Digital advocacy in the U.S. — Where are we at one year after the election?
Though it’s just been a year, it seems so long ago now that we woke up to a political reality few progressives could believe or digest at first. As the country’s axis tilted for activists and organizers, from pushing for more change to fighting to preserve what we’ve won at all costs, the advocacy sector has gone into high gear. “We’re all in resistance mode now,” as NextGen America’s Rachel Marcuse puts it bluntly.
None of us wanted to be in crisis, but there you go. If we try hard to look for an upside, it would be that deep ties of solidarity across the country are being forged, more intersectional than ever, and that there is a huge appetite for innovation and new tactics that are building power at the state and municipal levels, while we wait to take the power back.
Resistance to Trump has spawned agile new organizing networks like Indivisible, running lean on a distributed leadership model. Other existing tactics, like calls to congressional reps, digitally-organized protests and visits to reps’ offices, have pushed the development of new tools and the optimization of older ones. Peer to peer texting, which was vastly field-tested during the Bernie campaign, has gained a lot more traction and the challenges of inducting and activating thousands of new would-be resisters has led to the meteoric rise of Resistbot.
So what’s next? Working with New/Mode these past few months, I’ve had the chance to talk to some leading digital advocacy doers and to plug into conversations at different events. There is obviously a lot more power that needs to be built and a great need to update some of the organizing and mobilizing platforms to reflect new directions that are rapidly emerging. Here’s a quick summary of inputs from digital campaigners below.
What’s missing from the current digital advocacy toolkit?
More field support: A lot of energy is going into field organizing but this set of activities is underrepresented by digital advocacy solutions
Tools for local organizers: As many groups are going distributed and passing leadership on to volunteer leaders, these leaders need simple platforms from which they can run their organizing/mobilizing activities. Most current platforms run by hired digital campaigners are too complicated for local leaders to adopt quickly.
Help recruiting base from public events: Groups want easy ways to bring supporters that come out to public events (rallies, town halls etc.) into their digital contact lists
Getting data out of Facebook: A lot of organizers still find Facebook events and groups the easiest way to rally their people. Finding ways to get data to copy to our own platforms would be a great help.
Making texting tools cheaper: Organizers like the great response rates from texting campaigns but find that costs rise quickly, especially if actions scale up quickly (as we want them to).
What do you think?
Have ideas on what needs to be done to improve resources for progressive digital advocacy? We’re all ears!