WOC 2011 Agenda - In Their Words

Sam Dorman

I've nearly always returned from Web of Change feeling re-invigorated, re-energized, and re-inspired by the incredible ideas, discussions, and connections that emerged. So my goal when building this year's agenda was to maintain that high bar for WOC veterans and newbies alike.

To that end, I had the privilege of engaging in dialogue with each of our inaugural class of WOC Fellows about the issues they are grappling with most.

As you will see, certain key themes rose to the surface related to WOC's mission of "building and strengthening a tribe of global leaders pioneering new strategies of digital engagement to improve the world":

  • Storytelling
  • Engagement
  • Access
  • Audience
  • Impact

Rather than summarize about each discussion underneath these themes in a blurb, I wanted you to hear directly from the mouths of the people behind them. So in the spirit of WOC here is a new style of conference agenda, in their own words.

Keep in mind that these sessions will continue to evolve, and as usual we plan to offer plenty of opportunities for participant-led content as well. As always, the strength of WOC is in its community.

— Sam Dorman, Agenda Anchor

Theme: Storytelling

Storytelling Deep Dive

There's a process of people discovering their story.  They know their story because they lived it, but it's about working together to structure a visual narrative that uses their experience as a powerful organizing tool. The visuals of the narrative compel others to take action based on values they share with you.

Juan Rodriguez, Florida Immigrant Coalition, WOC 2011 Fellow

We all know we need to tell better stories. But too often that process feels like magic or just innate skill. What we need is a coherent strategy for discovering the story behind the passionate work we do. That strategy is what I've been building and am excited to share.

Jonah Sachs, Free Range Studios, WOC 2011 Fellow

We have to tell stories here.  We're going to do that.  But you still don’t see that many great deep story campaigns. Let’s talk about what a great story looks and feels like.

Jake Brewer, Fission Strategy, WOC 2011 Fellow

Theme: Engagement

Grassroots and Online Organizing, Unite!

There's still a huge disconnect between digital organizing and grassroots organizing. We need a conversation about what a deep engagement ladder looks like.

Mike Norman, SoChange, WOC 2011 Fellow

I've seen great anecdotal evidence that people on email lists want more connection, want to feel a deeper part of a community.  I have tremendous hope for what can be cultivated.  But we have to be so much more honest about what it takes.

Jessy Tolkan, Citizen Engagement Lab, WOC 2011 Fellow

It's people who have the experience of being traditional organizers, who understand how technology and the internet tactically integrate into the strategy of a campaign, in terms of delivering a certain outcome.

Joaquin Guerra, Campaign for Community Change, WOC 2011 Fellow

Re-imagining Relationships

It's about re-imagining the relationships your organization has with people. What would it look like if you partnered with people outside your organization in a new networked way -  you know, like the way Twitter partners with its users to build its social network?

Gideon Rosenblatt, Alchemy of Change, WOC 2011 Fellow

We reach a lot of young people.  So how does that 20-something become the ambassador who reaches the teen, parent, or grandparent in their communities?

Monica Novoa, Applied Research Center, WOC 2011 Fellow

What kind of opportunities are you offering to provide more authority and responsibility to people you care about? What does a two-way relationship look like for the people you're trying to bring in?

Karen Uffelman, Groundwire, WOC 2011 Fellow

Keeping It Real and Ideal

I’m interested in creating really true, authentic ways of engaging people online.

Laurie Ignacio, Presente.org, WOC 2011 Fellow

With our audience, we need to speak to them in a way that's not poll tested and focus grouped.  In a way that reflects real theories of change.

Joaquin Guerra, Campaign for Community Change, WOC 2011 Fellow

I’m deeply embedded in dreaming up what the ideal, fully matured online community of people looks like. That's how my mind works.  I dream about what it looks like when we've succeeded, then try to walk backwards from there.

Jessy Tolkan, Citizen Engagement Lab, WOC 2011 Fellow



What Engagement Looks Like

I only believe in two rules when it comes to on-the-ground organizing. First you have to clearly explain why one small action will have a direct impact on something concrete. Second, nobody will want to come to a party that doesn't look fun.

Sarah Francis, MomsRising.org, WOC 2011 Participant

The most game-changing lesson we brought back from Web of Change was to focus on an engagement ladder. How and where do we interact with users, to what success, and how can we tailor these interactions to ultimately deepen their involvement?

Kara Muraki, Alliance for Climate Education, WOC 2011 Participant

It has to be about co-creating stories, strategies and ways to build leaders with the people you want to impact. If you are creating a text message campaign for hip hop youth, you've got to have a team of people designing and moving the organizing with you from that community. If we want citizen-led movements, we have to start having citizen-led design processes.

