Saturday, October 20, 2007

Four Steps to Ease You Into Social Web Activism

"If you just need bodies at a rally, names on a petition or donations in your coffers, mobilizing through traditional means will work great. But if you need an active, educated and effective movement, organizing through social webs has the potential to create much more lasting change."
--Ivan Boothe, Organizing Rather Than Mobilizing: Using Social Networks for Constituency Building
I'm filling in for a panelist on Sunday at the Bioneers Conference for the session, Alternet Presents: Social Media Activism/Web 2.0 Networking for Change. I thought I'd share some of my notes with you.

I think a lot of activists know that there are all kinds of social web tools available to them, but they aren't sure how to find them, or use them, and are intimidated by the technology.

Here are four steps to ease you into using the social web for social change. Take 'em one at a time.

1. CONSUME: Writers read, artists go to galleries, reporters watch the news. You need to start by checking out the content that is already being created by citizen journalists and activists about the issues you care about on blogs, podcasts and online video/vlogs. Even if you never go beyond this step, at least you'll have a list of new media to send event announcements to.

You can find blogs by searching on Google Blog Search and Technorati. Here are some links to lists of green blogs to get you started:

Environmental Blog Round Up by Blogger Buzz
The Top 35 Environmental Blogs by Read/Write Web
Environmental Blogs by Philanthropy 2173
Environmental Blogs in the Nonprofit Blog Exchange by Nonprofit Blog Exchange

The best place to find podcasts is the Podcast section of the iTunes Music Store. Other podcast directories to check out are Yahoo! Podcasts,, Odeo, Podcast Alley,, and Podcast Pickle.

Online videos/vlogs
Online videos or vlogs can searched for in the iTunes Music Store as well as on YouTube,, DoGooderTV, and OurMedia. Be sure to search for your favorite nonprofits' names, especially on YouTube, you may be surprised to find that they have a channel.

2. JOIN: Join a social network, or two, or three! Facebook isn't just for college students anymore. You might be surprised how many nonprofits and individuals are using Facebook groups to organize. Soha El-Borno has a good Beginner's Guide to Facebook for Nonprofits on the Wild Apricot Blog that will get you started.

Some other do-good social networks you might want to try out are: Care2,, Flickr (photos), Future5000 (youth), Meetup (events), Just Cause, (young people of color), Razoo, TakingITGlobal (youth), Upcoming (events) and WiserEarth.

3. PARTICIPATE: "Web 2.0" is also called the "social web" because, well, it's social! It's all about connecting and participating.

Start out small by leaving comments on your favorite blogs.

Take part in campaigns that already exist. On September 28th you could have uploaded a photo of yourself wearing a red shirt to Flickr to show your solidarity with the monks in Burma as part of Red Shirt Day for Burma/Birma/ Myanmar. You can still add your own red photo to the Burma Free - Birmania Libera Flickr pool. Check out the photo "comments" on this Free Burma photo.

Personal Democracy Forum's blog, techPresident, launched something this week called 10 Questions where you can post a video question to the presidential candidates. Users will choose the 10 best questions. The candidates will watch the questions, and then answer them with their own videos. (If you don't know how to post a video on the Internet, Freevlog can show you how).

4. CREATE Now that you've consumed, joined and participated, you're ready to create your own citizen media (like you consumed in Step 1) and/or your own campaign like:

Green LA Girl's Starbuck's Challenge.
Beth Kanter's fundraisers using ChipIn and Facebook to send a Cambodian orphan to college.
• Alex Bookbinder's Support the Monks Protest in Burma Facebook group (It was started in September and as of this writing has 426,505 members!)

You can also create a free or low cost web site for your campaign or small organization with a blog, like Drilling Santa Fe and Urban Sprouts did.

If you aren't sure how to do something, Google it! That's how I started my blog, by Googling, 'How to start a blog"

There are also a lot of nonprofit technology resources out there where you can find more information like:

Beth's Blog
Wild Apricot Blog

Four More Tips . . .

1. Don't be afraid of the tech.
2. Don't feel like you have to use these tools, email is still very powerful!
3. Ask for help.
4. Have fun!

Flickr Photo Credit: Free Burma by Luis Yax


  1. Anonymous8:08 PM

    Hi Britt:

    Nice! BTW, reached the goal, but just got word there is another college student needing a sponsor and only need 70 more people to chipin $10 - to send two kids to college. So, if you see this before Sunday - let the audience know!

  2. Hi,

    Excellent article with some exciting Web 2.0 resources!

    Thanks again,

    Courteously -- S. Kumar

  3. Not on your list is Care2, which has done the do-gooder thing online for a long while. They have millions of people. I get their e-alerts, to take actions on animal rights and children's stuff, which is my main focus, activism-wise. I also post in two discussion groups a lot, plus I click on the click-to-make-a-donation race to stop global warming.

  4. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Hey Britt,

    Thanks for including Razoo in your very comprehensive post!

    Not sure if you heard, but we just announced the winners of our Change Your World contest -- here's the info:


  5. Anonymous11:59 AM

    Hi Britt,

    Great article and as always thanks for the great information!

  6. WiserEarth is also a global database of nonprofits working on a comprehensive list of issues that have to do with social and environmental justice. It's been two years in the making, and the database itself is editable by users who sign up. Find people or organizations in your home city!

  7. Anonymous5:03 PM

    This is exactly the kind of thing me and my team are trying to do. We are a new start up called Students Serve and we just redid our website We do is raise money to give to college students who want to carry out service learning projects in their local communities. So, not only do we promote local communities but also work to further educate the next generation of leaders. We are trying to use the web to get the word out and hopefully raise funds.

  8. Thanks for your comments and links to resources everyone!


  9. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Thanks Britt
    some good pointers as always

    cheers Jenni


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