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Looking to Past Campaigns; Mobilizing a Generation and Organizing for America

Mobilizing Generation 2.outlines seven keys elements of the “2.0” virtually dependent reality we currently thrive in. Those elements, outline as chapters are blogging, social networking, video and photo sharing, mobile phones, wikis, maps and virtual worlds. To some, these may seem obvious as the term “web 2.0” is really up to how the user chooses to define it. This book refers to the world we now live in, the next phase of the web, being referred to as 2.0 or second edition. We are even hypothesized as to be moving quickly into web 3.0. From my experience in CCT, web 2.0 has been referred to as the ability for users to interact and share personalized data, text or graphics in real time. To some or most, their definition is a mixture of the two. In Mobilizing Generation 2.0, each element (or chapter) is broken down into a series of examples, tips and steps as to how one could use the tool to generate mobilization of youth in a digitally dependent world.

Personally, I was drawn to the mobile phone and virtual world chapters. Mobile phones will definitely be playing a central role in upcoming elections, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. It’s been used in the past for petitions, event recruitment, and the timeliness of this medium is heavily discussed as in a n example of the Asthma U.K. text-alert campaign that warned asthma suffers about high pollen days, and times to avoid being outdoors to bring along some remedies. When applying information from this chapter, it is clear that (published in 2008) this book does has not yet realized the potential of smartphones. With smartphones we can connect not only through text messaging but through mobile applications, which can be used to store and collect much more information as well as connect individuals through mobile mapping and messages without tapping into text messaging.

When first investigating Mobilizing Generations 2.0, I was a bit skeptical as to how virtual worlds could be used in mobilizing a generation, as they don’t seem very mainstream or have the ability to mobilize people to vote or become active towards a cause. I then learned of examples where media coverage can be taken into the virtual world, connecting and engaging supporters is possible. Maybe not on a large scale population frame of mind, but on a global scale.Users have sold virtual items for charity, but I still don’t personally see how this can translate into a large enough impact into todays economic environment to make a difference.

A more recent piece, Year One of Organizing for America, was written post Obama Campaign and features a wealth of information about the permanent field campaign in the digital age and was written by Ari Melber. It looks at a number of arenas where digital campaigning came into play and how people were mobilized. Organizing For America (OFA), is what Obama’s campaign was referred to. The report focuses on the first year of OFA in 2009. The first area that was looked at was Community and Reform and looked at areas of politics where people could become engaged and support Obama and where they could begin to reform.”Obama’s post-election effort provided a separate, nonpolicy organizing track explicitly focused on fostering community,” as the OFA was more focused on community and indirect contact with supports. The image of engagement was there, but the actual interaction with OFA was less obvious. OFA was thought of as being a non-political, but governmental campaign to support issues directly affecting america and not the elections, although they were a secondary triumph as the majority of issues that were sided with under OFA were democratic. It effecting increased volunteerism and had a clear strategic agenda.


Mobilizing the Mobile Campaign Strategy; Driving Force for the Upcoming Election Year

In the MobileActive.org Strategy Guide for Using Mobile Phones in Advocacy Campaigns, we were introduced to a number of examples and a case study of countries around the world incorporating mobile phone usage to engage and gather support; allowing people to easily take action and join a cause. Through this guide, we were able to apply the tools and guidelines for using and monitoring a campaign strategy to upcoming 2012 election campaigns that will definitely be integrating mobile applications and SMS text messaging to track, reach, update and mobilize voters. In the article, Trend to Watch in 2012 – The Rise of Mobile by Katie Harbath, published on techPresident, Harbath describes why the use of mobile devices were not incorporated as heavily in past elections, because they simply rose to popularity after campaign strategies were implemented and it was much more difficult to understand, create, implement and measure a mobile campaign halfway into an election.

MobileActive.org outlined a number of helpful guidelines for creating a mobile strategy after outlining how these guidelines were used in past campaigns such as with “Oxfam UK in April 2006 who provided additional data. The organization contacted 2,000 supporters via SMS text message to recruit volunteers to help write content about local events for their website. 10% responded back, providing their email address for follow-up”. We can only expect results to be much more aggressive with campaigns in the United States for the election year. Harbath gives similar examples stating, “For us at the National Republican Senatorial Committee our first ventures into mobile were the launch of an iPhone app in May 2010, the first of any of the party committees to do so, and the building of a very simple mobile version of NRSC.org. With very little statistics out there on what the political online mobile community looks like I wanted to start gathering some data so we were making intelligent decisions on using mobile and not just flying blind. While our iPhone app didn’t get used as much for uploading and sharing user content as I hoped it would, it was accessed over 26,000 times in five months by people watching our videos or looking for information on the candidates. I think a candidate using an iPhone app would see even more use by its visitors, especially presidential candidates”. These results are not surprising.

