#ANPartner Case Study: Women’s March mobilizes millions worldwide

It was just a week before the Women’s March, and we had an issue at the Action Network. The map on our distributed events tool, the organizing home for the marches worldwide, was in danger of hitting the daily limit of map loads on our Google API, which would cause problems when people searched for their event. We knew this limit existed, of course, but it hadn’t even occurred to us that we would reach it — we hadn’t come close before.

Our team worked with staff at Google to quickly reengineer the backend to handle the increased traffic, and it’s a good thing we did. As the day of the marches approached, we blew past that original limit by 20% and then 50%, eventually doubling the traffic as millions of people searched for marches around the world, each organized independently by hundreds of grassroots activists and first-time organizers. As we watched the numbers grow, we were telling everyone who would listen that the marches were going to be far, far bigger than anyone thought.

It was a climactic final week for an event campaign that began on Facebook just weeks before and spread across the social media platform rapidly with new events created every day. In December, the group coordinating the marches created the infrastructure for the campaign on the Action Network, using our innovative distributed, collaborative organizing tools to create an event like none other.

Action Network — the newest, most advanced set of digital mobilization tools for progressive campaigns — was built for these moments. We created our tools to distribute power, eliminate points of friction in ramping up actions, and allow people to quickly build for moments of maximum disruption. For an event like the Women’s March, an organizer can create a unified structure for the campaign that empowers activists anywhere to create events quickly and easily. By gathering the contact information for the organizers and attendees of the events, Action Network harnesses bottom-up grassroots organizing to create a lasting infrastructure that builds long-term power.

Activists searched for their local march through Action Network’s Event Campaign widget on WomensMarch.com.

With all the events on one easily-searchable site, the campaign began to gain momentum. Action Network provided a single hub for anyone to input their postal code anywhere in the world and find their nearest event. Building Action Network on the strongest cloud-based infrastructure enabled us to scale up quickly to meet the enormous worldwide demand. As traffic increased, we worked with Amazon Web Services to handle the server load of the pages being served and the records being created in the database.

In the days leading up to January 21, the March’s momentum continued to grow. The Action Network event page created a positive feedback loop, with people signing up for events and using Action Network’s sharing tools to spread the link on Facebook and Twitter, leading more people to sign up for their local marches and share again on social media. News networks — local and national — began reporting on the event. At the Action Network offices, a friend sent us a link to a story from a local news station in a small town in Michigan explaining how people could find their local event using our tool. First-time activists all over the world were signing up for Women’s Marches in droves.

The Women’s March was one of the largest mobilizations in history, with official estimates of 4.5 million marchers worldwide. But the results went beyond the staggering numbers. Because of the power of the Action Network tools, a new organization was born instantly with reach and power few organizations achieve after decades of work. In the follow up to the March, with little news coverage, the Women’s March organized over 5,300 events in the first two weeks of February, deepening their organizing and identifying thousands of new organizers in communities around the country.

An estimated 500,000 activists descended on the capital for the Women’s March on Washington.

The Women’s March stands as a testament to Action Network’s success in leveraging modern, cloud-based infrastructure to create new possibilities for progressives to quickly build large, distributed actions that lead to long-lasting power.

Learn more about becoming an Action Network partner: actionnetwork.org/partnerships