Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Principles for ‘Anytime Everywhere’ Advocacy


The five principles for ‘anytime everywhere’ social change identified in the book are:

1. Identify your community from the crowd
2. Focus on shared goals
3. Choose tools for discovery and distribution
4. Highlight personal stories
5. Build a movement

When I started reading, #5 stopped me.

I mean, ‘build a movement’ as an item on a to-do list? Sure, we would all like to have a movement around our issues, but I had a hard time seeing how instructing us to build one counts as a ‘principle’, as reminding us that we can’t get to engagement without leveraging personal stories is.

But the way that the authors talk about movement building, I get how this commandment is an important reminder about the way we need to work. It’s about co-creation, letting go of our imagined control so that people are working our issues alongside us, not ‘under’ or ‘for’ us. Most significantly, the book has several very concrete examples of how this movement-building can look, including what it ‘costs’ an organization, psychically, to commit to this style of engagement.

Movement building, understood in this space, requires identifying the collaborators who can help your organization ‘open up’, so that your next campaign is about the larger movement/cause, instead of about your organization. It means unbranding, to an extent, and getting out of the way. It focuses on impact, and rigorous assessment through metrics, so that ‘loose’ doesn’t devolve into ‘untraceable’.

It’s about more than crowdsourcing, because you’re not trying to get the ‘crowd’ to circle back to you. It’s more of a ‘send the dove forth from the ark’ sort of thing. When your movement leaders don’t come back, you rely on your measures to let you know that’s a very, very good thing.

Question: Who are your collaborators? Who would carry forth your cause, if you encouraged them? Who is already free-agenting for you? What shifts would it take within your organization to get more comfortable with these movement actors and their roles? How can you cultivate those?

Social Change, in the New Year


Let’s start 2014 right, with a giveaway of an exciting, infinitely readable, and immediately applicable book about using online tools to spark advocacy, raise money, and engage communities around your issues.

I’m giving away a copy of Social Change Anytime Everywhere, by Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward.

Because I’m the one with the book to give away, and because I’m still clearing the cobwebs from my holiday break brain, this week’s posts will be a series of questions sparked, for me, from reading the book. I will randomly select a winner from among those who comment on any one of this week’s three related posts, and I’ll even pay to ship you the book.

Because this year is going to be epic, for advocacy, people.

Anytime, Everywhere

Question: How do you integrate your online and offline engagement–advocacy, fundraising, volunteerism–around your cause(s)? How are these responsibilities shared, within your organization? What technologies and strategies do you find effective in both venues? What do you find is the most successful ‘entry point’ for your advocates? How do you help them to bridge the gap to other types of engagement?

Your 2013 Reflections

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This is my favorite photo from 2013, of my four kids looking out on Lake Superior, during our incredible ‘recharge’ week at the end of the summer.

It’s a time, and a place, of a lot of thinking for me, reflecting on what I want to work on, where I’ve come, and what needs to change.

As I’ve shared some here, 2013 has been a year of contradictions, with some great personal successes and progress on many fronts, and some huge public losses, including the erosion of the Voting Rights Act, the evisceration of our revenue base in Kansas, and the painful defeat of stronger legislation to prevent gun violence.

As you look back on the year that was, how do you balance the scales?

What are your regrets? The triumphs you celebrate?

What do you hold out hope for, for these last 12 days of 2013?

What do you hope to be able to reflect back on, a year from now?

Crowdsourcing Week: Implementation Campaigns

More crowdsourcing!

Today, I have a request for the crowd that is more explicitly focused on my teaching, instead of my consulting practice.

So, think of your contributions as feeding the next generation of social work policy professionals.

I appreciate you in advance, of course.

One of the things I stress with my policy students is the importance of the entirety of the policy change process. Creating social change, of course, isn’t just about legislative advocacy; we spend quite a bit of time talking about change within the judicial arena, with administrative agencies, and in larger community/societal attitudes and policy conversations, too.

But, even when we are talking specifically about changing legislation as a vehicle for policy improvement, that doesn’t mean just the period between bill introduction and celebratory signing ceremony. Instead, it has to start much earlier, when we’re formulating policy ideas and building a base and connecting with potential allies and negotiating alternatives.

And it has to far outlast the drying of the ink on the executive’s signature, if we want our policy changes to actually root, and to actually have an impact.

