Monthly Archives: November 2008

Why the wisdom of the crowd is driving the future business

Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing,  describes how the wisdom of the crowd is driving the future of business.  We think the same paradigm applies to the future of political advocacy.

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Top 10 reasons to campaign for your cause

Lobbying, or trying to affect change or influence policy, is something that anyone can do.  With platforms like PolicyPitch, Yourcause, and The Point, there are more opportunities than ever to pitch ideas for change, gather resources and collaborate on the web, and transform that online communication into real world action.

Independent Sector laid it out right:

1. You can make a difference.
It takes one person to initiate change. Gerry Jensen was a single mother struggling to raise her son in Toledo, Ohio, without the help of a workable child support system. She put an ad in a local newspaper to see if there were other moms who wanted to join her in working for change. There were. Over time, they built the Association for Child Support Enforcement, or ACES, which has helped change child support laws not just in Ohio, but across the country. One person—a single mother—made a difference.

2. People working together can make a difference.
Families of Alzheimer’s patients working together, through the Alzheimer’s Association, convinced the government to invest resources into research for a cure. Other individuals formed Mothers Against Drunk Driving and convinced dozens of states to toughen up their drunk driving laws. As a result, the numbers of drunk driving deaths are lower. Additionally, many people find healing from tragedy by telling their stories and working to prevent it from happening to others.

3. People can change laws.
Many of us think that ordinary individuals can’t make a difference. It is hard to change laws and policies. But it can be done. It has been done, over and over again in our history, in the face of great obstacles. People lost their lives fighting racist “Jim Crow” laws. They won. Women didn’t even have the power of the vote—as we all do today—when they started their struggle for suffrage. Our history is full of stories of people and groups that fought great odds to make great changes: child labor laws, public schools, clean air and water laws, social security. These changes weren’t easy to achieve. Some took decades. They all took the active involvement—the lobbying—of thousands of people who felt something needed to be changed.

4. Lobbying is a democratic tradition.
The act of telling our policymakers how to write and change our laws is at the very heart of our democratic system. It is an alternative to what has occurred in many other countries: tyranny or revolution. Lobbying has helped keep America’s democracy evolving over more than two centuries.

5. Lobbying helps find real solutions.
Services provided directly to people in need, such as soup kitchens, emergency health clinics, and homeless shelters, are essential. But sometimes they are not enough. Many food pantries, for example, needed new laws to enable caterers and restaurants to donate excess food so the kitchens could feed more people. Family service organizations working to place abused children into safe homes needed changes in the judicial system so kids did not have to wait for years for a secure place to grow up. Through advocacy, both changes were implemented. People thinking creatively and asking their elected officials for support can generate innovative solutions that overcome the root-cause of a problem.

6. Lobbying is easy.
Many of us think lobbying is some mysterious rite that takes years to master. It isn’t. You can learn how to lobby—whom to call, when, what to say— in minutes. While there are a few simple reporting rules your organization needs to follow, it isn’t complicated. Countless numbers of people have learned how. Lobbying is easier and more effective when many committed people work together. One person does not have to do everything or know everything.

7. Policymakers need your expertise.
Few institutions are closer to the real problems of people than nonprofits and community groups. They see problems first-hand. They know the needs. They see what works and what doesn’t. They can make problems real to policymakers. They care about the problems. Their passion and perspectives need to be heard. Every professional lobbyist will tell you that personal stories are powerful tools for change. People and policymakers can learn from your story.

8. Lobbying helps people.
Some people become concerned that lobbying detracts from their mission, but quite the opposite is true. Everything that goes into a lobbying campaign—the research, the strategy planning, the phone calls and visits—will help fulfill your goal whether it be finding a cure for cancer, beautifying the local park, or helping some other cause that helps people. You may not personally provide a direct service, but through your advocacy work, you enable thousands of others to do so.

9. The views of local nonprofits are important.
Increasingly, the federal government has been allowing local governments to decide how to spend federal money and make more decisions than in the past. This change gives local nonprofits even more responsibility to tell local policymakers what is needed and what will work. And because more decisions are being made locally, your lobbying can have an immediate, concrete impact on people in need.

10. Lobbying advances your cause and builds public trust.
Building public trust is essential to nonprofit organizations and lobbying helps you gain it by increasing your organization’s visibility. Just as raising funds and recruiting volunteers are important to achieving your organization’s mission so is lobbying. You miss out on an important opportunity to advance your cause if you don’t think as much about relationships with local, state, and federal government.

See the full document here.

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Web 2.0 has to have a purpose, says Al Gore

Al Gore spoke at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco on November 7, 2008.  He emphasized the necessity of the purpose driven web and the future of civic participation in shaping our nation’s policies.  Among other things, Gore discussed the internet’s “cloud” where information is stored, stating, “we have to have the truth — the inconvenient truth, forgive me — stored in the cloud so that people don’t have to rely on that process, and so we can respond to it collectively.”

More coverage from the New York Times:

Forget about swapping party pictures on Facebook and other “gee-whiz stuff,” says former Vice President Al Gore. “Web 2.0 has to have a purpose.”

And since it’s Al Gore, you know that purpose has got to be green.

“The purpose, I would urge all of you — as many of you as are willing to take it up — is to bring about a higher level of consciousness about our planet and the imminent danger and opportunity we face because of the radical transformation in the relationship between human beings and the Earth,” Mr. Gore said Friday evening at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

In other words, Web 2.0 should be used to fight global warming. He didn’t say exactly how, but that didn’t stop the audience from giving two standing ovations to the Oscar-winning movie director, venture capitalist, money manager, book author, cable television mogul and Nobel laureate.

