Previous month:
January 2015
Next month:
September 2016

Hope Lies in Humanity. Networked Humanity.

image from
In the biggest threats to humanity, humanity (not technology) must be the answer deployed to solve the problem. In human history, people are always "the fancy innovation" that solve complex problems.  Unfortunately, many planners don't engineer solutions that effectively leverage networked people solutions.  Planning seems unable to adapt to the reality that humanity is much more connected than most of our mapping "sees".  We are a network, a fragmented network but full of potential to connect, collaborate, and swarm on the fly.  

It was not drugs or fancy innovations that brought numbers down.

Local volunteers going house-to-house to explain the virus, or tirelessly burying bodies in the safest possible way, were crucial to stop the spread.

Communities accepting the realities of the virus and changing their everyday lives, and families allowing their loved ones to be taken to isolated treatment centres all played a strong role.

Weak health systems were bolstered - Liberia only had some 60 doctors to treat its entire population before the outbreak began. But an influx of local volunteers and international teams helped.

Despite these efforts some scientists say there is a chance the virus will never go away. If cases do not get to zero, it could become endemic - part of the fabric of diseases present in countries at a low level.

And other outbreaks are likely.

But the hope is the world will be better prepared and have learnt to pay greater attention, should Ebola, or another disease like it, strike again.


Network power becomes proportional to the risks/threat we face.  In a crisis, it is no longer an awareness issue but an issue that we have not sorted out how to manage the logistics of the power of a "just-in-time" humanity.  From the refugee crisis today to Ebola outbreak in 2014, to the huge numbers of talented people want to help and participate in the solutions to climate and refugee crisis, the opportunity of our time is sorting out what works needs to be done, what work can be done, and building quality control by volunteers on volunteer  as a system to really swarm as a species.  We are capable of so much more than wikipedia.  

The basic challenge to massively distributed engagement is the ultimate in civic tech.  It is not crowdfunding but crowdwork support technologies. Stacks of organized services that accelerate the processing and sorting of volunteers by volunteers, and also empowering  large groups of people breaking down challenges, developing strategies together,  break strategies into work, breaking work into tasks, assigning tasks to vetted volunteers and also manage volunteer checking and rechecking their work and feeding results and observations back into strategic context.     

Examples worth looking into include OccupySandy, AidMatrixNetwork, National Service Corps, Snowcrew





Hey Siri tell Congress Save the Polar Bears : When will Siri, Alexa and Cortana get into politics?

Siri, Cortana and Alexa can read email, book hotels, tell political jokes and manage your lights (seriously they can just ask them).  How long before they can fill out requests to sign petitions automatically once commanded?  If personal agents start participating in politics how low does the basic level of the engagement ladder go?  What does Congress do with petitions from Alexa, Cortana or Siri when they feel like people don't even have the time and interest to read or fill in the basic elements of an action alerts?  How long before Congressional staff are using AI to respond to mail they get?   Is this the first step of the AI nightmare?

This new wave of voice-driven assistant technologies rides on the back of advances in artificial intelligence, rich collections of user data and growth in keyboardless and screenless devices. Additionally, great speech recognition is now built into every major operating system. Google, Apple, Baidu, Microsoft and Amazon provide this capability for free, enabling a new generation of apps to drive user adoption.


Does the mean the end of clicktivism with easier AI-ivism? 


Disruptive Networks of People Root Change in the Power of Humanity not Violence.

Absolutely brilliant, grounded and sharp insights from David Haskell at DreamsinDeed published over at SSIR. His insights on working with people in hard places is among the best I have ever come across.  I love his view of leaders he calls "dreamers in hard places".

 "Dreamers in hard places" are under valued, under appreciated, under the radar, and under represented in the leadership of our world and our work.  In fact, the way we structure movements demonstrates that we fear "dreamers from hard places" participation at the levels of governance and power.  Most of the best leadership in traditional organizations can't even interact effectively with people that are genuinely squaring off abuse and trauma spread by government and industry.   

