I'd like to teach a class for activists on information design. I'm putting together our resources file drive for the local Evolver organizers, and I'm finding myself going through and editing file and folder names so they are shorter, cutting out a lot of explanatory text and sticking to basics, because I know these people are pulling heavy weight and the easier I can make things for them, the better.
There are two things I see often among activist community that if changed, could make the movements more effective. One is marketing - activists often use the same fear-oriented approach that their opponents use and create an environment that exacerbates toxic emotions and grief. For me this led to burnout as an organizer, and I watched a lot of effort go into campaigns that ultimately primarily spoke to "the choir" and brought marginal awareness to people who weren't already aware of the problems and injustices, etc.
And the other is internal communications. If you're going to ask me to be part of your mission, and want to hold hands together creating better systems, please make it easy for me and don't sent me 10 emails in a week that are long with much word fluff and messy logistics that I have to wade through. I think of this as presence - being mindful and respectful of your colleagues' attention bandwidth. Most people want to say yes when asked to help with something great - if in order to say that they have to first spend 20 minutes trying to understand what you are asking them for, you lose 80% of your engagement. I see this a lot in crowdfund outreach, for example. I can nearly never wade through a lengthy email asking me to participate or share a campaign, but when someone makes it very little work for me to share, by using thunderclap or sending me a two-sentence email as opposed to explaining something which would be explained if I just looked directly at their campaign they spent three months preparing... I'm more likely to make the time to participate. The most effective communications I have are when I can put myself in the shoes of the person I'm talking to. When it's multiple different groups that might be in different situations, I make the time to piece out what each of those groups needs to engage, and design my communications for a best fit. This is particularly important when there are unequal power and privilege gradients.
Related to internal communications is checking your emotions at the door. To me all of this is not a game, with the global economic, resource extraction, climate chaos, health and war issues etc etc, it's like message warfare, and I find it helpful to disengage my emotions and think tactically about what is going to be effective. I think one source of ineffective internal and external communications is when you hit the people you're talking to with a wall of fear or panic . It's simply a somatic thing - when I'm faced with that, my body contracts, I get stressed out, and I have to work against my automatic nervous system reaction to run away. Which again, just adds bandwidth for an organizer who is already acting in a place of leadership and networking and "holding space" for a lot of people to feel their emotions and take the step of action.
At some point I'll take a marketing class or attend a conference on it straight up. I know there's a Social Media for Non-Profits conference. Do you know of any others you'd recommend I check out? I'm glad I've been self-taught so far, because the machinery around marketing is something I want to stay aware of not blindly mimicking.
Today I went to a lovely event hosted by the Berrett-Koehler Foundation in downtown Oakland. BK is a book publisher that recently formed a foundation to foster leadership. Their books include books about social justice, entrepreneurship, new paradigm organizational development, and ecological repair.
I wrote a "Spore Report" about the event on Reality Sandwich. You can read it here: http://realitysandwich.com/242205/spore-report-bay-area-1-10-15/
It's 2015–find the OTHERS! Join experiential journalist Rak Razam as he talks with the Executive Director of the International Evolver Network Magenta Imagination Healer about another world that is sprouting from the cracks of the old… Evolver connects individuals and 'spores' into a global network that supports multiplatform initiatives to sustain new paradigm society, from permaculture to urban farming, shamanism, new economies and social resilience, co-operative timeshares and food co-ops, and so much more… But how does one best evolve a modern distributed network that facilitate individuals and still achieve consensus? How can we have right relationship with the earth and draw upon indigenous tribal logistics without misappropriation? How does a global network facilitate knowledge about plant medicines and non-denominational spirituality without becoming a cult? How to best embrace global diversity whilst creating the support structure for common change? Is the R-Evolution upon us, and will Russell Brand be at the fore? Seize the future, today! You are not alone! For more info see: http://www.evolvernetworkwork.org
Listen on Rak's podcast
This is the kind of thing I imagine when I think of the implications of nanotech and possible futures. In reality I think it's more likely we use sonic healing devices and mushrooms to rebalance things like ocean acidity and soil toxicity. But.... this is a great art project pointing out a different angle on GMO risks.
I didn't know about this: "Researchers from Imperial College in London have been exploring how to halt desertification by introducing engineered bacteria that encourages plant root growth, thus preventing the erosion of top soil and the spread of deserts."