Systems thinking provides campaigners and organisers with an overall approach and a set of tools to understand the entrenched problems we work on and more strategically engage with the complex systems that we operate in. In this guide we look at systems practice as an overarching approach that can help our campaigns and organising strategies be more effective at driving systems change. Thanks to the volunteers who translated this guide into Farsi!
A/B testing involves testing campaign communications online with your supporters. Most of the guide focuses on testing email communications, but you can also test web page formats and social media responses. The idea is to make a change and try two approaches (A/B) in order to measure, through response statistics, which approach gets the most uptake from audiences. It can be seen as a way of optimizing campaign communications but is also viewed as a form of active listening for many groups who want to campaign in ways that are better aligned with the interests of their supporter base.
In this roundup, we accessed knowledge from several organizers involved in grassroots activist support across the world in response to the question: What does online security look like for your group? What platforms do you use for that?
Modern organizing and campaigning is far from being a “digital-only” affair and while offline gatherings, election-based activities and group work may well happen offline, digital tools and platforms are often the vital thread that makes organizing large groups of people in networks possible without an army of staff or volunteers. Behind many of the leading new campaigns and movements, a set of digital tools and platforms are the glue that keep it all working together. Overall, the best tools and systems that support organizing work should be relatively inexpensive, “plug and play” – in the sense that they can rapidly be set up and deployed to support programs – and accessible in the sense that they are user-friendly or based on platforms that supporters and organizers already use and therefore do not require special training or a long adaptation period.
When multiple groups and organisations come together to work on a campaign, they often opt to collaborate together in a coalition. Coalitions, however, have garnered a reputation for causing campaigners headaches due to their frequently slow, bureaucratic and top-down decision-making processes. In this guide, we look at an alternative way of building powerful collaborative campaigns.
Networked coalitions, also called “networked campaigns”, harness the power of networks to develop more agile, dynamic and distributed campaigning coalitions that have proven themselves to be remarkably effective at building and channelling collective power.
Canvassing refers to going door-to-door in a neighborhood and having conversations about important issues with community members. It is an essential component of organizing. We use canvassing to talk to voters about issues that matter to them, spread our message and recruit new volunteers.
Lorsque plusieurs groupes et organisations se réunissent pour travailler sur une campagne, ils choisissent souvent de collaborer ensemble au sein d’une coalition. Cependant, les coalitions ont acquis la réputation de causer des maux de tête aux militant.e.s en raison de leurs processus décisionnels souvent lents, bureaucratiques et descendants. Dans ce guide, nous examinons une autre façon de bâtir de puissantes campagnes de collaboration.
Crowdsourcing is the process of opening a creative or problem-solving exercise to include input from a wider group outside of the usual inside thinking and decision-making channels. The wider concept of crowdsourcing includes solicitation of “user-generated content”, which can include multimedia creative submissions. In advocacy and movement-building, this can mean asking your supporters for their ideas to build a group visioning process or for their input on proposed policy platforms or even strategic campaign plans. The user-generated content side of advocacy crowdsourcing typically involves organizations receiving and using creative concepts from their base in campaign communications. Such creative can include campaign slogans, custom re-branding, images and videos.
Disinformation (the intentional spread of false and misleading information) and misinformation (the unintentional spread of false information) are not new phenomena. What is new is the ability to rapidly create, disseminate, and consume false and misleading content on a global scale via an interconnected digital media landscape. The hostile actors (e.g., the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency) who create disinformation campaigns rely on provocative, divisive, and/or disturbing content to get our attention in an immensely crowded digital media landscape. The goal is to evoke emotion. Emotions like anger, jealousy, and fear drive content resharing on social media platforms.
Distributed organizing activates a network of self-starting supporters/campaigners in multiple locations, which can spread across geographical boundaries, interests and cultural groups. It draws on the initiative and energy of volunteer organizers to start groups and lead teams with varying degrees of autonomy. In comparison, traditional NGO-led campaigning and party-led political organizing tends to rely on more command-and-control leadership and paid staff and organizers to mobilize others to take action and raise awareness. Though more horizontal when compared to traditional command and control leadership, distributed organizing often relies on a central coordination group to launch the network and to drive it towards common goals and milestones. When done properly, it can help a movement or campaign scale rapidly and channel huge amounts of collective power.
Esta guía fue creada para apoyar a activistas en hacer accesibles sus espacios, para poder asegurar que todas/os sean verdaderamente bienvenidas/os y estén motivadas/os a pertenecer a un movimiento en cualquier capacidad. La información que se encuentra proviene de bases de datos y recursos preexistentes creadas por organizadores y pensadores del movimiento. Hemos incluido recursos de blogs escritos por personas viviendo con necesidades de accesibilidad, como expertos/as del tema. Cada experiencia es distinta, por lo que fomentamos observaciones e ideas desde diferentes posicionalidades.
Les groupes populaires (ou citoyens – en anglais grassroots) et en particulier les groupes étudiants, sont confrontés à un risque élevé de dissolution, ce qui nuit à la création d’une dynamique pérenne. Souvent, les groupes n’ont pas de structure permanente, ce qui cause une incapacité à transmettre leurs ressources et connaissances à la prochaine génération de personnes étudiantes et militantes.