In the guide published by MobileActive.org, some of the steps for a successful mobile advocacy campaign are:

  1. Set goals and plan your mobile advocacy campaign
  2. Identify a vendor to run the campaign
  3. Develop a marketing plan to reach your mobile constituents
  4. Craft the mechanics of your campaign and your mobile messaging steps
  5. Set up your system to get your mobile data into your in-house database
  6. Decide on your campaign closure and evaluation activites

These are all great steps to follow with any type of marketing campaign; the simply break down into set goals, identify methods of monitoring, develop marketing plan, create marketing material, methods of storing data and set the timeline/sequence of events. Determining a timeline and sequence of events for constituent outreach is definitely a great tool in allowing the implementor to determine where they are in the progression of the campaign. Both articles gave great outlines for campaign strategizing and development.

The upcoming election year will no doubt have the most engagement of any campaigns past. In the most recent presidential elections, we saw the mobilization physically of more people and the activity online, however, we had not yet adopted the mobile application use that we will definitely see next year. The engagement was there, but the ease of contact and engagement was less progressive than it will be next year. Live tweeting sessions, facebook groups/events and mobile applications will most likely lead the way for campaign strategies during election year.


Rapid Change in Online Group Dynamic (Filtering to Come)

As discussed in my previous post, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, a book by Clay Shirky, is based primarily around the internet and group dynamic within the context of organization, mobilization and cohesion within a global reach of individuals through online communities and outreach. The book opens with an example of how drastically the masses of people can come together to support a cause they feel passionately about, even if the subject has little affect on the grander picture within the lives of those participating in the debate over Ivanna’s stolen cellphone.

The book moves in to cover topics surrounding media outlets, social dilemmas, institutional challenges and the pace of user generated content. Within media outlets he states that how our media world is shaped has now shifted so that it is cluttered with the output of those qualified and unqualified informers and potential influencers. I have to agree, at some point, those that are exporting information to others and don’t have viable information can be doing harm online, but the wealth of information we now have makes it difficult for some people not to be informed.

Shirky describes the loss of social capital and how don’t necessary hold others to a certain standard within our social lives. In the mid-1900s, social structures were built on interactions and less on our online space, we built relationships based on who we had access to and made sure those were strong relationships, building circles. Now, we’re building circles online through spaces such as Google+, where they literally call them “your circles”. When we take a minute to think of this, most people have forgone joining clubs and organizations due to their satisfaction with connecting with those that they find online and supporting global causes rather than hyper-local causes.

The challenge of institutions, due to the collective actions of the masses, is the cost at which these actions are worked out, there virtually is none. People can act online, completely bypassing the institutions money making ability to coordinate actions. They then lose the control of the collective. Talent and why people contribute their time is, or the motive, is now taken out of real time and put online, which makes it much more difficult to track for institutions, they lose the ability to know why people are joining causes, if the institution is not currently online using extensive tracking methods. In our Internet Politics class, Simon Owens discussed InfoGraphics and the ability for those to be tracked by bloggers and web-producers, but on a much smaller scale, the motive of those sharing may be skeptical to larger institutions without the ability to hire PR agencies.

Finally, I’ll discuss what Shirky refers to in one of his earlier chapters as “Publish, Then Filter”. Shirky is describing the action of amateurs online to publish irrelevant information with editing or filtering what they are stating, they are simply putting it out there for all to see. This is an interesting concept, because most people (myself included at times), don’t think about who might attain what we are putting online and what some of the consequences of publishing this data can be.

Overall, Shirky’s book was relatable and defined some interesting concepts that can be easily understood by non-techies. The social behavior of organizing large groups without the interference of grand organizations is rapidly changing. The way we come together, connect and motivate others has taken on much different roles than past years due to the rapid alteration in our abilities to use the internet.  In the future, we may see that their will be communities online that attempt to build offline relationships in a more successful manner.


The Alliance “Raise Your Voice” Campaign for International Exchange

Through the course “Internet Politics” led by Professor Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., I will be following the organization Alliance Exchange on all social media and networking levels. There is a current “Raise Your Voice” campaign being implemented that will be the focus of my studies throughout the course. Their website states, “Through our Raise Your Voice for International Exchange campaign, the Alliance is striving to increase the profile of international exchange programs—and their very tangible value in communities across the United States. At a time when pressure is mounting for reductions in federal spending, Members of Congress need to hear directly from their constituents about the local impact of exchanges in their home states and districts. They need to be aware that exchange programs benefit local communities, colleges and universities, high schools, businesses, and individual citizens.” The end result of these studies will be an evaluation of the current campaign and a redesigned campaign to spread awareness for federal support of international exchange.

The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange is an association of nongovernmental organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the United States. The Alliance serves as the only collective public policy voice of the exchange community and works to promote international exchange programs: sending Americans abroad, and bringing foreign participants to the U.S., for educational, professional, or cultural purposes.

The mission of Alliance Exchange is “to formulate and promote public policies that support the growth and well being of international exchange links between the people of the United States and other nations. We work to accomplish this missions through direct advocacy with the U.S. Congress, Department of State, and other agencies within the Executive Branch.”