Connecting Advocacy to Change

From her roots in Colorado as an organizer for Colorado NARAL, to her role as Fundraising Practice Manager at Mindshare Interactive Campaigns (now Verilion), to her leadership as Program and Political Director at the Women’s Campaign Forum, Shayna Englin has been on the cutting edge in producing innovative and effective plans, programs, and materials that yield results.

We can do some really cool stuff.

We can inspire people around the world to send us their ideas, and we can tag and organize those ideas and print them as post cards and turn them into video and add some kick-ass audio.

We can say something pithy in 140 characters, reduce it to 110 characters, then get people around the world to repeat it to a bunch of other people interested in 110-character pith.

We can earn, rent, buy, or swap giant email lists so that if even tiny percentages of those email lists do something we ask them to do, we've generated a lot of action.

The scope of the coolness of what we can do has expanded so dramatically since I first started working in progressive politics that it's almost hard to recognize what I used to do as advocacy.

Here's what is recognizable from the old days (at least here in the US): we haven't been able translate all that coolness into lasting progressive change on major issues of the day.

From climate change to poverty, education to financial reform, equal rights and even health care reform (I'll take all comers who want to argue that what passed the US Congress is progressive), it's easy to point to creative campaigns with brilliant narratives and super cool tactical execution. It's harder to point to resulting victories in policy or in public perception.

In my professional life, I'm working with clients to answer tough questions about what to do next.  If email petitions don't change policy-maker behavior and flickr feeds don't constitute a persuasive argument and viral videos preach to the converted and doorknocks don't translate into iPhone app usage which don't translate to meaningful action... how do we harness capacity for coolness and apply it in ways that make a difference?

In short, my work life is dominated by questions about making advocacy accountable in the wired present - about connecting advocacy to change.

In the Web of Change community we've tackled the question of "slacktivism", we're having wonderful, important conversations about storytelling, the process of strategy, true collaboration, and more.  I think we need to also think about how to translate those learnings into advocacy that is connected to power, and ultimately to change.

Super smart members of our community have started to take a hack at this thorny question, and I can't wait to continue the work in just a few short weeks!   o get a head start, I recommend:

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