Mr. Gore said that he feared that his advocacy work, spearheaded by his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has not done its job. “I feel, in a sense, I’ve failed badly,” he said. “Because even though there’s a greater sense of awareness, there is not anything anywhere close to an appropriate sense of urgency. This is an existential threat.”

Mr. Gore called on President-elect Barack Obama to set a national goal of getting 100 percent of America’s electricity from renewable and non-carbon sources within a decade.

John F. Kennedy’s declaration that the nation would land a man on the moon in 10 years was thought to be impossible, but was achieved eight years later. The engineers who made it possible were an average age of 18 when President Kennedy issued the challenge, Mr. Gore said. “We need exactly that all over this country,” dedicated to reversing climate change, he said.

Mr. Obama has pledged to spend $150 billion over the next 10 years in clean energy. That is not enough, Mr. Gore said.

The nation needs to build “an electronet,” a unified national smart grid, with high-voltage, low-loss underground wires that deliver renewable energy from the places that produce it — like the sunny Arizona deserts or the windy Dakota plains — to the cities where the majority of it is used. Such a grid would require a $400 billion investment upfront, but would pay off in just over three years, he said, because the nation spends $120 billion annually on costs from power failures attributed to the existing grid.

In addition, the United States needs a national retrofit program to insulate homes and install new windows and light bulbs. Forty percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere comes from buildings, he said. Making these changes would not only save homeowners money but create 10 million new jobs, he said.

The Internet — specifically, the “cloud” where information is stored — also has a role to play, Mr. Gore said. “We have to have the truth — the inconvenient truth, forgive me — stored in the cloud so that people don’t have to rely on that process, and so we can respond to it collectively.”

(Photo Credit: Eric Risberg/AP)


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Armchair Revolutionary developing apps for crowdsourcing social change

Armchair Revolutionary develops software and related technologies for crowdsourcing, task management, and information management related to social change. The first app, Armrev1.0, will be launching Fall 2008.  Still in private Beta, no one is sure exactly how the process works.  The site lists current active areas for submission:

(a) Games for Change – Games for Change (also known as G4C) is a movement and community of practice dedicated to using computer and video games for social change. An individual video game may also be referred to as a “game for change” if it is produced by this community or shares its ideals.

(b) Synthetic Biology – Synthetic Biology includes the broad redefinition and expansion of biotechnology, with the ultimate goals of being able to design and build engineered biological systems that process information, manipulate chemicals, fabricate materials and structures, produce energy, provide food, and maintain and enhance human health and our environment.

(c) Secure Voting – software, technologies and methodologies for secure voting.

(d) Mobile Technologies – applications and technologies for enhanced organizing, communications, and service and information delivery on the world’s 3.5 billion mobile phones with an emphasis on the developing world.

(e) Innovative Educational Curriculums – software, technologies and methodologies for innovating education.

Check back here for more updates once it launches!

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Is Obama crowdsourcing policy agenda with Change.gov?

While there is not much to the site yet, Obama’s launching of Change.gov does more than just keep the public notified of the transition period, it embraces the public’s ideas and shows a continuing commitment to interact with the American public.  In addition to information about the transition team, Change.gov is asking the American people to share their stories and share their vision for new policy in his administration.

But will the public really be able use this site to influence the new administration? Will Obama listen if people use it?  We will have to wait to find out what other tools will be designed for the site and whether any of it will matter.  One thing is for sure, Obama is continuing his trend of using social media to gather support, furthering his message of transparancy in government, and at least attempting to give the public another outlet to influence public policy.

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The Corps gets public input for MRGO ecosystem plan

Last week, on November 3 and November 6, the Army Corps of Engineers held two meetings around New Orleans to solicit public input on a plan aimed at restoring and maintaining the areas affected by the now de-authorized Mississippi River Gulf Coast Outlet (MRGO).  The Corps invited public input on two major issues:

1. What are the most important issues, resources, benefits, and impacts that should be considered?

2. Are there any other restoration features or modifications to the restoration features identified that should be considered?

The real question is whether the Corps was really seeking input for the plan, or whether they were conducting the sessions as a mere formality?  Indeed, the public notice released by the Corps states that the public meeting is required for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

While most agree that Katrina turned MRGO into a hurricane highway that contributed to the city’s flooding, closing the channel outright seems like an extreme step, particularly in light of the fact that other measures, like flood gates and wetland restoration, could be designed and built to protect urban areas from flooding while still providing the shipping industry with a short route to the gulf.  I guess it becomes a question of resources…how much would it all cost and do the benefits outweigh the expenses?

The Green Corridor Plan seems to be a politically impossible, yet logical solution to the MRGO problem, the State’s energy concerns, and economic development in the New Orleans region.

From Greencorridor.org:

The “Green Corridor Solution” is not just a plan, but a system. A system designed to solve most of the major problems facing Louisiana today – Permanent Wetlands Funding, Green Energy, Hurricane Protection, Economic Development, Habitat Restoration and National Political Acceptance to create a stable future for Louisiana and its citizens.

The system is designed to utilize all of Louisiana’s assets to bring together one plan of action, create 150,000 permanent jobs and start an era of economic expansion that will be unequaled in the modern world.

If any of the following are important to you, then Green Corridor can use your support.

  • Permanent wetlands restoration & funding
  • True protection for the city of New Orleans
  • Fuel adjustment charge “off” your utility bill
  • Reduce need for fossil fuels & lower our carbon footprint
  • 150,000 permanent new jobs
  • Beaches in Louisiana
  • New Orleans the Queen of the South, again!

Can the massive GreenCorridor plan gain enough traction to overcome the critics?

Click here for the master plan.

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Filed under environment, Louisiana, New Orleans, Politics