Let Us Commence with Getting our Poop in a Group: Fewer Facebook Groups and More Leadership
Sweet Jesus, I can’t keep up. I’ve been added to so many groups. Everyone is trying to figure out an agenda, everyone is trying to get a ride to DC, everyone is sharing different urgent calls for action. This election sure has lit a fire under our collective progressive asses. It’s awesome, but it’s got to shift into stage 2.
Right now we’re all revving our engines and spinning our wheels at the starting line. The rubber is getting nice and sticky. We have traction. We gotta hit the gas so we move forward before the tires melt. All this furious energy will dissipate because everyone is taking and sharing but few are leading.
And hell, I get it. I have too many worries to stop talking. I can’t put down my serious concerns about hate crime; I can’t not keep my mind sharp and attentive to the erosion of Constitutional rights. Iowa is getting ready to elect a new chair for the Dem Party, everyone is talking about what to change, our Governor is taking healthcare out of union contracts, and we have got to oust the guy in charge of our Board of Regents before he destroys all of our public universities. Also, the use of an historic building in my town is in question, and my Rep is still the Buttercup guy until I can talk him into dropping it. I can’t do it all but I want to. What I need is leadership.
Every Facebook group that sprung up on Nov 9 should step back and take stock, especially the admins. It’s time to have a heart to heart about the group’s organization and goals. Who is in charge? What’s the group’s mission and how will it be enacted? How will information be shared?
Who’s The Boss?
Considering the sprawling and often-changing membership, it can feel intimidating or presumptuous to elect yourself in charge of that process but please do it. You don’t have to be the boss forever, but you could organize the group so that members can determine leadership and structure. If someone doesn’t do this, the group will be chaotic and unfocused and probably become just another place to share memes and articles.
And that’s fine if that’s what your group wants. Who doesn’t love memes? One of my Hillary groups is retaining its original purpose of support, articles, and venting. Go for it.
But if there’s a desire for activism, people need to decide what that will look like for the group and who will coordinate those activities. You’ve got to have a mission and actions to back that up, with some people who will coordinate efforts.
When I (and other fab people) founded Friends of Iowa Midwives, there was difference of opinion. Should we simply advocate and inform? Should we try to decriminalize or establish licensure? Ultimately, we agreed that what we wanted (non-nurse midwives to be able to practice without fear of a felony charge) was best served by following the lead of other states and forming a statewide org with the goal of passing a law. We had a board with different folks directing different aspects of the organization and went from there. A Facebook group doesn’t need a board, necessarily, but you need point persons and organization.
A challenge for using FB to organize is that stuff gets lost in the feed. Not everyone sees everything. People need to use group features or other methods of distributing information so that it is accessible and a pinned post to direct people to that info.
I think part of the hold up is that we’re all getting our footing and we also have a lot of awesome and energized new people with knowledge and ideas but not as much experience. Find the people in your group who’ve done this kind of thing before and ask them to get the ball rolling.
Possible Areas of Focus and Activism
I’d recommend every group decide what level of government they want to influence, what specific issues and outcomes you want, and how you want to make that happen.
- Phone call coordination to Legislators on committees in response to bills, appointments, etc.
- Viral-style campaigns in response to specific committees/laws/events. Although the outcome is uncertain, the recent Not Bannon postcard avalanche is a good example of a detailed and coordinated plan to do something specific, say something specific, make the best use of social media, and get the timing right for max impact.
- Phone and letter writing campaign coordination to respond to bills and issues.
- Have subgroups that focus on specific topics (e.g. Gun violence, health care).
- Connect people across the state to build the party.
Regional and Local
- Coordinate people in your county to be active in town and state issues immediately applicable.
- Learn about municipal governing and help people advocate at that level.
- Find out who will be running in two years and start helping their campaign.
Most of the activism I’m seeing is good old-fashioned civic engagement through interacting with the government. That is awesome. But it’s not the only thing you can do to shift the dynamic in the near future. Think outside the box. A group could exist simply to generate and try out many NEW organizing or activism ideas. As long as there is focus, a group can thrive.