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Preview: Netcentric Advocacy

Netcentric Advocacy

Advocacy Strategy for the Age of Connectivity.

Updated: 2017-10-05T15:08:16-04:00


Can you be effective advocate in the age of hyper-partisan politics?


The world of advocacy in 1994-2007... The political landscape and policy agenda is dominated by consensus politics. This is the age of Dick Morris strategy navigating a middle-ground and triangulating a new space to create policy. Large social movements and campaign worked to build “a middle” and establish broad interests in action among a newly organized constituency behind a centrist policy. Focus on the clear single issue frame set up in a way that resonated across both political camps but pulled toward a middle way forward. Strange bedfellows under one tent. Issues with broad support make progress. The world of advocacy now... Issues that are framed in the middle languish. They are not a priority for people in power. Shifting leadership, micro-targeting messages, echo-chamber media and increased gerrymandering make each campaign specific to each person, each audience. Building a "middle" or consensus is an action happens at the end of a campaign once 2 sides of the political spectrum have prioritized the work for their own agenda and within their own frames. Successful efforts have shifting stories and etch-a-sketch framing. Issues with passionate support among partisan camps influence leadership and make progress. Drones Surveillance Childhood obesity Privacy We are in...

Movements Work to Control the Field.


There is a distinct change in lacrosse played at the beginner level versus the college level. After back-to-back games watching my daughter (9) play and then University of Maryland (Go Terps! #1 Women’s Lacrosse in the country), it was easy to see that even with the same rules and equipment, players at the different levels not only had improved skills but fundamentally different strategies. My daughter's team worked hard to get the ball to the stars, moving the team into a set formation passing the ball along the chain to score. There would be variations in the plays but the ball moved toward a few players until one of most productive shooters could score. At the elite college level, the game was about creating space, moving players out along the edge to draw out defensive responses and create gaps for action. At this more advanced level, all players are a threat and the focus seemed to shift toward managing the field for the players, creating space that opened opportunities to score. The work focused on pulling a defense apart, thinning the density of the defense so that many players could flip the ball into net. The team focus was less...

When humanity is involved network power is proportional to the risks and threats we face.


In the biggest threats to humanity, humanity (not technology) must be the answer deployed to solve the problem. So far in in human history, people are always "the fancy innovation" that solve complex problems. Unfortunately, so many planners don't engineer solutions that effectively leverage networked people solutions. Planning seems unable to adapt to reality that humanity is much more connected than organizations, hierarchy and most our mapping "sees". We are a network, a fragmented network but full of potential to connect, collaborate and swarm on the fly. But most agree it was not drugs or fancy innovations that brought numbers down. Local volunteers going house-to-house to explain the virus, or tirelessly burying bodies in the safest possible way, were crucial to stop the spread. Communities accepting the realities of the virus and changing their everyday lives, and families allowing their loved ones to be taken to isolated treatment centres all played a strong role. Weak health systems were bolstered - Liberia only had some 60 doctors to treat its entire population before the outbreak began. But an influx of local volunteers and international teams helped. Despite these efforts some scientists say there is a chance the virus will never go...

Hey Siri tell Congress Save the Polar Bears : When will Siri, Alexa and Cortana get into politics?


Siri, Cortana and Alexa can read email, book hotels, tell political jokes and manage your lights (seriously they can just ask them). How long before they can fill out requests to sign petitions automatically once commanded? If personal agents start participating in politics how low does the basic level of the engagement ladder go? What does Congress do with petitions from Alexa, Cortana or Siri when they feel like people don't even have the time and interest to read or fill in the basic elements of an action alerts? How long before Congressional staff are using AI to respond to mail they get? Is this the first step of the AI nightmare? This new wave of voice-driven assistant technologies rides on the back of advances in artificial intelligence, rich collections of user data and growth in keyboardless and screenless devices. Additionally, great speech recognition is now built into every major operating system. Google, Apple, Baidu, Microsoft and Amazon provide this capability for free, enabling a new generation of apps to drive user adoption. via Does the mean the end of clicktivism with easier AI-ivism?

Disruptive Networks of People Root Change in the Power of Humanity not Violence.


