What are you doing on Monday?

Cross-posted from EchoDitto

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Day. It’s a national Day of Service and a time to reflect on social justice. The crisis in Haiti brings extra focus and intensity to the question of how we care for each other. How did one of the world’s poorest countries struggle to survive just miles off the coast of Florida? Why does it require a massive earthquake for us to turn our attention to Haiti?

King wrote, “Every man [and woman] must decide whether he [or she] will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s persistent and most urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

We have been inspired by our friend and fellow technology geek Luke Montgomery. Three years ago, Luke asked himself that very question. He decided to build an orphanage, brick by brick for abandoned Haitian children with HIV/AIDS. And he looked to his online community and social media to help him do it through participatory fundraising on his website, WeCanBuildAnOrphanage.com. He raised enough funds to start a successful 10-bed orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti.

Luke is on his way back to Haiti. Because the infrastructure is in such bad shape, he’s planning to fly to the Dominican Republic and then make his way over a rocky and roadless mountain to get to Jacmel. He got some news this morning:

Our kids are alive but our orphanage was totally destroyed in the quake… but again, our 13 children have all survived. Somehow amidst all the death around them, these 13 orphans made it out of the rubble alive. They are now living on the street surrounded by rubble with no food, water, blankets or medicine. Many of them are HIV+. Two are handicapped and can not walk. We are rushing an emergency team to them to care for, feed and protect them. I’m leaving and will be on the ground in Haiti for as long as it takes to rebuild. We need your help. We lost everything.

We’re going to help out by renting a satellite phone for his trip. And we’re inviting you to join us by spreading the word about what Luke is doing. Share this link with your personal networks online (Facebook, Twitter, Email) to help put a face on the work that needs to be done in Haiti: http://tinyurl.com/ykt74rg

The cool part is that he’s a web geek like us so he’ll be blogging and sharing videos/photos so people can see exactly how donations are being spent. You can see the full story of the orphanage in Haiti here: https://wecanbuildanorphanage.com

For years it seemed like only moments of crisis — from natural disasters like Haiti to global warming — could unite us and our organizations in common purpose. But the connective tissues of technology seem to be taking hold in both charitable and corporate boardrooms alike. We’re seeing first-hand in our work across the climate, service, and veterans movements an unprecedented level of openness and collaboration.

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a day of national and community service to remember his legacy. After years of working with leading organizations to support service, it’s a real privilege to join with them in a collaborative effort to build All for Good, a joint platform that makes service opportunities ubiquitous.

We’re proud to stand with so many of our clients and partners this weekend — Hands On Network, Do Something, Service Nation, The Huffington Post to name a few — in inviting you to join us in celebrating King Day as a day of service.

Click here to find an opportunity near you – and join us in using a day of service to reflect on Haiti and social justice: http://www.serve.gov/mlkday

Netroots Nation 2009

Overall thoughts from last weekend at Netroots

  • Bloggers are in their teenage years — Blogs and bloggers have come of age, compared to the 2004 cycle when their relevance and potential impact beyond enthusiasts and the uber-engaged was unclear at best. With major ‘wins’ in 2006 and 2008, they’re treated with respect, albeit somewhat reluctantly, by everyone from mainstream media to politicians, businesses, and organizations. That was clear from the vibe this year at NN09, and last year — this was no longer a reunion of people who consider themselves a marginalized population. This was a collaboration opportunity for those who know their power.
    But the blogosphere is still far from a mature space — it’s still a hodgepodge of pros and amateurs, and those unaffiliated with a high-traffic site or sponsored blog still struggle to find the time or money model that would enable them to produce good citizen journalism. And other forms of social media (twitter, online social networks, youtube) have eclipsed blogs at being powerful word-of-mouth engines. They can help to move a high-quality post or piece of citizen journalism, but blogs are no longer the only game in town for moving information.
  • This year was much lower energy than last year. This would make sense, since last year’s event was in the frenzied run-up to the November election. And Austin has a beat that few other cities can compete with. But now that the election glow has worn off, the focus for the NN community was on how to actually get climate, energy, and healthcare legislation through. Seemingly much more challenging and circuitous and complicated than electing a man president.
  • Netroots Nation has evolved. It’s really for any kind of progressive online activist, and related organizations in the space — not just bloggers anymore. That’s a probably a good shift. And as i said above, since this is no longer just a validation event for a marginalized community (some of that still happens), it makes sense that the tent is widening to include all online activists and campaigners.
  • But the mix of attendees creates a motley and somewhat awkward effect. With a variety of organizations, candidates, industries, and consultancies identifying this as an influential audience to attract, there’s an obvious danger in straying from the grassroots and self-organized origins of this event. Sponsors are good, but they need to be handled delicately — yes, the money is needed, and there are worthwhile organizations for attendees to engage with, but placing exhibitors in a dark room in the corner doesn’t send much of a welcome message. Managing the industrialization and professionalizing of this event will be tough. The union presence this year was nearly overwhelming. Yes, we support the steelworks and the rest, but must you keep shoving take-away hardhats in our face?

