Changing the World of Changing the World: Pushing the Models of Online Organizing
Ben Wikler, Avaaz.org
Tuesday, June 30, 12:30 pm Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor RSVP required for those attending in person (firstname.lastname@example.org) This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET.
Consider two approaches to online political organizing: the "broadcast" model, where organizers trigger simultaneous mass action by sending emails to large lists (think of the Obama campaign, MoveOn.org, and, globally, Avaaz.org), and "network-centric" or "net-centric" activism where participants generate actions themselves (eg the China's grass-mud horse). On close examination, their differences shrink--effective broadcast organizing requires constant dialogue between organizers and participants, and net-centric organizing is often fueled by small groups of informal leaders--and ultimately, both succeed only when they tap the latent energy of groups.
Avaaz.org has grown to 3.5 million subscribers worldwide through a mostly broadcast approach--with the mission of closing the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want, by nimbly aggregating small actions by individuals around the world into focused campaigns on issues like conflict, human rights, and climate change. Staff polls and test campaigns with random samples of the membership, a process that preserves alignment but limits the quantity of activity we're able to generate. Now, we're exploring ways to expand the model and increase capacity by devolving the process of campaign generation. How can we--or any similar group--empower larger numbers to shape strategy, while still putting the mass membership at the center?
Ben Wikler directs climate change campaigning for Avaaz.org, a 3.5-million member global online advocacy organization. He led the Avaaz teams at the Bali and Poznan UN climate change negotiations, the 2008 G8 summit in Hokkaido, and the 2007 APEC summit in Sydney. Avaaz climate campaigns have mobilized more than 1 million people from 192 countries, been covered by the New York Times, Asahi Shimbun, BBC, and CNN International, and been credited with helping shift the climate policies in Japan, Canada, and Germany. Previously, Ben worked for Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio; soon-to-be-Senator Al Franken of Minnesota; and economist Jeffrey Sachs. He is a past regular contributor to The Onion. Ben lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife.
Avaaz.org is a new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want. Across the world, most people want stronger protections for the environment, greater respect for human rights, and concerted efforts to end poverty, corruption and war. Yet globalization faces a huge democratic deficit as international decisions are shaped by political elites and unaccountable corporations -- not the views and values of the world’s people.