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May 2010

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Ben Sheldon

Netcentric Advocacy has some good thoughts about the differences between Campaigns and Movement building:

Despite the rhetoric people use, Facebook and online social networks are not a place to build movements which are very much built on wide-open interactions. The old adage "Knowledge equals Power" leaves open how that power will be turned into action. On the other hand, Facebook, Causes and most online interactions instead try to funnel individuals into distinct activities (donate this, call that, retweet this, meet here). It begins to look like the Henry Ford model for social change.

Online social media tools are great for "communications" (in the modern marketing sense) but they haven't yet reached the point where they can "organize" (in the Alinsky sense)---and I'm skeptical that they ever will.

I'm glad to hear more stories of real organizers and movement builders!

Beth Kanter

Can you explain the Henry Ford model for social change?

Ben Sheldon

I was just being glib with the Henry Ford line: I meant that "Social Change" has become like a modern industrial assembly line in which people are asked to perform distinct and limited actions that are far removed from their overall goal. We're not empowering people to change the world, we're telling them to tighten down bolt.

Sure, we rationalize it ("people don't have time to do more", "we don't have the resources to organize something more", "the issues require we hire professionals") but the outcome is that we're the ones who are lowering people's expectations for becoming involved in creating change.

My opinion on things is a lot more nuanced, but I fear that we're seeking the lowest common denominator of action when we go online.

Celeste Wroblewski

Margie Schaps (there's an s missing from the caption) is a dear friend. She and Quentin are both wonderful. Thanks for this article.

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