What “new power” means for campaigners

Our take on an important new study of how power works today

From Tahrir Square to Ferguson, from Hong Kong to Istanbul, it’s no secret that powerful protests are rapidly scaling up and drawing strength from increasingly connected populations locally and globally.

People's Climate March

The September, 2014, People’s Climate March brought together millions of people in New York City and around the world – building power in a call for institutions to act on climate change. Photo courtesy Survival Media.

As we’ve tracked here before, the barriers to entry for social impact are getting lower each day. As the supercomputers in our pockets become more affordable and tools to organise, communicate and fundraise increasingly more powerful, we’re seeing exponential growth in people-powered (and people-led) campaigns.

This rapidly evolving landscape is dramatically affecting the ways campaigning organisations like Greenpeace think and work.

Our friends Jeremy Heimans (Purpose) and Henry Timms (92nd Street Y) have been following the same trends and recently applied a power-based lens to them in their must-read Harvard Business Review article, Understanding “New Power.”

It’s a valuable addition to a conversation that all too often gets reduced to assessing technology’s impact on campaigns.

I’d argue that in the last 20 years, something more fundamental has changed than just new tech. I would argue that there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the world.
Jeremy Heimans speaking at TEDSalon Berlin in June, 2014

MobLab’s Emily Hunter recently sat down with Heimans to talk more about new power and its impact on grassroots campaigns and social change. Check out their conversation in the video below.

Read the rest now…

Five ways campaigns can break through with pop culture

Culture Change Triad Model

American right-wing political agitator and and news pundit Glenn Beck earns an estimated $90 million a year running a media empire aimed at using pop culture to shift cultural values (and political outcomes). Beck has three movies in development, an … [Read more]

New global online network is powering grassroots-led campaigns

Greenpeace Greenwire is connecting a growing activist community
Greenpeace Greenwire

Greenpeace Greenwire, a community platform and social network is - slowly and subtly, but surely - changing the way Greenpeace activism works around the globe. Countries with live Greenwire hubs include the United States, India, Russia, the … [Read more]

Put the power to change global air quality in people’s hands

HabitatMap's DIY approach to citizen science combines wearable devices and open data

Air quality data is a key piece of environmental policy making. Air quality measurements affect everything from local transportation rules to the global climate change debate. Yet most nations rely on government run measurement services that … [Read more]

Be a Lean NGO: Overcoming three key hurdles to build a more iterative organization

Lean Startup

It has been just three years since Eric Ries published The Lean Startup, and the book has become the standard playbook for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world. The principles of the Lean Startup methodology, as you probably know, … [Read more]

Can an app help movements grow by scaling higher level grassroots engagement?

Loomio may make it easier for people to be (meaningfully) involved in campaigns
General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street

Keeping new activists and supporters involved in personally meaningful ways is a continual struggle for new and growing movements. Digital communications tools may expand reach but rarely scale engagement. Ever tried to use email, Skype, group text … [Read more]

Turning one big moment into a lasting campaign

How Compassion & Choices is sharing Brittany Maynard's story
Brittany Maynard

Every organization hopes that one day their online campaign will be the one to go viral. How does a digital team take an advocacy message and package it so that it does? And after the digital tsunami hits, can success be a hindrance for your … [Read more]

Climate activists call for justice in Ferguson

The power - and complexity - of cross-movement organizing crystallizes in St. Louis
Ferguson climate banner

Thousands of people converged on St. Louis for Ferguson October, four days of marches, rallies, sit-ins and prayer meetings protesting the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. The events drew support from … [Read more]

Digital campaigning in the age of marmots

How a nimble team turned an unexpected visit into more online actions
Marmot Licks GoPro

Expect the unexpected may be the motto of the coal exports team at Greenpeace USA. Yet it's hard to know what to do with an unplanned marmot. Despite that, the nimble campaign team turned the unexpected into an advantage. In early August, a … [Read more]