Kill Slacktivism

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Eli Wiesel

This is a movement against slacktivism.

Last week nine people were killed in Charleston in an act of hate and racism-fueled terrorism. We felt angry, confused, and most of all unsure what we could do to help.

Working and living in San Francisco, most of us walk by at least one homeless person on our commute. But most days, we don’t even look up from our phones to see the people around us.

We hear about the gentrification, the out-of-control rent, the evictions, and the 30-year-old mom and pop stores closing in our neighborhoods. But so often our contributions are limited to the stories we post on Facebook, the long dinner conversations we have with friends, or the quick Wikipedia research we do before the conversation.

The truth is, we feel guilty. We subconsciously acknowledge that we’re part of the problem. We know we aren’t doing enough, or really anything, to remedy the situation. We push the nagging voice into a back corner of our minds, plug in our headphones, and tune out the real world. It’s easier that way.

We’re overwhelmed by the gravity of social issues and frustrated by own lack of agency to solve them. We hate our own slacktivism and even more so, we hate that we don’t do anything about it.

So we’re beginning a postslacktivism movement.

slack·tiv·ism
ˈslaktəˌvizəm/ noun, informal
actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.

What are we building?

We’re designing an experience to help us break up with slacktivism.

Like in any bad relationship, the first step is self-awareness. We’re admitting to the guilt, flakiness, and general feeling of being jaded and overwhelmed by the gravity of the ugly shit in the world. But now that we’ve identified these root causes, we can tackle them.

For the overwhelmed:

Do it with others. We’re bringing together cohorts of 5–7 civic-minded individuals in San Francisco each month. It’s scary and hard to take action alone, so we’ll curate a tribe of creative and curious teammates for you. Some of them will be strangers, or Twitter friends, or friends of friends. We’re accounting for optimal group size dynamics to facilitate trust and decision-making.

For the jaded:

Do something small. Each cohort will identify a civic issue that resonates with the group and then design a project that addresses the issue. The key parameter: it must be complete in one month’s time.

Are we trying to “solve” problems like urban mobility or homelessness in one month? No. Our goal is to seed one “minimum viable action” that may stimulate more action once it’s in the public sphere. The seed can be a city-wide nametag day, a digital storytelling project, a Medium post that establishes a common vocabulary for the civic sector, etc.

For the flaky:

Make it accessible, valuable, and fun. The experience will ask for a commitment to three 2–3 hour meetings over the course of one month — a total of 9 hours a month. You know, the equivalent of a Saturday spent day-drinking PBRs at Dolores Park. At the end of the month, you’ll be able to reference a real living civic project, gained deeper and broader understanding of civic issues in your community, laughed a lot with new friends, and joined a community of fellow civic creatives. Win-win-win-win.

The first San Francisco cohort will design and deploy a civic project this July. In true MVP style, we’re going to run this for 6 months and see how much we can do together to kill slacktivism.

How are we doing this?

The post slacktivism movement must be interdisciplinary, inclusive and rapid.

Interdisciplinary

Social issues are complex by nature. They require a systems-based understanding of historical, political, cultural, geographic and economic forces. There’s an array of stakeholders and incentives to consider, a long list of buzzwords to unpack, questioning of biases and sources. It’s overwhelming — but any meaningful contribution must be designed with this complexity in mind.

“Real-world problems are complex, so no single discipline can adequately describe and resolve these issues.”

Our approach is interdisciplinary. Each cohort will include individuals from multiple disciplines who hold a piece of the puzzle: educators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, physicists, geologists, artists, musicians, public service officials, and others. The more we approach civic problems from various angles, the more viable an intervention becomes.

Inclusive

We’re at a point where “diversity” is having a defining moment in the Bay Area. Diversity creates spaces to build empathy among traditionally siloed groups, helping to close the gaps that contribute to ignorance and apathy.

To build towards this vision of diversity, we’re prioritizing inclusiveness. This means deliberately inviting people from unique backgrounds to come to the table and valuing collaborative design: working with the full spectrum of organizations and individuals working on civic issues.

Rapid

It can be frustrating to work on civic issues because everything seems to take so long. This is starting to shift, with initiatives like Code for America and Obama’s no-longer-so-secret stealth startup.

We share the vision of these initiatives: civic issues can be addressed with efficiency, agility, and creativity. That’s why each cohort will create and execute a civic project in one month. The important outcomes here are the actions: the doing, learning, documenting, and sharing.

What’s next?

We’re launching a pilot in July and will run one cohort a month. If you’re interested in killing slacktivism, get in touch at postslacktivism@gmail.com.

You can also follow our collection as we go. We believe our greatest responsibility is sharing what we do and what we learn. This movement isn’t about us. So share your own experiences as slacktivists and postslacktivists. Challenge our experience design so it gets better. Try it out in your local community and share what works or doesn’t work.

So join us in not trying to save the world. Join us in a movement to kill slacktivism.

Special thanks to Stella Tran, Yvonne Leow, Rachel Katz, Radha Mistry, CC Huang, Rachel Baker, and Aisha Sheikh for early feedback and support.

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