That’s all for now. See you in Vegas, NN10.

Video: The volunteers behind Obama’s ground machine — 3 clips from Jackson, OH

I’m still reading and reconciling the flurry of ‘how Obama won’ articles — in particular the ones relating to field and internet. In the meantime, I want to share three short conversations I had with local volunteer leaders I was working with on Election Day in the Jackson, OH office. They’re a great snapshot of the backbone of the campaign’s ground efforts. I shot them during smoking breaks or down moments, but I still feel guilty taking 90 seconds of their time on E-day.

Some context: In just under a week, I drove close to 1,000 miles across half a dozen conservative Appalachian counties to assist the tireless field organizers in “Region 3” with their get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations, the final push. As did Ben, Asher, and Jen in their respective regions. Ginny had been there for several weeks and was coordinating the entire GOTV picture for our part of the state.

Our work included everything from figuring out the logistics of getting tens of thousands of location-specific door hangers ready for volunteers to shuttling last-minute supplies around or training poll-watch volunteers. Asher and I both unknowingly ended up with Chevy HRR‘s from the rental agency. What some consider a herse, i like to think of as Dick Tracy’s pride and joy.

This first clip is of Sandy, who explains how she went from being an online volunteer to  running the entire office and staging location on Election Day, something she never imagined she’d be doing.

Next up is Betty, Sandy’s mom. Betty was classic, which i think is fair to say of anyone who lives in a town for 75 years. Betty explains how she got pulled into this massive volunteer effort along with her family and what she’s seeing for the first time:

Finally, Marleen, overseeing the phone canvassing (and big fan of pumpkin pie), on why this campaign is different from Kerry 2004 and more important than her wedding day:

A few must reads

Was able to catch up on some reading over the long weekend… A few articles (plus one book) that i was really glad to read, and which I’d highly reccomend:

(1) China Invades Africa, by Richard Behar in June’s Fast Company :: This won’t look very significant from the web page, but the amount of ink dedicated to this article in print is incredible — it’s one of the longest features that Fast has ever run (or so Jake says).  And rightfully so — it may be the most illuminating article i’ve read all year, and I think everyone should read it.  Summary: it’s a well-writen but harrowing account of how China is rolling half the African continent to get at the majority of the world’s extractable, non-renewable natural resources in record time — with lots of good first-person reporting and adventure laced in. Most developed countries have little standing to ask that we don’t repeat development mistakes of decades ago, as African rulers / heads of state sell their countries down the river for personal gain.

(2) The New Organizers, Part 1: What’s really behind Obama’s ground game, by Zack Exley in HuffPo (Oct 8) :: Another great read, outlining how team Obama and the Dems have (a) returned to real field organizing but revolutionized and magnified its impact by (b) integrating web thinking — enabling and empowering volunteers to do the work that would have traditionally been done by staff.  It’s a much-refined and evolved version of the Dean campaign, where meetup meets traditional field organizing in a dramatic new way.  Zack does a nice job covering the ‘neighborhood teams’ program that the campaign has artfully rolled out across the country.  Hats off to friend and collegue Jeremy Bird who gets some well-deserved credit in this piece for all he’s doing to make the program work; he’s been in the field running states for Obama since the early early primaries and we’ll owe him a parade and a bed once Obama wins. Ready for Part 2, Zack.

(3) How the Web Was Won: An Oral History of the Internet — Vanity Fair special, July 08 :: This is the most enjoyable and complete history of the internet that i’ve seen. It’s like walking in on a private cocktail party with all the geeky greats, telling old stories about how it all came together.  But they’re not talking about little things like widgets or the BCC line — this is about how the real stuff came to be, like ethernet and the web browser.

(4) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni — Hang on. Hear me out. I’ve had this book for two years now but it sounded so horribly and painfully boring that I could never bring myself to pick it up, despite the personal reccomendations.  Then I saw the small print on the cover: “a leadership fable”. Props to Pat for going the extra mile to write this businessy/leadership/management book as if it were fiction. Not sure why no one ever told me it was actually an enjoyable and quick read, because it is. Anyone who works with people or serves in a leadership role would benefit from this I’d imagine. Did I mention that it’s a quick read?

