Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations highlights the role that the internet has played in enabling people to self-organize for a purpose. We have seen this in practice during the Obama campaign and most recently Join the Impact, created in response to the passage of California’s Proposition 8.
Join the Impact illustrates how online technology can bring people together across geographical boundaries, in this case to advocate for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans and protest the passage of discrimination laws like Prop. 8. The website is built on WetPaint, a free website/wiki service. It allows supporters to create or find events in their local area, removing the need for a central organizer to plan and coordinate events themselves. Join the Impact is an example of the difference between planning events and advertising them versus giving anyone who visits the site the tools they need to create their own.
Everyone working with non-profits and political campaigns should take note of this new trend. There is a lot of power in the potential of self-organization. Organizations should think about creating websites that provide as many resources as possible for interested supporters to take the initiative on their own. One thing I would like to suggest, however, is that there is a person or people that are designated as something similar to an ombudsperson to answer questions and provide support. In a way that person would act as a community manager for the program. They don’t need to micromanage, or in some cases manage at all, but should be available and accessible for those that need a little help.
The internet has put a lot of power back in the people’s hands, it is important for us to acknowledge that and enable them.
What are your thoughts about self-organization and the role of the internet? Share your thoughts in the comments.