Building movements: tech for moving beyond emails, beyond campaigns and beyond organizations

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Building Movements

facilitated by Rachel Weidinger

Awesome (and not present) Ivan Boothe is thinking about ideas like this:

- Big listening across your movement with social data - Strategizing with other organizations to build interconnected campaigns - Community management tools and processes at (huge) scale - Technology tools that foster movement building -- and technology that stunts it - Supporting the bubbling up of stories, and amplifying the passion and compassion of activists - Communications platforms across a movement: In person, on Twitter, over email, in blogs, through webinars and postcards

Let's get together and think beyond email lists, campaign tracking, and the walls of organizations. Then lets send our pal @rootwork a love letter of all our crazy ideas.

Examples of Inspiring Movements and Stories of movements that are struggling discussed some of the problems within nonprofit orgs policies that create barriers to successful movements The importance of focusing on your mission and not on your funders requests and how it’s important to say no to funders who don’t want to let you focus on your mission and don’t engage with your org’s community on your mission an analysis of power and what it means to win for your movement

What other tech is out there and how can we expand our effectiveness?

Metrics with email lists are really hard

“building my movement mostly as a volunteer and communications don’t move very effectively or quickly. Hard to get decisions made quickly about who does what and externally trying to communicate with supporters what is going on and what’s needed”

building a movement out of small, powerful organizations is really hard - become silo’d “building our email base versus a movement/larger org”

really interested in how to build a narrative as a movement, and build the movement as a whole, channel our message more effectively and be more like a “swarm of bees” working collectively instead of just seeing the spectra of our own funding/goals

citizen engagement lab at Berkley -

supposed to be at the cutting edge - but I don’t feel like we are. We build a lot of big lists, but want to figure out how to break from that mold.

biggest problem with many movements is that they are much more reactive and not thinking strategically or setting goals and plans. Instead of just reacting

we’re trying to start a civil society movement - my main concern (great to hear everyone is having the same problems with engagement) is trying to manage the tools better

there seems to be not only a lack of interest in making richer relationships, but we don’t have the tools... they are very rudimentary and take a long time to figure out how to not end up “painted in a corner”

Movements are created by people, not really nonprofits - and maybe that’s the problem. did it but had to focus on having an “open source” brand, let people make it what they wanted

People tend to identify more with Brands and Organizations and end up supporting them more than a movement/individual

Can we change the way people think of brands and organizations, try to bring more a grassroots way of thinking in corporations and large orgs

Make innovative use of technology - one pillar and no one has a clue what that means and how to do it. It sounds wonderful to the funders and maybe that’s where it starts?

What does it look like to win? - are nonprofits and movements defining success, what they want to accomplish,

The thing that goes against the open source brand is that nonprofits are so focused on the revenue stream and protecting their brand

Nonprofits shouldn’t be so focused on “innovative” - they need effective and simple technology

NPO’s get together at a conference, and you hear a litany of woes from a study about some issue, but no action

the NPO industrial complex studies things and that’s not what’s needed but that’s what gets people employed in the industry

Everyone needs accomplishments and so give them the space / juice to get it done

each of us in our own way have to have some accomplishment that sustains us beyond the NPO complex parameters

the area I see right here is a problem - as though we have the tools and have had them for a while, but there’s almost this cultural barrier to creating many dialogues and sustaining them, bringing them towards goals beyond just “donate”

because we can’t dive in and we’re not supported then the tools aren’t getting better

it’s hard enough to do more relationship building than you plan to do and hard to use the tools that aren’t that effective

take the idea of the nonprofit and the problems that surround it -

effective nonprofits are community driven, and have a Board, membership that’s driving the nonprofit rather than an ED and staff making decisions on behalf of the community

the effective uses of tech have been when they focus on increasing engagement and interaction within their community so individuals can help drive it

