What Do Activists Need?

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Facilitated by Tom Tresser, CivicLab


Is there a life cycle? Can technology help with that?


  • Tom from Chicago. Fight privatization, against Olympics. Civic lab for tool building getting things out into the activist community.
  • Willow
  • Grant from Oakland. Spiritual community leader. Hospice and now coder. What tools are useful? Where should I focus my energy?
  • Sami from info security coalition.
  • Gerardo with Benetech. Software non profit (literacy, environmental conservation, and human rights)
  • William at UCSC. New to using coding as a platform for social change.
  • Gabriela from Portland. Freeland and contract. Uruguay organization With open data and transparency. Dealing with information requests.

What are we looking at?

Becomes aware of an issue, what is their work flow through an outcome? Certain steps along the way which are prototypical. Experience in those, stories.

Demarkation between what is private and public. Learning about something ("that can't be!") - how do you do that?


What goes into a meeting? A place, but also approach, intended audience, etc.

How do you know who is in the room?

What are we asking for?

"Sign me up" - easy to use - How have other people here done followup with people who attended a meeting or expressed interest?

  • Already established mailing list
  • There isn't a good way. Piece of paper or a website. - unpredicability in how people will use your info
  • Give them a central place to look at. Way of doing a phone tree?
  • Easy URL, enter own email addresses, eventbrite is great.

Trouble of many input methods of how people learned about the meeting

  • How do you get people to text in "No War" and get subscribed to a text listserv.

What was the mic check thing from Occupy and Tropo? - tom @civiclab.us

How are people sharing research, disseminating how to do investigative journalism?

How do we meet?

Polling tool, to do list, etc. Crapgrass on riseup is for organizing things.

How do people find the tools they use?

  • Lazy Twitter
  • Word of mouth
  • Hacker youth
  • Code for America
  • Knight News Challenge

(Watching established organizations for things they put out)

  • Libtech
  • Source related to Mozilla
  • Github
  • Centers which support things you like (Berkman, etc)
  • Events that are about sharing tools on a regular basis
  • Cryptoparty model - social learning. Have meetups about how people organize, give them a shared space to disseminate on.

Participation modes

  • Horizontal rather than hierarchy of non profits. Everyone shares things, has consensus. Empowers more.
  • Not looping back into your group of activists causes burn out. Especially technical volunteers don't see the impact they had, if you don't see the change you've made you give up.
  • How do you chunk out work? Small community meetings, breaking things into bite sizes pieces.
  • Celebrating people's roles, especially when small or abstracted.
  • Task forces going in depth on smaller bits. Present the people's budget before the "real" budget.
  • Celebrate, don't reward.

Badge based learning. Creates a path for learning, for mentorship. Does this create more heirachy? Hopefully not, depends how it is pitched.

What tools have people been using?

  • Tools for activists. Radio Free Asia.
  • vsee.com - like skype, but more video and more security
  • Crowdmap
  • Quora for finding out what you don't know
  • Security in a Box

Curation and advocating over aggregation of tools - what do you suggest, and how to use it, over trying to maintain a constant list.

Calling all change agents, coders, designers, hackers, makers, web developers, designers and visualizers! Let's review how community organizers do their work in order to discover recurring problems that you can help solve through the use of technology, tools and the Internets. Facilitated by Tom Tresser - [1] - @tomstee -long time Chicago organizer and Chief Tool Builder for the CivicLab - [2] - @civiclabchicago


Sites About tools: