I helped to build my first movement when I was 18.
It was September 12th, 2001, the day after the attacks, and I was grappling with feelings of fear, sadness and shock. On the news, a president who did not share my values was calling for a war in Afghanistan. Though uncertain what to do with my rage and grief, I knew that this war was deeply misguided, so I found people to talk to about it.
At first we shared our grief and fear, clustered in small conversations where we knew that our feelings would be heard and respected. From these conversations, we organized by skill and interest into affinity groups to take on specific areas of focus. I joined the web group. Using raw HTML, we put together a simple website with a call to action and began circulating it to college campuses and activists groups. By September 20th, over 400 had joined us in one of the first large-scale actions against the war to receive meaningful press coverage.
This first experience taught me a lesson which has resonated again and again over the years: movements are not about the size of an e-mail list or even about fundraising capacity, they are about the ability to build and align relationships at scale. Effective movements take the raw emotions and struggles that we experience as individuals, and give us relationships to experience them in. These relationships quickly move from helping us feel things about the world to giving us the context to change it.
Unfortunately, dominant social media platforms are poorly suited for this sort of relationship development. Commonly used tools such as Facebook groups are difficult to moderate and surveil users in ways that make them feel unsafe. Conversations on platforms like Twitter are systematically attacked by alt-right trolls, tools such as Slack are poorly optimized to bring new members into conversations that feel meaningful.
We built Nametag because we believe there is a great unrealized opportunity to build tools which are optimized for relationship development rather than advertising. Nametag makes it easy to get into small conversations with people you can trust. We’ve used decades of experience building effective social movements to create a platform for building conversations that build relationships.
We do this by taking inspiration from offline organizing tactics that work for building relationships and building trust. Meaningful relationships are often built in small, intimate conversations where people feel safe enough to share vulnerable personal experiences. Skilled facilitators will set conversation norms so that people feel safe, tailor the topic of conversation to focus on powerful questions, and carefully curate who is in the room so that people feel that their experiences will be acknowledged and understood. Nametag is designed to let facilitators use these same tactics online, adapting their skills to a new level of scale.
For example: Skilled conveners know that good conversations happen among people who have a reason to trust one another, so we’ve made trust and verification central to our platform. On Nametag it’s easy to create secure conversations that are only visible to people who are verified as being lawyers, or verified as being leaders in a particular social movement. We know that the best conversations rarely happen in public. Whether a conversation is happening between two high school students or two CEOs, the real talk and the real trust-building won’t happen until no one else is watching. That’s why we’ve implemented end-to-end encryption throughout the platform to give strong assurances of personal privacy.
With tools to curate who is in a conversation, what the conversation is about and how the conversation is moderated, a richer environment for connection is possible online. From organizations offering support to LGBT young people to media organizations creating richer dialog around their content to impactful organizations building a community around their work, Nametag is helping people who invest in the power of relationships invest in them more effectively.