infomercial hucksters look at the folks on the other side of the television screen: as a market. It's a dysfunctional model, all the way around. Mass-marketing, direct mail, subsidiary income tracks (like selling T-shirts) and the rest of the modern NGO racket degrade everyone involved.

First, we have to understand that the very fuel and energy we are dependent on is the problem (like a speed addict or the Us economy need of foreign oil). After we recognize the problem we need to cut our dependency and replace it with new healthier sources. The NGO leadership seems to be like a drunk on a binge. they recognize the turn in demographics, the failure to move the agenda but there is not yet an acceptance that the model is broke. We just need more members and more money.

The challenge to the rest of us is to develop workable alternative plans for campaigns and campaign organizing strategies and tactics so that we can begin to pick up where the other groups fail.

Is a network-centric approach needed for your campaign?

Here are some general questions to consider if you are looking at plotting a campaign for your organization or if you are developing a strategy for your organization, foundation or coalition.

Is building a network required to solve the problem? Can a currently committed individual or organization realistically and efficiently solve the problem? Is the problem being addressed a one time one faceted issue or are there going to be a series of struggles for change? Can one individual r organization expect to continually have the resources and capacity to solve issues that arise over time? (Is network building needed?)

If forced to confront the full force of those that ultimately oppose the desired change can an identified allied individual or organization overcome the strengths of the opposition? In a brass tacks, dollar to dollar, will vs. will struggle for the tempo and outcome of change campaigns? (Is network power needed to address power imbalances?)

How effectively can an individual or single organization control and dictate the terms, timing and tempo of addressing change? (Is a more fluid alignment of resources needed to address imbalances in structural controls?)

Does an individual or organization have access and ownership of all the key information needed to create and monitor change? (Is networking needed to collect, manage and process information critical during the campaign?)

Does an individual or organization possess the creativity and innovation needed to create the desired change? (Is networking needed to access tactical and strategic innovation needed to further the agenda?)

There are few organizations and individuals that which to create change that can approach a problem with these questions and not realize the limits to the disconnected and solo approach to campaigning.

(Join the Workspace | )

Fun food for thought. A network-centric approach really most useful for under resourced movements (which can not win symmetrical struggles) and looks for new ways to create coordinated physical, information and cognitive advantages to create change. ...more to come.

Unfreeze, Move and Freeze: Break Open the Shell of Complacency: Flash Campaigns in Context

I was very interested in the link from Clay Shirky's links. It is from 1947 text on social change dynamics. There are a few really important dynamics explored. The key that is relevant to network-centric advocacy is the strategies capacity to reach and drive a campaign of action in the moment of "moving".

In our highly connected and fast paced world, people are quickly unfrozen by cyclones of media, instant-exposure to a issue and full access to the many facets of the issue. However, in the age of "societal attention deficit disorder" (Jakob Nielson) and information overload the tempo to stabilization is also accelerated. Our current models and organizations will consistently miss the "window" before the refreezing of change.

Changing as a Three-step Procedure: Unfreezing, Moving, and Freezing of a Level.
A change toward a higher level of group performance is frequently short lived: after a “shot in the arm”, group life soon returns to the previous level. This indicates that it does not suffice to define the objective of a planned change in group performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency of the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be included in the objective. A successful change includes therefore three aspects: unfreezing (if necessary) the present level . . . moving to the new level . . . and freezing group life on the new level. Since any level is determined by a force field, permanency implies that the new force field is made relatively secure against change.

The “unfreezing” of the present level may involve quite different problems in different cases. Allport” has described the “catharsis” which seems to be necessary before prejudices can be removed. To break open the shell of complacency and self-righteousness, it is sometimes necessary to bring about deliberately an emotional stir-up. .

New campaigns will need to more quickly exploit the natural moments of instability to solidify change.

Texting the Crowds - The Age of Connectivity Reaches the Street in the US

Texting has been a huge tool overseas for the last several years. It is just now starting to "connect" the crowds of the protesters here in the states.

During the Republican National Convention, text-message broadcasting services like this, sent to their cell phones, provided an up-to-the-minute guide to the action on the streets.
Texting "tells you where the hot zones are, where people are getting arrested," said Greg Altman, 31, of New York City. "It tells you which stuff to avoid." When he got a message Tuesday that protesters were being beaten near Manhattan's Union Square, he stayed away.

What are you doing to use the millions of dollars of connectivity now connecting your volunteers and supporters?