Saturday, 19 April 2008

Jolt campaigning

The Facebook event - Candle in My Window – for Tibet, reminded me how effective Facebook can be for "in the news" campaigning.

As most of the general public, aren't associated with a campaigning organisation that sends them regular updates, and even those that are, don't always have the time to absorb the information when it does arrive, news coverage of an issue can act like a lighting bolt, jolting people into being concerned. Unfortunately once concerned many people just don’t know where to go or what to do, to help.

Due to the unpredictability of these Jolt moments, it has been hard in the past, for campaigning organisations to take advantage of the Jolt, when it happens to the issues they work on, during the very short space of time it may be in the news, or that they can happen without advance warning.

This is where sites like Facebook, are coming into play.

Social networks - particularly ones that have a broad subscriber base - are providing people with the space to quickly coalesce when they get interested in an issue, by Jolt moments. And, increasingly that interest is backed up with a desire to demonstrate that they care, by taking symbolic or direct actions and even lifestyle changes.

Over the last 12 months, organizations - large and small – and individuals have taken advantage of the Jolt, to harness the collective energy of people, and directing it towards campaign activities, to pressure targets, take actions or show solidarity. The Support Burma Monks, and the One Million People Say Sorry groups are just two examples, of effective mobilisation for offline and online actions, after their issues dominated news coverage.

It will be interesting to see how the Candle in My Window - for Tibet event, goes in achieving its aims, to show support for the Tibetan cause by getting 100 millon people to place candles or lights in their windows during the Olympic Opening ceremony.

Feel free to add other examples of Jolt campaigns and how they have been used in social networks to mobilise people.


World Development Movement said...

I've found from experience that the 'jolt campaigns' are often the most successful. The World Development Movement's most popular online action ever has been our work on the Phulbari mine in Bangladesh - in the weeks it's been online the action has been taken by more people than any of our other - often more planned, thought out and imaginative - campaigns.
See the action on the WDM website

Andrew Fielding said...

An interesting idea. These sorts of "instant happenings" remind me of the media obsession last summer with flash mobs - "spontaneous" events (preorganised via the web or mobile phones) where lots of people turn up, do something random for about 15 minutes, then disperse again.

One of my favourite flash mobs is the Zombie Walk where a flash mob is used to organise a spoof protest - equal rights for zombies: ("what do we want - brains - when do we want them - brains")

I guess my point is that we should learn from all sorts of instant happenings as a way of reacting to those jolt moments.

Katrin Verclas said...

Karina - this is part of the reason why mobility and mobile strategy are so important for organizations. That is, to do precisely what you suggest - be able to take advantage of the just-in-time campaign opportunity. Mobiles are an essential tool in this regard. Without a mobile strategy, a mobile list of members or supporters, and a way to get in touch with and organize supporters very rapidly where THEY are, a jolt campaign becomes a lot more difficult.

Thanks for a thoughtful post, and hope you are well!

Jamie said...

i guess Avaaz's campaign strategy is practically nothing but jolt campaigns woven together into a larger meta-campaign of social justice, and it's great for gathering together groups of people around a particular incident or crisis. My concern though (and I wasn't quite brave enough to raise this as a topic at ECF08) is how to convert that interest into real world action. The danger of things like Myspace profiles and Facebook groups is that they just play a numbers game - there needs to be a supporter introduction and management programme in place to handle those coming in through jolt campaigns and convert them into awesome pro-active beasts with radioactive breath and lazer vision. Or something like that.