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From Flood, R. and Jackson, M. (1993) Creative problem solving: Total systems intervention. Wiley. Fig 1.1, pp. 6 found in Think NPC’s — Systems change: A guide to what it is and how to do it (download link below)

The “crisis within a crisis” moment we are living through right now, rising up against white supremacy and anti-black racism in the midst of a global pandemic, is a testament to how complex and downright systemic the problems we face have become.

More than ever, progressive organizers see the wisdom of aiming for big changes — systems-wide changes — to secure a more just, caring and sustainable world into the future.

And as we grapple with all of this, it just so turns out that the awesome volunteer crew at Blueprints for Change, along with friends at Mobilisation Lab, have put out two new (related) guides to help you apply systems thinking to campaign strategy and planning. …


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RAND Corporation illustration of different possible network forms in the 1960s, theoretical models that eventually determined the architecture of the World Wide Web.

As people-powered campaigning is clearly a practice on the rise, largely inspired by the dramatic rise of progressive grassroots movements, we often hear NGOs asking for more clarity on what kind of model would work best for them.

Though self-arising, often youth-led movements around climate and social justice are certainly inspiring, the organizing models they employ pose challenges for larger and older organizations, who are often concerned with maintaining stable and sustainable programs over time.

This is not to say that people-powered campaigning can’t do great things for all types of organizations when deployed properly. It’s just that established organizations generally have more success with a structured, distributed organizing approach as opposed to a horizontal and self-arising decentralized one. …


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Montreal climate strike, March 2019

With a close eye on the world’s mounting (and interconnected) wicked problems, as well as our closing window of opportunity to act decisively on them, it’s clear to me that emerging people-powered movements — like the student-led climate strikes — are the only forces out there moving with the proper speed and scale to offer us hope of turning things around in time.

If I had heaps of philanthropic money, that is squarely where I would be placing most of my bets — not on more research, on top-down persuasion campaigns or in lobbying centrist governments for incremental change. …


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How we work together on blueprintsfc.org to build how-to guides for progressive campaigners

Back in April of 2018, with the help of an initial crew of volunteer bottom-liners — mostly seasoned campaigners themselves — we launched www.blueprintsfc.org, an “open library of advocacy how-to’s put together by campaign innovators in order to help progressive organizers and groups up their game more quickly.”

I think it’s safe to say that this has proven a rewarding experience for myself and those involved and am happy to be able to report back on some progress and learnings!

For one, the time spent cultivating a culture of knowledge-exchange that was rewarding for participants and our engaged audience, has paid off. That our network continues to grow, with new helpers and campaigners signed up to get our guides joining every week, tells us that we’re headed in the right direction. …


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Blueprints for Change is an open library of advocacy
how-to’s put together by campaign innovators in order to help progressive organizers and groups
up their game more quickly.

For the last 2 years, as I did trainings on advocacy campaign innovation across the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, I kept hearing the same questions pop up on emerging strategies and tactics. “How can we set up distributed organizing…. or P2P texting…. or A/B testing…. in our org?” And though many of the campaigners and organizers asking these questions had already gotten really good at one of these innovations, they had little experience with the others and were curious to try.

To my frustration, since I never had more than one day with each group, these questions remained unanswered. This clear thirst for strategy-sharing among the people I met from some of the world’s most well-known and accomplished advocacy organizations is echoed by Mobilisation Lab’s recent survey of emerging campaigner needs, which underlines global sector gaps including innovation-mapping, tools and capacity-building events and resources. …


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I was recently invited to speak at the Frank Gathering on public interest communications put together by folks at the U of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Aside from the chance to share the stage with some great speakers like Upworthy founder Eli Pariser, my talk on “Campaign Innovation in the Digital Age” gave me a chance to process some of the research and experiences we’ve gleaned at NetChange on how campaign innovation happens.

The highlights are that innovative campaigns most often learn from the best practices of past campaigns that stood out for their policy wins, ability to scale or both. When we get these best practices down as a solid model (or framework) and make that more widely accessible, innovation happens more quickly across social change sectors and that’s a good thing for all of us.


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Image Credit — The Indian Express

Though it’s just been a year, it seems so long ago now that we woke up to a political reality few progressives could believe or digest at first. As the country’s axis tilted for activists and organizers, from pushing for more change to fighting to preserve what we’ve won at all costs, the advocacy sector has gone into high gear. “We’re all in resistance mode now,” as NextGen America’s Rachel Marcuse puts it bluntly.

None of us wanted to be in crisis, but there you go. If we try hard to look for an upside, it would be that deep ties of solidarity across the country are being forged, more intersectional than ever, and that there is a huge appetite for innovation and new tactics that are building power at the state and municipal levels, while we wait to take the power back. …


Originally published at mobilisationlab.org on October 27, 2017.

There is a lot of talk these days about the relative merits of organizing and mobilizing in campaign strategy circles. In these discussions, mobilizing is understood as the practice of driving your base to take part in collective activities, such as signing petitions or donating online, with a focus on achieving good numbers.

Organising, on the other hand, is the process of building deeper bonds with supporters and skilling them up to become leaders themselves.

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Matt Price’s new book

Though many advocacy organizations have put their energies into mobilizing, analysts such as political scientist Hahrie Han and labor activist Jane MacAlevey remind us that without organizing, the campaigns and movements we are building are on shaky ground. It is the painstaking work of organizing person by person, they argue, that builds the robust base of engaged and skilled supporters needed to drive social change and political movements forward. …


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First published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, August 2017.

Over the past decade, a new approach to organizing and mobilizing campaign supporters has drawn guarded admiration from the world’s largest advocacy organizations. …


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First published Nov. 11, 2016

Working with a bold nonprofit organization, #NoRedButton, and a host of skilled partners, we recently oversaw the creation and release of a certifiably viral advocacy video that highlighted the dangers of the US stance on nuclear weapons as an election issue. The video has now surpassed 1.8 million views on different social media platforms; received endorsements from celebrities such as Cher, Richard Branson, and R.E.M. band members; and drawn the attention of the effort’s intended political target. Most importantly, it has brought thousands of new supporters and new funds to #NoRedButton.

As web video rises in importance as an advocacy tool, both for cause communications and for fundraising, more and more nonprofits will be tempted to try their hand at using new media and new platforms. Whatever your cause, getting the approach right is especially important for this sector, as most organizations simply do not have the budgets necessary to produce dozens of high quality videos and run “hit or miss” attempts to gain traction. …

About

Tom Liacas

Progressive power builder. Founding bottom-liner of Blueprints for Change + Senior Strategist at NetChange Consulting. More bio stuff: https://about.me/TLiacas

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