“it’s all about the database, stupid” being able to track involvement and engagement with the community within a database

part of the issue is the “old school” tech-phobic nonprofits that are only recently open to having a conversation around tech tools for engagement

ace alliance climate org using salesforce in climate activism and engagement

the tool is built for sales relationships but some orgs are using it to build npo relationships

we’re doing some tool borrowing at upwell to do the big listening work and scraping the data and we’re paying a lot for it (using it off label, not how it was supposed to be used)

pretending within the software that the ocean is the brand and shark finning is a product

where does the thinking about the movement come in?

we’re starting from the idea that if you understand that volumes within a conversation (meterology/surf report of the internet) so if you know attention on a subject related to your cause is increasing then you can use that (if you know) to kind of “surf” that wave

if you don’t have a way to know and track those conversations, then you miss a large opportunity.

“fanning the flames” - set things on fire and get people noticing and then where does curating the movement come in?

taking pods of actors within the space (the big environmental orgs who talk to each other) plus all these individuals out there who are super active and brand free, diving community, surfing community - all kind of talking among themselves

and we’re creating a product for them that will, overtime, help them all see the bigger picture

it’s hard for larger orgs to sometimes identify with the individual activists and they’re talking about the same stuff, so creating a list ties those disparate groups together and they start to blog about each other and promote each other’s content

we sell attention to our funders - they’ll get attention, but the process underneath that isn’t direct at all.

an interesting thing that our funders are asking us to do is go after new audiences, we need to increase our list by going after new groups

current model, just go directly to them - except it’s not that effective if the existing orgs and individuals in the community aren’t aware of what’s going on yet

focus on your existing community first, before trying to get a new one by sharing and connecting - you give people a positive experience and makes them more successful

Speaks to a really important piece - put mission first, not brands, funders, campaigns, the Board...

someone talking about your issue - even if they aren’t a member or donor and you may traditionally see as a loss is really a win

must understand there are wins out there for your movement that don’t come back to you - (kind of like when we send a rover out to space and it never comes back, takes months and often years to get to it's destination, then hopefully will send back data to us that helps us but sometimes doesn't ever send any message back)

the problems of operating a revenue driven model in a capitalist model and that focus on thinking about competition instead of open friendship

letting the funders set the tone leads to this road

where orgs effectively engage funders - they start saying the community wants this and funders who don’t agree just aren’t invited to fund the org

“if you want to support us, this is what we’re doing”

in the short term this seems problematic but in the long run, it leads to a viable relationship with the right partners for your cause

funders don’t call and ask “what do you need? what’s going on in the industry?”

how to get there - you’re on the threshhold of self-funding (upwell) being able to connect funders/orgs

branding movement building - create the ability to

brand super listening tool - not another email list

we’ve got big data coming from the developers back to the nonprofit, and challenging the nonprofits about what’s going on in my world, what should we be doing

visualizations, KPI’s and better ways to digest and use the data are starting to exist

ED’s are drawn to big data

looking for models like upwell for community movements - movement building tech projects should reach out to Rachel

Finding someone to build a toolkit for movement building - how do we look at tools for movement building versus just nonprofit fundraising 2 Frames Necessary to Consider:

both end up being pretty individual - People’s ability to be somewhat risk-taking vs risk averse many people have a personal mission and are part of 1 or several orgs in alignment with their individual mission

Figure out ways to keep the way we bring people into the organization as flexible as possible so they can contribute to your mission and aren’t forced to limit their loyalty to just your org

It takes about a year or more of doing this before you’ll see results / before your funders will so it’s important to set expectations


It’s hard when you work from a place of scarcity to work from a mindset of Abundance

“we have everything in the world that we need to get this done, we just need to get things into the right buckets”

Why organizations want to be big listeners

The Beth’s are great at helping share all the tech tools and best practices, they have a lot of power (especially with funders) but they aren’t really aligned to any one thing

They have all this power, (power of aggregation - they are sitting and watching instead of doing) ?