And I think my students really get that, conceptually. They nod their heads a lot, and they ask smart questions in response to the articles that we read about the process of policy implementation, and advocacy around the same.

But, when it comes time to give them examples of organizations’ and groups’ advocacy campaigns around implementation, I struggle. There are great case stories about organizations working with elected officials to change laws. My students eat these up, because they’re real, and they make the process real for them, then, before they get out into the field.

But so much of the policy implementation process happens behind closed doors, literally and figuratively. Organizations are not often in the news for implementation victories, even though influencing the staffing levels and qualifications, and the due process procedures to which clients have access, and the eligibility rules that drive access to benefits, and the definitions about what will be provided and in what ways…all of that can matter just as much as getting the law changed in the first place.

Recently, the protracted battles around implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including the promulgation of thousands of pages of regulations enacting that long and complex legislation, have provided good context to make these implementation issues real for my students. Certainly the ACA has been a very good example of the truth that:

Implementation Matters.

But I need more.

I need examples of advocacy campaigns around policy implementation, particularly (being choosy, here!) where the advocates’ primary purpose was not legislative change, in the first place, but changes to administrative or regulatory policy, which implements legislation.

I would love stories about why advocates chose this as the target, how they constructed a campaign, what levers of power they used, how they mobilized necessary constituents, how they secured the information they needed, how they evaluated their successes.

I welcome case studies of implementation efforts that are successful in achieving the stated goal, and those that fell short in some ways, because we can certainly learn from both. It would be wonderful if folks have examples where I can contact the key players involved, but I’ll also take anonymous clippings, as instructive illustrations.

Crowd, can you hook me up with some good implementation stories?

Crowdsourcing Week: How do you teach advocates history?

It’s summer.

I’m dividing my time between the pool with my 4 kids, shuttling said children to dozens of activities, teaching intense summer courses, and managing my nonprofit consulting responsibilities, which honestly get a little more challenging in the summer, since coordinating with several agencies’ vacation schedules is a bit difficult.

All of which is a long introduction to this week’s theme:


I love crowdsourcing, it is well-established. I love the idea of it, since I believe that people already possess much of what we, collectively, need to know. It’s just a matter of harnessing it.

I love it in practicality, since it is a really terrific way to get good ideas without having to do a lot of work. See above, re: it’s summer.

And I love it here, since I learn something from my readers and our conversations every single day.

So, this week, I’m turning the tables. I don’t have much to bring to these posts. I mostly have my hands out, hoping for some pearls of wisdom.

Just like Ms. Crystal Smith says in the best. podcast. ever: “I appreciate you in advance.”

A few months ago, I read this great article about the women’s suffrage movement. What is so powerful about it is that it isn’t just a history lesson, in the ‘what happened, to whom, and when’ vein. It is, instead, several lessons from history, applied to struggles for social justice today.

But, without the historical context, an article like this would have been just another list of pieces of advocacy advice–helpful, but not with the same weight and resonance. Because the truth is, we need to learn our history, as advocates for social justice, if we are to root our efforts today in the collective wisdom and experiences of movements past.

And yet, I see, with my students and with my colleagues, a relative lack of historical perspective. In some ways, this advocacy ‘amnesia’ reflects the uncritical teaching of history in our formal education system, and the ways in which marginalized voices have been excised from much of the historical record. And it’s also, I think, partly our own faults. It is easy to think that this particular time is so unique that the past cannot possibly hold any truths relevant for today. Especially with the ascendance of technology in organizing, it seems like organizations’ campaigns from a century ago can’t possibly inform our actions tomorrow.

But. We need to learn our history. It is part of who we are, and it shapes the context in which we advocate today. As this year’s inaugural address reminded us, we are still a part of the thread of continual striving for perfection of democracy, a thread that has Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall woven through it.

So, the crowdsourcing.

How do we incorporate social justice history into nonprofit advocacy? Given that I can’t pack up a group of advocates against child abuse, or for ending the stigma of mental illness, or campaigning against hunger, for a semester-long course on movement history, how do we approach their work today with an eye towards yesterday’s victories and defeats? Where do you get inspiration from the past? What are your favorite sources of historical perspective? How do you weave them into your life in small-enough doses to be manageable? What tactics work best, for taking this long view?

How do you teach advocates history, so that we can repeat the lessons we should be learning and avoid the mistakes from which we must have already learned?

What does the crowd say?