Frequently asked questions about my ride from NYC to DC (Climate Ride 08)

This is for climate change?
Well, against it, really.

Have you been training?
Define training?

Well, I mean, do you ride a lot or something?
I biked to Annapolis and back last weekend… This will be much more difficult, but I plan on surviving.

Will they shut down the highways or something?
Definitely not. Apparently there are other roads between New York and DC, at least one of which goes through Amish country, where we’ll be spending a night.

What happens to the money if you don’t finish?
Thanks for your confidence. The money will be re-routed from the beneficiary organizations to cover my medical expenses. Ok?

You’ll have overcome climate change when this is over?
Fer sure.

How much money did you raise at the fundraiser you guys hosted at the Black Squirrel last week?
Almost $1,000 — thank you to everyone who stopped by and contributed!

Is it too late to make a contribution?
No! Quick — here’s my fundraising page. I’m almost at my goal… You can help me get there.

Wait, when do you leave?
Saturday AM at the crack of dawn. If you’re in NYC, stop by our kickoff event, 6-10p at BLVD (199 Bowery). Tickets.

What’s this team thing?
Asher, Dave, and I are all riding under the 1Sky banner — because we want to show our political leaders that America’s ready for bold federal climate solutions. Here’s our team page. And Phil is riding under the 350 banner for similar reasons.

And why are you doing this again?
It feels like exactly the right thing to do at exactly the right time, and we’re going to have a blast.

What’s the schedule? Where will you be and when?Here you go.

Best way to keep up with the ride while you’re on the road?
– Climate Ride 08’s blog and twitter feed
– This here blog and twitter feed

Locked up in Miami — Amnesty International Guantanamo Cell tour

During my final hours in Miami last weekend, i walked through Bayfront Park and stumbled into athe launch of a very smart Amnesty International USA campaign. Amnesty commissioned / built a full-size replica of a Guantanamo “Level 5” cell and placed it in a very public place for anyone to come and visit.

I don’t know much about effective experiential marketing, but this is everything I imagine it to be. The best part came after I was already locked up, sitting there imagining what it would be like to live inside that hot, tiny box for months or years without being accused of a crime.

The tiny flat-screen above the sink implored me to touch the record button and leave a video message for our government. It’s exactly what Amnesty should have done to amplify their field work, but I’d be curious to know how many people actually felt comfortable recording a message there. Of course, the organizers also asked everyone to sign a postcard / petition in case you skipped out of the video.

I can only guess how much it might cost to construct something like this and ship it across the country with staff, but it was incredibly effective. Keep an eye for it as it heads up the East Coast.



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Snuffing the torch… and rekindling my protest flame

I’ve never been much of a believer in big marches, demonstrations, or protests. Primarily because they seem passé and ineffective, especially relative to the organizing work involved.

But the incredible work that protesters have done this week to disrupt the olympic torch relay in London, Paris, and now San Francisco has brought me hope and completely changed my attitude on the power of protest.

As an organizer, I’m always heartened by good examples of effective mobilizing, especially when they’re self-organized. But these past few days have been different — perhaps because I’m in such strong support of the effort, or because the entire 5 day+ affair caught me by surprise.

I wish no disruption to the athletes who have no doubt trained for years to compete in this year’s games, but I don’t agree with rewarding a country that consistently abuses basic human rights by handing it the Olympic Games. In the years since it was awarded the games, China squandered numerous opportunities to demonstrate its commitment to making human rights improvements.

My friend Japhet was one of the SF organizers. Your correspondent spoke with him this evening to learn more about what happened on the ground today. I was primarily surprised to learn how often the torch delegation and its massive police escort were forced to reroute (the original route was never used apparently), and how the technology being used by the protesters and organizers — mostly SMS — enabled them to apply constant pressure with great agility. Also interesting: The comm’s system in place was both heavily distributed (to gather intel on torch location) and heavily centralized (to broadcast changing plans).

So, except for anyone still hunger-striking, we’re no longer using our parents’ protest tools. The elements of a successful action, however, appear to have remain unchanged:
(1) timing — global news media is focused on the torch, so hijack the news cycle and an iconic moment (torch relay) to capture hearts and minds (ok, mostly minds)
(2) targeting — it only took a few dozen to a few hundred people to make a significant impact in SF; not tens of thousands of people marching on D.C.