Connecting online & offline advocacy to change the world
Have you noticed that the law of inverses applies to online vs offline advocacy? The most effective groups and organizations at raising awareness, creating buzz, and getting Facebookers to change their profile picture often produce the least real-world results, while those of you doing remarkable, world changing work on the ground often fail to get noticed online. The online group is fantastic at disseminating information, tugging at the heart, and creating a mass awareness. The in real life group is great at analyzing myriad forces, building coalitions, and delivering real, tangible results.
The world is missing out because of this disconnect
Are you an on the ground, in the trenches, live/breathe/die for the cause devotee? Does the internet seem like the playground of the privileged, disconnected from the needs and reality of the world we live in? According to information from the US Census Bureau and Nielsen Online (reporting on research from the International Telecommunications Union), 28.7% of the world’s population is online. This marks a 444.8% increase from 2000 to 2010; including a 2,357% increase in Africa, a 1,825% increase in the Middle East, 1,033% increase in Latin America and the Caribbean. The world is becoming increasingly connected to the web and the places Americans often think of as “disconnected” are plugging in at breakneck paces.
To ignore the internet is to ignore the hub where people across the globe can connect.
As activists, non-profits, and world changers, we have an immense resource at our disposal. It is crucial that those of us doing on the ground work find ways to tap into and harness the power of web and media. Relentless, effective “in real life” work is absolutely critical. Nothing can replace this type of work: the type of work that puts food on tables and forges connections with people on the street; the type of work that carries books to libraries and sorts baby clothing; the type of work that sits in trees and blocks entrances to nuclear reactors. And all of that work becomes even more powerful and unstoppable when it is amplified by the web and media.
Activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi understood that captivating the public’s attention is central to activism. In the past, activists were forced to rely on traditional media: on the newspapers and the TV stations to show up and provide coverage. We were subject to the powers that be.
New media provides direct access to the public
We are no longer subject to the whims of the powers that be to provide coverage of our activism or to lend an ear to our cause. We now have the power to create our own media and in doing so to create our own mass movement. Armed with Flip cameras and iPhones, working from laptops in coffee shops and community centers, connected through email, Facebook, Twitter and the next yet-to-be-launched channel of communication, we have the tools to directly reach 28.7% of the entire world (that’s nearly 2 billion people) and if we can inspire even a portion of those people to take it to the streets, from our laptop in Mississippi or Pretoria or Shanghai we could literally impact the entire world.
This new world is already here
We can see bits and pieces of this type of advocacy that is effective online and offline. The protests in the streets of Iran lit up Twitter, while the capitol building demonstrations in Wisconsin spread through Facebook. We can look and see that when the foot on the street and the finger on the keyboard kiss, something powerful is unleashed. We need more of that.
Photo by internets_diary