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.