What have you seen that has inspired you as far as movements that you’re thinking of replicating?

the original vision of Tech Soup was very franchise-thinking, and people kind of expected a sort of handbook on how to do it

trying many models for campaigns and found that if you ask a lot of questions and listen hard, you can find places where there are overlapping issues, and not every node would share those issues but you can cluster them and start to work with them

But it takes a lot of listening to get that done - if we can listen hard enough to find those hotspots then we can work around those and move forward frames there messaging in a way that’s easy to see and is one thing you hold gently in your campaigning The ocean and other orgs don’t always have some easy simple number to craft your story with

Listening is Doing is a mindset that might sometimes be helpful to remember

Case Studies - touchstone with case studies where you can invest what you’re doing, and a methodology not to just get it to a we did this and we did that, but capture how it worked, and really good anthropological take on this is what happened/was/why and draw from people having similar issues

A pattern in inspiring movements - creating a platform in a listening way, for people to participate in some active way, together, (maybe just uploading a facebook photo) and humans who carry that stuff and pitch it to the NY Times or make an easy to digest visual online, and make stories that can be shared

the mechanics of big listening into narrative is a campaign tactic that’s being talked about more widely, and that’s really exciting but it absolutely takes human voices there to make it work.

strike deck 99 percent tumblr

trying with groups is hard when they want control over the story -

important to express that the innovation is on the human side, not the technology side and how you work with people and not with tech

the innovation needs to be about the model, not the tools

another mechanic of these efforts is mostly around campaigns when you can frame the messaging of your campaign where it’s really scalable and you can do lots of different things with one campaign

as strategists trying to build movements, you are asking what does a movement look like? to get more people involved, you have to give more ways for someone to enter and support your movement

then after ,what do we do now to move you along to the next level? if someone goes on the journey to develop the relationships, we would be very successful but how do we get the resources to sustain that relationship?

it comes back often to people feeling uncomfortable in some of this and it would help if people thought more to ask themselves “why am I uncomfortable and how can overcome my discomfort so I can act”

Give people an idea they can act on, not swag Something really simple that they can make or do really easily - “go stand here in this place today”

think about gift incentives that give supporters engagement/interaction opportunities

More notes from Ray Dearborn and Rachel Weidinger:

Questions and Issues to Address

  • How do we build a movement beyond brand and issue "silos"?
  • How do we THINK BIGGER?
  • How do we innovate?
  • We are like a swarm of bees - how do we become one movement?
  • Are nonprofits ineffective at creating real change?
  • What does it look like to WIN? Beyond getting funding?
  • What else is out there other than top down email lists?
  • How do we get people to move beyond "clicktivism"?
  • How can we move our focus to personal relationships, both managing them and making them richer?
  • How do we improve the speed of communications, both internally and externally?

Nonprofit Addiction

Are you just an enabler? Many nonprofits tend to be:

  • Fighting over small pieces of a big pie
  • Reactive rather than proactive
  • Not at the cutting edge
  • Bad at sharing
  • Working off of topdown lists
  • "Small d" democratic

"My name is Dirk, and I'm a recovering social justice addict."

Basic Philosophies

  • Tools are rudimentary.
  • We need to embed grassroots thinking into "topdown" style nonprofits.
  • We need to encourage "open source brands" and try to function the way they function.

Open Source Brands (like Occupy)

Compared with topdown nonprofits, open source brands tend to:

  • Have mulitiple entry points
  • Believe they already have the tools they need
  • Believe in innovations in HUMANS and are created by people, not bureaucracies
  • Need concrete accomplishments to survive
  • Take credit for issue wins
  • Need permission, space, and "juice"
  • Foster dialogue between orgs and individuals about goals other than fundraising
  • Be community driven, rather than topdown
  • Track engagement and involvement (for example, the Alliance for Climae Education uses Salesforce to track students through high school and college.)
  • Link different pods
  • Put the mission first
  • Give people ideas instead of stuff (schwag)


The Nonprofit Industrial Complex

  • Litany of woes
  • Competitive thinking
  • Letting funders set the agenda
  • Risk-averse


  • We don't need any more studies on this.
  • Listening is doing.
  • Movements are not the same as coalitions.
  • Bureaucracy kills movements!!