April 13, 2009

Twitter as a tool for activism

Beth KanterThere is an inherent tension between strategy and tactical implementation of using social media to support a campaign’s objectives or nonprofit’s mission, whether the goal is fundraising, marketing, or taking action. Those who are just beginning to incorporate social media into their strategic thinking struggle with: “How do we get to know and understand how a particular tool can help us meet our goals, but not let the tool drive our decisions?”

twitter-activismAnd seasoned practitioners are debating whether a particular social media tool is in and of itself a strategy.   And, while it may be an argument about semantics, it further illustrates this tension.

The “is Twitter a strategy or tool debate” was fueled as Twitter got lots of attention (and  hype) as part of the coverage of last week’s protests in Moldova. Ivan Boothe points out in his post “The Fire and Food: Why There’s No Such Thing As A Twitter Revolution,” the real-time use of Twitter as an organizing tool is a not revolution.  Twitter has been used during the G20 protests and crowd-sourcing the location of a torch when it was passing through San Francisco.   And while quite, different from the “mainstream” use of Twitter by nonprofits, Ivan warns against tool-driven decisions for activism campaigns:

It’s certainly exciting to see technology being used in ways that amplify and extend the impact of movement organizing. I think it’s easy, however, to misread the technology as the cause of the movement rather than as simply a tool of it.

Fire, for instance, was a society-changing tool. Its revolutionary potential, however — cooking food and thus making it more digestible, nutritious, and lasting — was only realized through its strategic use.

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April 12, 2009

Advancing social causes on campus

JD LasicaAden Van Noppen of Brown University discusses a youth initiative and campus engagement strategy, supported by the Acumen Fund, to involve college students in social causes. The initiative is focused on how finance and business can be used as a tool for social impact in fighting poverty and advancing other social causes — and making students aware of it.

We chatted for a few minutes at the first Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco in October 2008. The next SoCap is scheduled for Sept. 1-3 in San Francisco. Information here.

Watch video in Flash on Viddler (embedded above)
Watch video on Ourmedia

Cross-posted to Socialmedia.biz.

April 9, 2009

Witness puts tools for empowerment online

This post originally appeared Jan. 31, 2006, at Socialmedia.biz:

JD LasicaOver the past couple of months, I’ve been having discussions with the good folks at Witness.org about how Witness and Ourmedia could work together. Witness has announced an ambitious plan to build a set of publishing tools that would let those in repressive or abusive conditions shine a spotlight on what’s happening in their countries. We already have parts of that publishing infrastructure built, so it makes sense to join forces.

Tonight on PBS’s “Charlie Rose,” Witness founder Peter Gabriel and executive director Gillian Caldwell spoke eloquently about their stirring vision, which is now within reach. I transcribed this exchange:

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December 16, 2008

Activism and the social enterprise

JD LasicaOne of the extraordinary things about the Bay Area is the relative ease with which you can bring a large number of bright, passionate, committed people under the same roof. When it’s a bar (and not just a barcamp but the real thing), so much the better.

And so it was earlier this evening when Sundeep Ahuja — a born connector and former marketing chief for Kiva who’s now on the executive team at RichRelevance.com — organized the second  awareness2action event at the Dragonbar in San Francisco’s North Beach. The event, attended by about 60 people involved with various social causes, featured an hour of socializing and an hour of panelists discussing social enterprises.

On the panel:

• Premal Shah, President of Kiva.org (here’s the video interview with Premal I published last week)

• Kevin Jones, Principal at Good Capital

• Steve Newcomb, serial entrepreneur & founder of Virgance.

No one videotaped the event, but here are a few snippets:

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