09NTC Lessons for Online Organizers

community_organizer300x243The 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference concluded yesterday, and there was a nuanced energy about how the nonprofit sector can use new media to bring social change. “Community organizing” became popular, yet controversial during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. As new media played a large role in Obama winning the White House, many 09NTC attendees came to learn about using the virtual energy from Obama’s campaign and bridging some of the core principals of community organizing into online organizing.

One of those hopeful online organizers was Tika Giday, a Ethiopian nonprofit health advocate, who was given admission to the conference by a friend who registered and couldn’t attend last minute. Giday said that she was happy to have the opportunity to attend 09NTC by chance to meet with other nonprofit technies about digital activism, and was looking forward to using her skills when she gets back to Addis Ababa.

“I am so blessed to come to a technology conference in America now because in Africa, everyone is happy to see Barack win the presidency,” Giday said. “We are very impressed with the way he used online media tools, and I am here to learn from other activists and their best practices of political and social activism online.”

Giday went to two workshops that addressed the online “Obama effect;” one of which was called “Online Organizing for Community Organizers.” The workshop was lead by Charles Lenchner of the Working Famiies Party, who has an extensive background using online organizing for many political and environmental organizations, including Democracyinaction.org, Change.org and MoveOn.org. Giday also went to another workshop that featured Michael Silberman of EchoDitto and Anne Marie Ashburn of the New Organizing Institute. Silberman worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, while Ashburn was a Obama campaign field organizer in Chicago last year, who switched over to training campaign staff on using new media tools.

Giday wrote down some notable quotes from the panelists in these workshops, which include the following:

“Anyone can start a Facebook cause, but it is another thing to mobilize the people joining the cause.”

“You can’t separate the mission of the organization from the tools used to reach the goal of the mission.”

“You have to be clear about your social mission”

“Email addresses are people too!”

“Be an active listener of what your online constituency wants and what they will give to your cause.”

“Treat people respectfully online, especially if you want them to support your causes.”

“It is important for online organizers to mobilize supporters to do real world actions.”

Before the conference, Giday said she didn’t feel sure she could be a digital activist. However, three days later, she feels more confident about going back to Ethiopia and training others about being onling organizers. In the next few days, she would like to start her own Facebook and Twitter accounts in preparing of a digital activism she wants to do.

“I have even purchased a Flip camera, and I would like to record the many injustices in my community and share them with the world online,” Giday continued. “Maybe Mr Obama will see my videos!”

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