Is there a new recipe for social change?

“The old model for coordination group action required convincing people who care a little to care more, so they would be roused to adt. What Hanni and Streeting did instead was to lower the hurdles to doing something in the first place, so that people who cared a little could participate a little, while being effective in the aggregate.” —Clay Shirky

picture of recipe card

How does the Internet change the way we cook up social change?

In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, Clay Shirky describes the new recipe for community organizing.

Here’s an embellished version of the old recipe: Continue reading →

Getting the word out in a post-print era

This is a re-print of a handout I created for a discussion on getting the word out now that our local paper, the Ann Arbor News, is  closing.

The mass-market broadcast model (How things were)

Synopsis: The established media market was a broadcast system. There were few players that had the resources to run large-scale newspapers, TV, and radio. Because there were few sources, it was harder to get any coverage, there was danger of bias of these sources. But, they did have resources for investigative journalism and if you got covered in these sources, you had a reasonable assurance that you would be noticed.


  • Covers a broad range of topics (sports, business, community, etc)
  • Both quick beat coverage and in-depth investigative coverage;
  • Broad circulation–reaches most people who follow local issues;
  • Accessible, you just need to be able to see and read
  • Discussion of opinions (editorials, letters to editor, other voices)
  • Analysis
  • Provide some level or authoritative coverage


  • Gatekeeper keeps out some voices
  • Bias to not aggravating advertisers
  • Only so much space for coverage
  • Resource intensive (a lot of trees cut and a lot of gas burned)
  • Discussion through letters to the editor is slow and limited to just a few voices

The micro-media/social media model (How things are becoming)

Synopsis: In a world with hundreds of cable TV channels, satellite radio, blogs, podcasts, Internet video, Facebook, Twitter, and more, no one source has the same level of reach, influence, or market share that the major print and broadcast media had. This means that it is easier to get a message out; there are fewer corporate media filters. It also means there is much more competition to get your message listened to. Personal recommendations and word of mouth play a larger role in deciding what people pay attention to.


  • Fewer barriers to entry, less gatekeeper/censor role for mass media
  • More community based
  • Increased opportunity for discussion
  • Fewer dead trees
  • More information is available and easier to retrieve
  • Length of a story is not constrained by a limited number of space on the page


  • “Drinking through a fire hose” effect
  • Self-selecting narrows range of opinions people are exposed to
  • Online reading tends to be more superficial than print reading
  • Limited accessibility
  • Will there be funding for investigative journalism?
  • Questions of reliability
  • Fragmentation of media creates difficulty to create broad awareness of issues

Key challenges/opportunities

  • Ensure access to information means for all residents, overcome the digital divide;
  • Ensure that solid investigative journalism takes place
  • Develop capacity of local groups to use new tools


Local issues:

How to use new media:


  • Personal: Learn to use RSS Reader like Google Reader or Bloglines to help you keep up with local news sites
  • Organizational: Learn to use the tools out there (Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc); develop relationships with new media news sources;
  • Movement: Expand the Progressive Ann Arbor calendar to a more comprehensive Progressive Ann Arbor/Washtenaw site;

Social Media for Nonprofits

In my job with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, I’ve had the chance to work with Peter Dietz as part of our Social Citizens Makeover award from the Case Foundation.

Peter’s main recommendation was to create a cycle where we post videos of our events online and use a Facebook Page and email to create a feedback loop to announce the video and promote our next event.

As we’ve worked to implement this strategy, we’ve hit a few snags. Here are Peter’s recommendations to work them out.

PROBLEM 1. is not working well for us due to problems converting longer videos to flash format.

RECOMMENDATION 1: Look into Vimeo (and also maybe DoGooder)

PROBLEM 2: quantity vs quality of videos, we will have a hard time getting videos up fast AND having high quality videos.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Also, after each event ask panelists or speakers for short clips, get those up fast as a teaser for the full video

PROBLEM 3: migrating our current Facebook group members over to our page.

RECOMMENDATION 3: Recruit a few leaders to the Facebook page, then message all Facebook group members. Message Facebook Group members every now and then to try to get them to move over.

: How to include branding and call to action overlays on online videos.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Use online video hosting tools (such as YouTubes) rather than desktop software.

PROBLEM 5: How to manage email segmentation/integration/double opt-ins.

RECOMMENDATION 5: This is a tough one. Check Salesforce and Vertical Response boards for conversations about this, as well as groups like Perhaps look into products such as Convio’s Common Ground. Perhaps try to get a volunteer to code this.

Peter recommended to put a lot of website space into promoting Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube feeds. and the Case Foundation websites are good examples.

He also mentioned Facebook Page applications to integrate our YouTube and Flickr postings into our Facebook Page.

He also recommended that I blog about this process to add to the converstion and get additional feedback (and that’s just what I’m doing!)