New eBook — Digital Community Organizing: Why Political Power Must be Shared, Not Stored
Running for office in 2016 requires more than shiny digital tools. It requires the hard work of building relationships, developing leaders, and distributing a message. I wrote this book to address how and why building community is the way for candidates to succeed this year.
The book, Digital Community Organizing: Why Political Power Must be Shared, Not Stored (pre-order on Amazon) is 55 pages of ideas, suggestions, and theories behind building community in the 21st Century. It’s about political campaigns, but it’s also about activism, advocacy, and connecting with people in many contexts.
The book’s first few paragraphs, included below, introduce the guiding principles of the rest of the book.
Candidates need two things: money and votes. If something doesn’t directly help you get donations or votes, you should not spend time doing it. It’s that simple, and it has to be — running for office is often a full-time job, complete with angry stakeholders, deadlines, commitments, employees, and volunteers.
To repeat: if something doesn’t directly help you get donations or votes, you should not do it. Using some digital tool just because it “should” be used is not a wise move for a political candidate in 2016.
A lot of digital media advice for candidates focuses almost exclusively on tools: “You really should be on Twitter,” or “If you aren’t running Facebook ads, you’re missing the boat,” or “Snapchat is the next big thing.” Not only is this advice often contradictory and confusing, it’s also backwards. It starts with the tools instead of with the foundational principals or even the overarching strategy.
Throughout this book, principles and concrete steps of political community organizing will be explained with the simple metaphor of an electrical power grid. No matter how powerful the generating station is on its own, a power grid must first have a network of transmission/distribution lines before it can meet demand. Without this basic infrastructure, power can never be distributed.
Part I of this book gives principles and concrete steps to build this internal capacity. While it might seem wasteful to string metaphorical power lines, the resulting grid is the only way to truly harness the power of neighbors, constituents, and voters.
Part II of this book continues the electrical grid metaphor: after the capacity has been built, how is power distributed? How can political candidates get people involved in meaningful ways (i.e. not just going door-to-door, but taking a wide range of distributed actions)? How can candidates build support that lasts beyond Election Day to help them set the agenda while in office or put pressure on elected officials?
This book not only provides concrete steps to use specific tools, but will also establish a framework of thought that can help guide campaign decisions. This book will explore campaign scenarios and discuss digital tools, but it will also be clear about the “why” behind its suggestions.
It is also important to note what this book does not do. It does not discuss narrative or messaging strategies (digital strategy calendars, framing, narratives, storytelling), nor does it go into detail about certain operational topics such as field, email/fundraising tactics, or voter file management. While these issues are incredibly important, this book is solely focused on building communities and moving them to action using tech tools on and offline.