Mobilizing Community for Social Change: A Look Inside Movements.org
Given recent events in Northern Africa, this fact (and excerpt from my last post) is fastened deep within my consciousness: “Relationships are being built and calls to action are more tangible because of the social networks the Internet brings. We are having more and more of an impact on social change in our communities…”
While “digital activism for effective change” is a contested topic, one thing’s for sure; it informs and connects us to causes and the individuals at the center of their movements.
One organization paving the way for digital activism is Movements.org. I had the pleasure of partaking in a Q&A with Rachel Silver, Development and Corporate Partnerships Manager (pictured below), with Movements.org, where the following conversation ensued:
1) For those who may not be familiar with Movements.org, can you take us through your mission?
Movements.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, connecting, and supporting digital activists from around the world. Movements.org hosts annual summits, events, and regional training events that link influential leaders in technology, media, private and public sectors with the some of the world's most promising digital activists. Our website serves as a hub covering best practices, discussion and news about the use of digital media in social movements.
The organization was formed during a December 2008 summit that brought together experts in social media with pioneering grassroots movement leaders for the first time in history. Founders of Movements.org include Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas at Google, Jason Liebman, CEO and co-founder of Howcast, and Roman Tsunder, co-founder of Access 360 Media.
2) Part of your mission is "dedicated to identifying" digital activists from around the world. Can you explain a bit of the process in identifying causes and activists heading movements? I assume at the same time, activists are reaching out to you to help mobilize group movements. Is this the case?
Movements.org has a network of activists representing 27 different countries. We invite innovative grassroots activists to our annual summits where they have the opportunity to network and share best practices with other activists as well as tech and media leaders. After attending a summit, promising activists remain in our network by partnering with other Movements.org members on projects and campaigns, sharing case studies with us, and taking part in our many initiatives.
3) Do you have a network of volunteers in different regions? Can anyone get involved?
Movements.org consists of a Board of Directors, paid staff, and network of activists. We encourage anyone who is using social media or connection technologies in their activism to share their story with us and perhaps attend the next annual summit. We are also always looking for contributing writers- if you are interested reach out to us!
4) We all know the power social media holds in connecting and community building. Besides the annual summit, how does movements.org mobilize community?
We have a list serve of all our activists and we are constantly seeing exciting ideas being shared and projects being launched. Right now some Movements.org members are working together to translate the tweets from Google's new Speak2Tweet tool into different languages. We also see our activists reach out for help with problems or support for their campaigns on our activist Google Group.
5) The tools that Twitter and Facebook have brought to the revolutions in Tunisia and now in Egypt are clearly present. This is surely to be an ongoing discussion, but do you feel that plugging in remotely can provoke change? Does it carry equal weight to literally taking to the streets? Does technology aid and impact a revolution?
We believe that using social media and connection technologies allow people to connect and organize quickly and more effectively than ever before. In Tunisia and Egypt right now we are seeing two things: 1. people are using social media to connect with people inside their country to organize and 2. they are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr to share what’s happening with the rest of the world. Today anyone with a mobile phone or lap top can share their story, and gain support for their cause.
6) It's so hard to imagine our life without the Internet, and it's obviously essential for movements.org. How did you cope when Egypt "unplugged" and "went dark"?
What we saw was people turning back to 20th century forms of communication OR finding innovative ways to get around the black out. For more information check out our how to guide: How To Remain Connected if Your Internet Gets Shut Off and blog post: With Twitter and Facebook Blocked Egyptians Turn to Proxies.
7) Can you give us some insight into what we can expect from movements.org for the future?
We are currently building a Market Place for activists on Movements.org. This will be a place where our members can go and cash in points for things they need such as: a small grant, a ticket to a tech or media conference, donated legal advice, donated PR resources, etc. Activists will earn points by partnering with fellow members on campaigns, working with traditional NGOs to improve their use of digital technologies, writing case studies for Movements.org, and more.
**For more information on Movements.org, please check out this video, and to learn more about their formal launch, check out their press release: Movements.org Launches an Online Hub for Digital Activism