unintended consequences of building a global campaign (350.org and Egypt)

Every time a global news event breaks, it seems the crew at 350.org has a personal connection to it — whether the earthquake in Haiti or current protests in Egypt or anything in between. But they’re not just trying to hijack the news cycle; instead it seems like the natural result of building a global network of committed organizers and activists. 

But instead of waiting for the event to pass so that they can get back to their regularly scheduled climate campaigning, it’s interesting to see how 350’s leaders publicly pause to shine a light on the part of their community in greatest need. I distinctly recall hearing via twitter from the 350 campaign that they had established contact with friends and allies in Haiti and that all were safe. This is the difference between building a community (or movement) and building an email list.

My friend Phil, one of the campaign’s co-coordinators, was on the phone Tuesday with one of their leaders in Egypt, Sarah Rifaat. He was good enough to relay this first-hand account of what this young campaigner was experiencing on the ground:

Internet closure is counterproductive. A lot of talk about “youth,” but they need to let the “facebook” generation have their chance to talk things through. Nobody really expected this to happen — the internet would help in engaging youth so that we can come up with steps to take this country forward.

When I was with the 350 organizing team for their first global day of action, I remember Jamie Henn reflecting on how interesting/funny it was that they had essentially created the largest news outlet in the world that day through their citizen volunteers. (For more on this, see the behind-the-scenes recap i wrote for HuffPo about 350’s organizing model.)

Well it turns out that keeping the 350 network alive has resulted in something of a global citizen news outlet for all kinds of global events, not just the ones they set out to organize. 

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