Right now Covid-19 is spreading and changing the way we meet, gather and work. Many organizations in multiple issue spaces are scrambling to move their meetings to the virtual space and learn to connect with one-another in an all-remote environment. In person meetings, all-virtual meetings and hybrid virtual/in-person meetings are similar, and yet facilitation and participation in each type of meeting is also different and requires some specific skills and planning. The tips below are offered by the Sierra Club distributed organizing team based on our experience running staff and volunteer organizing meetings. Our remote staff team depends on virtual and hybrid meetings to do our work, build relationships and build people-power. We originally put this document together as a resource for our team. As many of us move to shift our meetings to the virtual space, we know people are asking for support and resources. We received a lot of questions about running virtual meetings, so our Distributed Organizing Associate Director Mary Alice Crim quickly moved to build out the resources list and share it so others can benefit from our knowledge and skills.
L’organisation distribuée active un réseau de partisans/campaigners autonomes dans plusieurs endroits, qui peut s’étendre au-delà des frontières géographiques, des intérêts et des groupes culturels. Elle s’appuie sur l’initiative et l’énergie d’organisateurs bénévoles pour créer des groupes et diriger des équipes avec des degrés d’autonomie variables.
La organización distribuida (“distributed organizing” en inglés) es un enfoque para campañas que activa una red de grupos autoiniciados de activistas en múltiples lugares, la cual que puede atravesar fronteras geográficas, intereses y grupos culturales. Aprovecha la iniciativa y la energía de lxs activistas voluntarios para iniciar grupos y dirigir equipos con diversos grados de autonomía.
This quick guide was created to support activists in making their spaces more accessible, to ensure everyone is welcome and encouraged to join movements in whatever way they can. The information included comes from existing organizer databases and resources by movement thinkers.
Los grupos de activismo de base corren riesgo de disolverse ya que su alta tasa de renovación de miembros es un obstáculo que frena su impulso. La falta de permanencia en estructura resulta en la incapacidad de transmitir los recursos y conocimiento de los grupos a la siguiente generación de organizadores estudiantiles. Más específicamente, los grupos estudiantiles se enfrentan contra los cambios predeterminados por los semestres escolares y la duración de los estudios. La renovación frecuente también les da la oportunidad a los organizadores de poder planear alrededor del ciclo natural de 3 o 4 años de los estudiantes. Los retos se pueden superar al aplicar estrategias que ayuden a los grupos a prepararse para la renovación.
Grassroots groups, especially student-led groups, face a high risk of dissolving because their members don’t stay on for long, which creates challenges in momentum building. This guide includes; challenges faced by student organizers, strategies to support and guide new members and building institutional memory, plus further insight on student organizing best practices, organizing in a pandemic, wellbeing and motivation and recruitment and retention strategies.
In this roundup, we responded to the question: How are people organizing against the far right? How are people contributing to a collective against the far right?
Persuasive conversations, also known as values-based conversations, are exchanges between advocates and their peers or members of the public that surface personal attitudes and perceptions around social issues to shift existing positions or at least open people to a new perspective. These conversations are typically held around polarizing issues — think marriage equality in the United States circa 2008-2015 or Australia more recently — where wider shifts in attitude could result in beneficial policy changes. When organized at scale, persuasive conversation campaigns, also known as “deep canvassing,” deliberately catalyze as many conversations as possible to achieve impact at a level that could influence voting. Such campaigns call on large numbers of supporters to carry out conversations either with their own peer contacts or pre-selected sections of the general public. This is carried out either through door-to-door canvassing or through organized phone or digital communications drives.
As digital group-work tools make it easier to coordinate teams at a distance, campaigns that access them can now scale rapidly and build collective impact through distributed organizing (see our guide on this for more). One of the challenges of this kind of organizing is that the lack of face time and direct human contact can lead to engagement and morale drop off. Several groups that have sparked remote teams and chapters have now developed ways to support these groups at a distance and maintain a sense of purpose and togetherness with their supporters no matter where they are.
Systems mapping is an important element of any strategy for systemic change (see our guide on Systems Thinking for more on this). Since systems are made up of a complex web of forces and relationships, and underpinned by mental models (values, beliefs and assumptions), then “mapping” these forces, relationships and mental models can be a key step towards developing an understanding of the system you want to change and developing effective strategies to shift it.
Systems thinking provides campaigners and organisers with an overall approach and a set of tools to understand the entrenched problems we work on and more strategically engage with the complex systems that we operate in. In this guide we look at systems practice as an overarching approach that can help our campaigns and organising strategies be more effective at driving systems change.
Peer to peer texting is a method for contacting your base via text messages to deliver calls to action. Usually done at high volumes, it requires a P2P texting platform and a group of staff or volunteers to deploy the campaign. (True person to person texting, ie. texting one’s own contacts using your personal device as part of a campaign, would fall under the heading “phone/text banking” and will be treated in a separate how-to).
While Facebook has come under a lot of criticism lately for its leaking of user data and its complicity in right-wing voter persuasion, dissemination of fake news… and the list goes on… it remains a social network that large segments of the population use daily and therefore cannot be dismissed as an organizing tool. For groups needing to reach out and build their base and mobilize people to come out to events, Facebook remains an important part of an organizer’s toolkit. Given that the conventional ways that organizations have used Facebook to reach out (through a Facebook Page), are generating diminishing reach (since Facebook changed its algorithm), it’s important to explore how groups are making tactical use of the network through the platform’s Groups option.
Volunteer-led phone banking uses campaign volunteers to reach out to voters and supporters through phone calls and is now most often supported by software that helps dispatch calls among volunteers and log progress. Phone banking is effective for supporter identification, voter persuasion, event invites, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts.
WhatsApp is a mobile application used for one-to-one, group, or broadcast messaging. It is free, encrypted end-to-end, and is one of the most widely used mobile apps in the world, with over 4.93 billion active users in 2018. In advocacy and movement building, WhatsApp can be used for communication between campaigners, a platform for supporter community building, a way to activate distributed networks and a channel for crowdsourced knowledge.