Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Six Tools for Advocate Engagement -- Part 2

As promised, here are the three remaining tools for engaging advocates in grassroots policy efforts.

Tool #4: Web 2.0 and You – as somewhat overused as the term is becoming, the idea of “Web 2.0” has useful applications to the advocacy arena. What is web 2.0? It’s a term of art that describes the evolving ways in which people are using the Internet. At first, the Internet was used for information distribution – if you wanted information on a certain topic you went to the Internet and accessed it. In recent years, however, the Internet has evolved into a tool for users to create and post their own content, from books to music to pictures. Think of sites like Flickr, MySpace and YouTube as the leading edge of the “user generated content” idea. As people become more used to and, in fact, expect to generate content of their own, these tools become more integral to the online experience. Why is this important? Recent studies show that 40% of people in online communities participate more in social activism than before they joined the community. This is a ready made group of people just crying out to be involved in social causes! Associations need to harness the power of Web 2.0 for their own policy-related purposes – and some are already doing so. The American Cancer Society, for example, recently raised $40,000 in a “virtual walkathon” in Second Life. No walking – just sitting at the computer. Likewise, any political candidate worth his or her salt has a MySpace page. From ring tones to online music sharing to wikis, finding ways to allow advocates to create their own content related to your policy issue will become increasing essential to any successful advocacy effort.

Tool #5: Recognition – the policy environment is difficult, and advocates need to know that their efforts are appreciated, especially since the legislative process moves as slowly as molasses (if that fast). Fortunately, there are a number of quick and easy tools to help provide for that recognition. In addition to the traditional tchochkie approach (hats, mugs, etc.), associations should consider posting an advocates hall of fame on their website to honor those members that have gone the extra mile, such as by hosting a site visit or sending a personal letter. In addition, associations should consider making mention of the efforts of their members in their ongoing newsletters and other outreach materials, as well as prominent posts on the blog (you have one right?) thanking members for their efforts.

Tool #6: Fun – Advocacy can be as exciting as a video game. In fact, there’s a legislative fantasy congress online at www.fantasycongress.org – it’s like fantasy baseball, but for the U.S. government. If that sounds a little too dorky for you, consider how your association can use existing online environments like Second Life to promote your cause in whole new ways. Likewise look at some of the examples of organizations like PBS (www.pbs.org) who has developed a series of online quizzes and games around its programs – many of them are for kids, but some are for adults as well!

There are so many examples to consider – if you’re interested in more ideas, post a comment and we’

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