Friday, February 23, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
This experiment is, of course, fascination on many levels. On the democracy front, it will be interesting to see how quickly to Vorovorans become tired of having to vote on every little thing (shall we have compost toilets or pit toilets? what thread count shall the linens be in the communal living area?). OK, these may be a little esoteric, but you get the point. It's the reason why the US decided to go with a representational democracy in the first place...
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Just when you thought it was safe to get on the internet!
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
In a recent Washington Post article (Where Have All the Protests Gone? Online), writer Jennifer Earl discusses this issue, noting that the Internet has become a powerful organizing tool for protests. Not only does it help provide logisitical support for the old fashioned approach (directions, downloading signs, providing travel information, etc.), but it has, perhaps more important, become an important new venue for registering discontent.
Advocacy organizations need to consider these new approaches when figuiring out ways for their members to participate in any type of activism. And we're talking more than just sending e-mails here. The world of online activism is filled with all kinds of social networking activities -- online activities that often lead to offline action.
Monday, February 05, 2007
In an annual rite of February second only to Groundhog Day, today is the day the Administration delivers its multi-tome budget blueprint to Congress. The document does more than suggest spending targets – targets that are routinely ignored by Congress anyway. The budget also outlines the President’s policy goals and agenda since those programmatic assumptions are built into the budget.
Of course, this year is a far different Budget Day than in recent years. Every year I’ve been in
What’s this mean for advocacy? Plenty.
Most groups fail to keep their supporters informed until a crisis point is reached. Action alerts work best when you’ve laid a careful groundwork with advocates and they understand the issue. Begin that conversation today. Don’t just issue a press release about the budget proposal and the implications for your priorities. Talk to those folks out in the field and let them know what it means.
Next, encourage advocates to begin talking with their congressional representatives about your priorities and any budget-related issues. It’s never too early in a session to begin building that relationship and understanding between advocate and congressional staff. Most legislative battles have two components: authorization and appropriation. Many times the budget targets directly affect all the legislative action that follows. So, don’t wait to engage your grassroots.
Lastly, if you’ve got grasstops with representatives on the Budget Committee, get ‘em fired up and active.
Want to dig into the budget?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Last summer Meredith Segal was a rising junior at Bowdoin College in Maine. Her enthusiasm for Sen. Obama led to a Facebook group, Barack Obama for President (subsequently renamed "Students for Obama"). Yesterday, she took the podium in Fairfax to introduce him. Her group now counts more than 56,000 members. Another Facebook group of young people supporting his candidacy numbers a whopping 200,000. Segal and her compatriots are now working to transition from an online group to a true grassroots network with regional organizing and other networking tools (website, blog, etc.)
Young people have traditionally been considered low turnout voters largely disinterested in politics. In the grassroots world -- particularly for associations and other DC interest groups -- they are usually third class citizens. Afterthoughts. However, the times they are a changin'. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement studies voting patterns among 18 - 24 year olds. Among their findings:
- In 2004, youth voting surged to its highest levels in a decade
- In 2006, the trend continued with the young people comprising the demographic with strongest voter turnout growth since the 2002 midterm
The Pew Charitable Trust found that in certain targeted districts the 2006 youth vote turnout more than doubled from '02 levels. This happened in 36 congressional districts ... more than the current Democratic majority in the House.
Could it be that young people can be mobilized as a significant element of a grassroots network or campaign if we use the right tools? Most grassroots campaigns mostly ignore students and young professionals. That's a mistake. A growing pool of data suggests these may be some of the most passionate advocates ... and they usually have time and energy to be engaged. Trouble is, we can't just throw the same old grassroots tools at them and expect results.
New tools can lead not only to more participation but also the kind of participation that launches a student from a New England campus computer to sharing the stage with a high-profile presidential candidate. What I'm saying is that they don't to just want to passively belong, they want to really engage.
Technology is certainly part of the answer to turning young people into grassroots activists. But, the real trick is the work Meredith Segal is trying to figure out right now: translating online interest into offline action.