More than photo albums–using Flickr for your advocacy

So there have been a couple of blog posts lately, on some of the social media blogs I monitor, about using Flickr in creative ways for nonprofit fundraising. I liked these ideas–behind-the-scenes of a ballet, choosing captions for an art exhibit–but they obviously have relatively little relevance for nonprofit advocacy. Still, looking through those photos got me thinking about how social worker advocates might apply Flickr technology to our social justice causes. Here are some of the ideas I came up with; what others come to mind? How are you currently using Flickr, and how might you use it to enhance your social change work?

Imagine:

  • You are planning a rally on health care reform. You take pictures of your core activists making posters in preparation, use Flickr to organize them and add captions relating to your upcoming rally, and direct people to your Flickr album using Twitter, Facebook events, and your email distribution list.

    I swear I came up with this idea before I found these pictures–Kate Gardiner, bless you, great minds think alike

  • Then, after the rally, you compile another set of photos, ‘tagging’ participants within Facebook and asking visitors to your website to post their own photos using Flickr (and to post the photos to their own social networking sites and tag your organization).
  • You organize a group of youth from your organization to take pictures in their neighborhoods of examples of environmental injustice. Using Flickr, you turn their pictures into a slideshow and post it to your website and social networking sites. Some photos include one of the youth holding a poster with a statistic your organization has compiled about environmental justice, and some are captioned by the youth themselves, describing their communities and their needs.
  • You take several photos at your organization, which serves people experiencing homelessness (even better, your clients take the pictures themselves). You use Flickr to post all of the photos and solicit captions (not only from your site, but also from some browsers on Flickr, too)–you’re running a contest for the best caption for your upcoming advocacy campaign and then asking people to vote on their favorite photo and caption. At the end, you have a poster-ready image and caption AND more engaged supporters.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    This could be anywhere

  • As part of your community organizing project, you take photos around the neighborhoods where you’re organizing, share them with your core leadership and your emerging leaders, and run a contest asking people to identify where in the community the photos were taken. Or maybe the contest is for the photo that best captures the ‘spirit’ of your community, and the winning photo is displayed prominently on your website, or becomes your Twitter background, or is actually (gasp!) printed and put up in the community center.

    We all know the adage about how valuable pictures are, and they are. But they’re even more valuable when we can find good, cheap, effective ways to share them, frequently update them, and, most importantly of all, solicit interaction around them. That’s, especially the last part, what Flickr does so well. And it’s seriously easy (again, if I can figure something out without my husband’s technical assistance, it’s EASY). The organizations using Flickr for fundraising and constituent engagement are blazing the trail, especially arts organizations, and social service providers who are advocating for social change need to turn some of our creative energies this way too.

    If you have some favorite photos on Flickr that you want to share, link to them in the comment section. And I’d love to hear your ideas for how to best engage your constituents around your Flickr photos…now I’m working on some research regarding the use of video for advocacy, some great examples, and some exciting new tools to help. Coming soon!

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