David's body of work is inspiring and the approach is network-centric to the core.  His team builds networks to support dreamers in hard places. 

 What sets a dream apart from a good idea? We apply four tests:

  • A dream is celebrated by the poor, and unsettles the powerful.
  • A dream invites everyone to the table, including those we don’t like.
  • A dream requires that everyone change, starting with the dreamer.
  • A dream is worth bleeding for, not just working on.


Some of the questions his work leads to includes  "Do our models include people not like us?", "Do the poor celebrate your arrival?", "Does the answer also make sense to people that are only educated at the school of hardknocks?", "Have we created a microphone so the smallest voice is heard?", "How does this strategy draw in opposition to be a part of the solution?", "How does this put the last first?"

How many of the strategies and campaigns that you ever worked on pass these questions?  Are you working on dreams? Are you pushing power to the edge?  Does your work make sense to the people most impacted by the problem?  Are they working with you on the solution?  Are you seeking diversity of people to support your work or are you working to diversify who you work with so you can serve broader agendas?

Expect the punch in the face as part of your strategy development.


 In many context, it is always a struggle to find partners that want to invest in creating adaptive process and infrastructure.  In times of uncertainty, we are often attracted to the "silver bullet" rather than the negotiated settlement.

I love clear work plans but I work in so many context that make them unrealistic like campaign planning, culture change, leader organizing and foundation fundraising to name a few. Or at least, these chaotic environments require a very different kind of work plan.

There’s a boxing adage that says "everyone has a great strategy until the moment they get punched in the face". This probably military saying along the same lines ... Everyone has a great plan until someone starts shooting at you.  The only true strategy is to make sure you can take the kind of punch you Are going to get and yet still stay in the ring. Only then can you shake it off, and develop an adjusted plan to victory.

Capacity building is the resilience strategies.   1. Building capacity of people to lead and withstand the punches and the opposition that they will face.  2. Building the organization capacity to shield the people. 3. Building the network capacity to connect people to each other and facilitate the flow of information and new alignments of power because strategies one and two are guaranteed to fail.

As organizers, there are some pretty big trends out there that are going to rattle some cages in the next few years. We need to be ready for them because they will transform the base of people, culture and political context that we operate in.  If you are looking at creating social and policy change on a 3-5 year horizon and building steps toward great change, here are some of the combinations punches coming at us.   I don't know exactly how these emerging models will hook into the campaign world but my instinct is that they will.  Assumptions about the potential impacts of these trends are shaping the ways many of us in the sector think about organizing strategies.  

I have loose notes on most of these concepts but I thought it would be worth pouring them out online to start some more thinking and feedback on the trends.  I leave it to all of us to  to leverage these trends in a way that fuels uplifting social change.

  • Unrest + increased connections = the age of revolutionary politics.
  • The rise of the multinational organizing to counterbalance multinational corporations.
  • The rise of the effective partisans and the collapse of middle political ground.
  • Monetization of followers on facebook.
  • LinkedIn as a co-working engine and a personal career platform for the gig economy.
  • The proliferation of cyberwar tools from nationstates to corporations, individuals and small organizations.
  • The use of reputation and bitcoin like currency outside of hacker circles.  
  • Internet of things reaching into new edges of the marginalized and disconnected creating access, story and data that circumvents efforts to hide abuse.
  • Mobile phones with more spacial awareness.  Spatial awareness of the phones and people. The rise of alternative experiences in the same space.  
  • Drones and autonomous vehicles in advocacy and documenting situations without fear.
  • Syndication of civic engagement opportunities.
  • Artificial intelligent agents like Siri, Alexa and Cortana lowering clictivism to AI proxy work.
  • The multiplayer online game generation meets community organizing.
  • Real time synchronization of organizing during broadcast events
  • The Slow Movement meets advocacy efforts.
  • Expanded and targeted delivery of physical things at lower cost.