It’s been a strange Winter, so far. Skipping the play-by-play about what Donald Trump has destroyed in his short time as President, (and honestly, I can’t keep up with it all), I have observed something remarkable which, in turn, brought questions to my mind.
A ton of causes and activist groups have formed, seemingly overnight.
This is no accident, of course. These groups are being helped. Amnesty International offers a manual called Activist Tools on their site with the intent that you’ll find it and use it. The Indivisible Guide is offering similar resources aimed at group leaders and organizers. The aptly-named Resistance Manual is yet another progressive tool — with talking points — aimed at helping causes and young groups.
Aside from the framework and overall messaging, designers, artists, writers, musicians, and creatives from every walk of life have lent their hands in support of what they deem to be The Cause. Posters from January’s Womens March were among the most clever and professionally produced in recent memory.
— Shannon Downey (@ShannonDowney) January 19, 2017
But in spite of their good intent, are these new-formed groups destined to fail?
How Do Causes Work?
Being a productivity nerd and workplace-watcher, I can’t help but wonder how these groups are actually run and managed on a day-to-day (or hour-to-hour) level. Do they create a set of agreed-upon first principles before taking action? Is there a shared resource common to all members? Is there a technology policy that applies regardless of platform? Are workflows being established?
When something is new — be it an activist group or a for-profit company — there’s often a surge in human energy, a sort of momentum that comes from being part of something fresh, rather than something good. This “constructive chaos” is what startups thrive off, and what helps creative pros keep side projects going even after a long working week.
But I will caution anyone taking action to slow down and breathe, just for a moment. The best-run groups, and the ones that endure, don’t just have cool swag and a catchy slogan, but also have methods and culture that can be replicated and taught. They don’t rely on “the X-factor”, they rely on systems and common practices.
New Problems, New Tools
Those systems can be modern indeed. Email is key; even my local swing dance event group has an email list, and most politically active organizations will tie that right into the fundraising infrastructure first pioneered by commercial marketing efforts. Social media is downright necessary, both for instant communication/broadcast such as on Twitter, as well as deeper networking and event-planning tools like Eventbrite or Facebook (personal biases aside).
While most activist groups and causes are riding a surge of passion this winter, see if you can offer in-kind help to your favourite org by improving their workflow and connectivity. Build a marketing funnel they can duplicate. Create Zaps in Zapier or Recipes in IFTTT which can tie together social media functions. Build document templates and send them over. Fix a broken logo. Write a generic branding or principles document and give it away for free.
These are the problems that hot-headed activist groups may not consider in their early days. Your chance to make a difference.
Also, you can do the same at your regular job. … I guess.
How About You?
Have you joined or formed a new activist group or taking action for a cause? Are you lending your systematic thinking and creative powers to help the group succeed beyond their first month? Share your story in the comments.