Absolutely brilliant, grounded and sharp insights from David Haskell at DreamsinDeed published over at SSIR. His insights on working with people in hard places is among the best I have ever come across. I love his view of leaders he calls "dreamers in hard places". "Dreamers in hard places" are under valued, under appreciated, under the radar, and under represented in the leadership of our world and our work. In fact, the way we structure movements demonstrates that we fear "dreamers from hard places" participation at the levels of governance and power. Most of the best leadership in traditional organizations can't even interact effectively with people that are genuinely squaring off abuse and trauma spread by government and industry. David's body of work is inspiring and the approach is network-centric to the core. His team builds networks to support dreamers in hard places. What sets a dream apart from a good idea? We apply four tests: A dream is celebrated by the poor, and unsettles the powerful. A dream invites everyone to the table, including those we don’t like. A dream requires that everyone change, starting with the dreamer. A dream is worth bleeding for, not just working on. via...

Expect the punch in the face as part of your strategy development.


In many context, it is always a struggle to find partners that want to invest in creating adaptive process and infrastructure. In times of uncertainty, we are often attracted to the "silver bullet" rather than the negotiated settlement. I love clear work plans but I work in so many context that make them unrealistic like campaign planning, culture change, leader organizing and foundation fundraising to name a few. Or at least, these chaotic environments require a very different kind of work plan. There’s a boxing adage that says "everyone has a great strategy until the moment they get punched in the face". This probably military saying along the same lines ... Everyone has a great plan until someone starts shooting at you. The only true strategy is to make sure you can take the kind of punch you Are going to get and yet still stay in the ring. Only then can you shake it off, and develop an adjusted plan to victory. Capacity building is the resilience strategies. 1. Building capacity of people to lead and withstand the punches and the opposition that they will face. 2. Building the organization capacity to shield the people. 3. Building the network...

Complexity is Not Stable. New Power, Old Power and Balance


A great set of articles by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms , “Understanding New Power” and a follow up riff on that article from from Michael Silberman on MobilizaitonLab have inspired some noodling around with their work. In the table below, I remix a similar table provided by Heimans and Timms with a slightly different focus in order to point to the stability of the models used. I am reshuffling the layout by looking at gaps between production of power and value and the degree to which the producers of that value and power share in the governance and benefits of their contributions. Potentially if a business/model is in different columns in the top row than in the bottom row, it is less stable and open to competition from competing models that are aligned and more stable. In some cases, the shift toward stability will come from revolt and/or organizing from within. A more detailed response to the articles by Silberman and Heimans and Timms is published on Netcentric Campaigns’ official blog, Netcentric Advocacy. I hope you’ll check it out.

Mend the Nets. Network Discussions and Tuna.


We need to continually elevate the field of network building by engaging deeply with other people that are also supporting uplifting socail and policy change thru building networks. Lately, I am interested in conversations that use disciplined frameworks to look at the desired throughput of a network and then use that to define the scale and structure necessary to deliver those results. Additionally, I love digging into projects that seek a rationale consistancy about the nature of the "nodes of the network." And from a starting points discussion of throughput and nodes, look at the protocols for connecting the nodes and the ways to build the functional capacity and strength of those connections. Tony Proscio's riff on a presentation by the president of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, John Ettinger, arguing that when foundations group their grantees into networks it “may lead to quicker learning and more efficient operations.” Or, Tony quite rightly points out, sometimes “it leads nowhere at all.” It’s a painful truth. Networks sometimes fail―or at least fail to meet their full potential. The good news is that when networks fail or struggle, there are identifiable (and correctable) reasons. I am looking forward to continuing the discussion and...


Great talk at Google about Social Physics. Sandy's ideas resonate with my work across a movement. We are often trying to shift many people that are allies in a movement to generate the ties Sandy discusses. We think about social and advocacy campaigns needed the same capacity to work together as scale and in the same way Sandy talks about social learning and social teams within large companies. It is worth a watch.

Great talk at Google about Social Physics. Sandy's ideas resonate with my work across a movement. We are often trying to shift many people that are allies in a movement to generate the ties Sandy discusses. We think about social and advocacy campaigns needed the same capacity to work together as scale and in the same way Sandy talks about social learning and social teams within large companies.

It is worth a watch.
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What Does It Take to Learn to Collaborate?


