Tools for collective empowerment (updated November 2017)
I’d like to share the tools I use to create sharable media for advocacy projects. I’m a hacker, not with zeros and ones, but with online tools that can help us get the word out about the powerful and changemaking ideas that we have.
Like many of us, I’m concerned about the state of the world today. What I see reflected in the mainstream media is a terrible snapshot, that is driving us towards a dystopic future. At the same time, I’m deeply privileged to know many many people, all over the world, who are powerful changemakers and thought leaders, and who together can help us to progress towards a livable future. I believe that the stories of change agents can help us to transition towards a more cooperative world, and connect our work as a movement.
My mission is to help people to create media that advocates for the change that they want to see in the world. I am an open source person, so this blog will bring you up to speed on some of the tools and the processes that I use to create podcasts that can raise awareness, bring collaborators together, and influence policy and decisionmaking as a public process. I invite you to use what is helpful to you, and I’m also happy to support by answering any questions you may have, feel free to ping me in the comments. ;)
This work is in service to sharing our ideas, to each other and the world, to help us connect and progress a broader collective vision.
Welcome to Medium. I must say I’ve fallen in love with medium — not only is it easy to use, beautiful, and has an elegance to the user experience but it’s got some supercool features that really work for me. Plus amazing and inspiring people present their work here.
This is one of the tools I use to create media with people. It is free, though I recommend you sign up to become a member to support the community, and it is a fantastic place to be able to put stories together to share with your audience.
One of the parts I’m excited about is that you can publish a private article and just give specific people access through the unlisted link. This is great for small groups of people to be able to share information, when it’s not the time to share it as a public post. Many communications are not about getting the word out far and wide — it’s about getting specific people information in a timely and engaging way that works for them.
So let’s break it down into the pieces: say you are a part of a group that meets regularly, and you want to track your progress and make the content of your sessions available for reflection for the participants, or to distribute to your community, constituency, or the wider world. Here’s what you might do.
Record your sessions in audio or video
Now that we are in the world of the smartphone, many of us are carrying the technology to capture conversations, sessions or events in our back pocket. These can be embedded right into medium — see an example of where I used it to enrich this article. I wanted to include a little ‘wistful piano’ to give some colour to the story.
Some powerful free online tools
The main tool I’ve been using for online video capture is Zoom. It’s a really great video conferencing tool, and you can have up to 50 participants, start and stop video so can make multiple files in the same call, as well as breakout rooms and screensharing. The files you create are saved to your own computer, and then they can be uploaded to Youtube for distribution.
I also use combinations of Dropbox, Soundcloud, Youtube, Medium and Google docs to put things together, and back up the files. If I’m not doing a Zoom recording, here’s my workflow: record an audio or video file, and upload it to Dropbox. You should create a file structure in Dropbox that makes sense for your project — I put all similar files in their own folder for example, so they are all in one place and easily accessible. This gives you access to all of your files ‘on the cloud’.
Then I’ll upload the soundfile to Soundcloud, or the video to Youtube, making sure to publish it using the privacy settings that work best for the group. This is how the file will present on Medium, and be seen by the world. The Dropbox link is your backup to the original file, and Soundcloud and Youtube allow you to embed that file on the page in an elegant way. We like elegance. ;)
Mock it up
I like Medium; it’s a great space to ‘mock up’ your article, and present the collection of words and what we like to call ‘media assets’. Obviously there are many many platforms and tools that can be used — that’s part of what we need to collaborate more broadly to figure out.
As you’ll see in this article, a simple framing of a few videos can tell a compelling story from a multiplicity of perspectives. It’s a simple ‘mashup’ of types of media that can give people a deeper sense of what you are looking to share, while giving you the opportunity to set the context. And if you capture your media for the edit (that means being ready, and doing a good beginning and a good ending!) you can cut down on the work needed to present a final draft for presentation.
I attend a weekly session that is deeply personal, and I’d love to be able to easily access the work that we do together. I see great value in reflection, but it’s not appropriate to share our process far and wide. This can be an opportunity to use Medium in a way that provides access to the session participants, but limits access to people with the link to the story. What we are doing can track our work as we progress, and gives us the opportunity to reflect on our work by reviewing it while protecting the privacy of participants by not distributing it far and wide.
In Medium, you can choose to publish your story as ‘unlisted’, which means only those who have the link can access the story — and with youtube and soundcloud, you can also publish them privately as well, and then embed that private link into your story.
Alternatively, you may want to publish your work far and wide, which is also awesome! Well, that’s how the internet works, of course. You’ll want to think through if it is more effective or appropriate to broadcast your content widely, or to ‘narrowcast’ your content to those you may want to directly engage in a conversation.
Some proposed processes:
Nominate groups of 3 (or more, but if it moves beyond 7 we likely won’t be able to hear from everyone) to have conversations ‘for the record’. It might be optimal to have 3 participants and a facilitator. Test what works for you!
Invite participants, set time, choose person who will initiate contact. Zoom is great, but has limits on how long you can record (40 mins) unless you have a paid account; otherwise Youtube Live, which was Google Hangouts until September 2017.
Set questions. One of our purposes is to surface our work, our skills and passions, what we need, what makes sense for a specific constellation of people to talk about, and land on our questions and what we can do together.
At the end of the session we should decide what kind of distribution we think is appropriate. Each participant receives a link to the media created, and participants are encouraged to review the session.
Each time I’ve done a session recording, I’ve learned a ton. The feedback is direct, clear, unbiased and allows us to see where our languaging gaps are, our points of convergence, and how we can better represent our thoughts.
This is a work in progress. If you want to support these explorations into awesome, inspiring, and next level social and economic change projects, you can contribute to the crowdfunding campaign, and share it with your friends. ;)