Marianne Manilov, Engage Network, WOC 2011 Participant



Theme: Access

Access and Accessibility

Folks who design web tools and communications strategies think a lot about accessibility.  But accessible to whom? To individuals who grew up in what kind of neighborhood, with what type of resources?  If you grew up with an ipod and then a blackberry, that's one thing.  If you grew up in a classroom sharing one computer on dial-up internet, it's different.  Our role should be in figuring out how to make web technology an equally empowering medium for social change in both cases.

Juan Rodriguez, Florida Immigrant Coalition, WOC 2011 Fellow

This is important to me.  We have an issue with people of color and poor folks engaging in technology and finding it a useful space.  Every technology is imbued with a set of values. What technology works for which people?

Laurie Ignacio, Presente, WOC 2011 Fellow

Who’s On The Bus?

In the nonprofit world there is a college-to-nonprofit pipeline. People who are out of touch with organizing communities of color get the jobs for their technical skills alone.  It's actually really painful for me.  How do we address that?  How do we train people with the politics to take on these roles too?

Mónica Novoa, Colorlines, WOC 2011 Fellow

The demographics of our countries are changing.  If we really are tapping into millennial generation our movement is going to need to be way more black and brown.

Jessy Tolkan, Citizen Engagement Lab, WOC 2011 Fellow


Theme: Rethinking Audience

Broadening the Choir

We need to widen the funnel, pull in people other the traditional advocates.  If we need to activate 25% of the country to move the needle on our issues, why are we messaging to 2%?

Mike Norman, SoChange, WOC 2011 Fellow

What I dont see in the progressive movement is an acknowledgement of what people are actually watching and paying attention to.  If we want to change minds and opinions on everything from the environment to equality to economic narratives, then we actually have to reach people where they are.

Rashad Robinson, Color of Change, WOC 2011 Fellow

Every organization I would talk to all agreed that the thing that they most needed to do was reach new people outside of their bubble.  But everything they were doing was meant to mobilize their existing base.  The way you speak to your already-engaged members is very different than the way you would speak to new members.

Sean Devlin, Troothfool Communications, WOC 2011 Participant



Narrowing the Choir

We are failing at relationship-building online.  We’re not talking to people in a consumer-centric way and we’re treating everybody like everybody. We can create strong ties online, but it might mean prioritizing focusing on and stewarding one segment -- your tribe -- and throwing out 80% of people on your list. It’s a gutsy strategy that requires long-term vision rather than short-term gain.

Alia McKee, Sea Change Strategies, WOC 2011 Fellow



It's Hard Out There For An Audience

I'm concerned with audience exhaustion, in the immigration space in particular.  Every day somebody is asking for something.  We need to map out the landscape and fine tune roles so we're not stepping over each other, exhausting people.

Mónica Novoa, Colorlines, WOC 2011 Fellow

Most people are not ready to become full-on in-depth members of 20 different organizations. They can't muster the passion for 20 different causes.  Maybe two to three causes or three to four organizations.

Clint O’Brien, Care2, WOC 2011 Participant

A lot has been done to provide access for everyday people to create campaigns online. But there's a tension there. If everyone can start a campaign, how are we ensuring that it's being framed correctly?  How do we leverage this energy for movement and community building?  How are we not being ambulance chasers?

Rashad Robinson, Color of Change, WOC 2011 Fellow



Theme: Impact

Are We Driving Political Change?

Really almost nothing I've seen is working as far as moving real political players because of digital activism.  We've made huge megaphones for ourselves, but never built better headphones for the people we're talking to.

Jake Brewer, Fission Strategy, WOC 2011 Fellow

During the federal election we were able to move votes in key swing ridings to candidates supportive of a federal oil tanker ban. We built a political machine, moved votes, and helped elect better candidates. So we were able to show decision makers that we have power in numbers and that we show up during elections.

Karl Hardin, Dogwood Initiative, WOC 2011 Participant

As we all fight these individual issues we're killing ourselves, missing the fact that organized money has changed the way that social change happens. The other option -- organized people -- has slowly but surely become weakened.

Gideon Rosenblatt, Alchemy of Change, WOC 2011 Fellow


Spending Power to the People

We have this extremely powerful tool which can be brought to bear on our issues, how we spend money as consumer citizens, using our buying power to support our causes.  This train is already moving, this is happening.  We're not there, and we need to be there. What could happen if we get in front of this train as a movement and coordinate mass consumer action?

Mike Norman, SoChange, WOC 2011 Fellow


What’s Your Theory of Change?

Our “theory of change” work often surfaces tactics or even entire programs that don’t fit. The tactics don’t target the right audiences, or the ROI doesn’t add up. How many organizations get distracted by a little grant money and end up doing work that doesn’t actually achieve their core goals?  Good strategy should help you figure out what to do, but also what to cut out.

Karen Uffelman, Groundwire, WOC 2011 Fellow

We're trying to build a data-driven culture in everything we do, to help us take strategic actions and to find the points of leverage where we can be the most effective.

Karl Hardin, Dogwood Initiative, WOC 2011 Participant

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