This is a brilliant flash of analysis and nice crisp language on the roles and responsibilities for collaborators. I like the way Chris Thompson at teases apart the characteristics of people that are going to be good at collaboration. The exchange is worth a read. Skill – creating conditions for effective collaboration/building trust, designing effective process, deft facilitation, generative listening and inquiry, getting on the balcony/holding the big picture, thinking broadly about “success” (results, process, relationships), celebration of others’ success, being a connector/network weaver, understanding social/power dynamics . . . Attitude – not knowing, humility, bring your expertise but don’t get trapped by it, belief in abundance, appreciation of difference and diversity, authenticity, curiosity, caring, eagerness to learn, seek win-win, respect for others’ perspectives . . . Will – the drive for ongoing personal and systemic development, to push through and keep the collaborative going even when the plane starts to shake, eyes on the prize, willing to put reputation and resources on the line via

Not all knowledge is evidence, not all good advocacy is evidence based. Disagree.


The title of the clipped article below triggered my response more so than the content. "Not all good advocacy is evidence based". I have a slightly different perspective on that phrase. All good advocacy is evidence based. The practice of advocacy itself is built on a historical record that shows advocacy is the necessary requirement for policy change. Some believe advocacy is more of a dark art than an evidence based approach to creating policy change. Evidence suggests advocacy is required to create any policy change. This is not really what the riff is about but the discussion of evidence based advocacy is a jumping off point to acknowledge that evidence shows us advocacy is required and necessary. Evidence teaches us how to refine advocacy efforts. Evidence shows us what advocacy works. If we are committed to creating change based on evidence, then we must commit to effective evidence based advocacy to achieve the desired results. . John Snow presented a map to London Epidemiological Society to advocate for the closing of the Broad Street well. His contribution was more than research and mapping. Not just a great doctor and scientist. He persuaded others to understand and prioritize his evidence....

What is the word for planning that doesn't create a disconnect with doing?


I am struggling to find the right word or better word for planning. Good campaign work is adaptive by design. Effective advocacy is experimental and iterative. Building networks and developing strategy are not opposites but deeply connected. The advocacy network building work we do drives results and our activities and work efforts are the best channels for learning. All this being said, I can't put my finger on the right words to communicate this "better thinking by moving" work we do. Movement and thinking are connected. We develop advocacy network theory, campaign theory, organizing theory as we work and through our work. The real world environment and real users feedback are the most influential drivers that shapes how we think plan network mobilizations. We are constantly learning by doing and planning while we act. I can't find the word for this approach to strategy development in a live campaign environment. I really need it. In our work, we have 3 phases of engagement to support people organizing campaigns. First, we assess the network. Second, we develop network action plans. Finally, we build the network to mobilize on issues and policy change. We often get tripped up explaining our work because...

Jason Silva. Seek Awe. Amen Brother.


One of my favorite philosophy courses in college was focused on romance, awe and fantasy. Now i am really enjoying the work of Jason Silva. I am enjoying these riffs for the content, inspiration, style and unique framing of story. Jason is creating one story that is positive and high energy without being explicit. He positions the viewer as a surviver working through a struggle to break into new ways to think. The way that he crashes though topics and fields of study with excitement and intellectual giddiness reminds me of my favorite friends, teachers, co-workers and old roomates. I have never seen anything like it captured so well (even sent my college prof a thank you letter and a tip to Jasons videos.) ( It is high energy imagination at its best. Seek Awe. Amen Brother. Inspire awe in your friends, coworkers and kids.

Finding Problems and Building Engagement Around Solutions. See Click Fix and Mind Mixer.


It is interesting to see these concepts presented together. Will we see more local communities start to intergrate this into the workflow of local communications with the public? They both tap the network of the citizens to add capacity to the government. What are the community conditions necessary for these types of interventions to succeed? Has anyone ever leveraged poor responses from elected officials as a more direct pressure on the election discussions? Is it best if these sites are organized by government, media or political parties?

Looking ahead; The trends that complement your advocacy strategy.


Here is a thought provoking overview of business strategy ( the ideas ~slide 24 on complements and core business). The focus is on the power of platforms and drives home the advantage to building an "ecosystem" of activity that builds on itself and in the process drives the platform success. (Think Apple App store) We are NOT applying this strategy in a social change context. (YET) We do see some of this in voter registration,, and but very little at the issue or state level. This trend of networking people together into movements IS the opportunity for the organizers of this generation. Increasingly, the complex issues we must address can only be solved with successful networked responses. Asymmetry abound: the new rules of the app economy from VisionMobile Do you think your movement has a strategy to build the platform for your work? Are you working in a way that is doomed by the forces that drive a winner take all dynamic? How does your engagement with someone that cares about your issue benefit from others that also work on that issue? How does your success in recruiting a new member or supporter fuel success of anyone else?...