Rashad Robinson from ColorOfChange.org (last seen around these parts on a Democracy Exchange last year) will be joining a tele-clinic hosted by the Center for Media Justice this coming Friday. The session, Online Organizing for Social Justice, will explore best practices, troubleshooting assistance, and offer discussion on strategies for getting the most out of your new media communications. Here’s more, from the Center:
Online organizing using technologies such as social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, YouTube, e-mail, and podcasts can enable faster communications by social justice movements and the delivery of local information to a wide audience. In 21st century communications organizing, the use of online strategies has become crucial to building movement momentum, and amplifying your community’s and your organization’s public voice.
This monthly tele-clinic will focus on online organizing – including list building, email blasts, designing alerts, and other tactics, platforms and strategies. Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change will offer best practices and help participants receive feedback on their current strategies and practices and troubleshoot challenges.
Sign up on the session’s EventBrite page.
The state of Washington will be taking the next step in convenience voter registration as they will roll out an application allowing eligible voters to register via Facebook. Washington has allowed online voter registration since 2008 (when 158,000 new voters registered online), but it will now become the first state to allow voters to register via the social networking website.
Here’s how it works, via TechPresident:
When users access the Facebook application, it asks them to give permission to transfer their name and date of birth from their Facebook profile to the application’s interface. The application then performs a real-time check against the database to see if the user is already registered, in which case it directs the user to the My Vote interface. If not, it brings up an interface allowing the voter to register, assuming the user has a Washington state driver’s license or I.D. card number. If that is entered, the system does a real-time check against the Department of Licensing’s database.
Yahoo! News reports that Rock the Vote has also launched an online app in collaboration with the state of Washington, separate from the Facebook app, targeting young folks to register to vote. Heather Smith, Rock the Vote’s Executive Director, says that they will be launching similar applications for California, Oregon, and Nevada.
Leveraging technology and online social networks are great ways to get young people (and all people who utilize the internet) to register to vote. It can only have a positive effect on voter registration in the state, and perhaps will encourage other states to think of creative, new ways to outreach to eligible voters.
Earlier this year, our friends at the National Conference on Citizenship launched the first-ever Civic Data Challenge at the Data 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The project hopes to bring new eyes, new minds, new findings, and new skill sets to the field of civic health.
The Challenge will turn the raw data of “civic health” into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive. NCoC is opening up its data, as well as other data on the important topics of health, safety, education, and the economy.
You’re invited to collaborate with others, analyze the data, and create something amazing to showcase what you find. Designers, data scientists, researchers, and app developers are especially encouraged to join the challenge. There will also be prizes given out to the winners (!).
All entries for the Challenge must be received by July 29, so time is running out! Winners will be announced at the 67th Annual National Conference on Citizenship on September 14 in Philadelphia.
The Challenge is presented by NCoC (the National Conference on Citizenship) in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. NCoC and Knight Foundation hope the Challenge will uncover new findings on why community engagement and attachment are critical to building thriving communities.
This week the State Integrity Investigation released its final findings and scores. The investigation, headed by groups Global Integrity, Center for Public Integrity, and Public Radio International, looked into 330 different “corruption risk indicators” divided into 14 categories and used them to put together a final corruption risk grade for each state in the US. The categories deal with transparency, public access to information, ethics, judicial accountability, redistricting, and other areas.
Grades reflect the structures in place to prevent corruption, and the degree of access that the public has to these structures and mechanisms. Much of the grade, too, has to do with the “teeth” of the law, and what happens on the enforcement end. The end results and grades do not bode well for residents, as states overall have a long way to go in rooting out corruption.
Only four states nationwide received a grade of B or higher, while no states scored an A, and 8 states received F’s. More than half of the states, 26, received grades of D or F from the investigation. See each state’s final grades here.
What does this mean for democracy? It means that, by and large, states have not been doing a good job of presenting clear and open information for the public. Additionally, it means that the business of the people has been taking place largely behind closed doors, leaving considerable space for back-room deals and actions taken by officials that conflict with the public interest. Other reports have shown the areas in which corruption occurs the most (University of Illinois-Chicago Anti-Corruption Report, PDF), but even when laws and mechanisms are in place, corruption can and does happen. What matters more sometimes is how quickly offenders get caught, and how they are punished for their actions.
How can we push our states to enact tougher laws and, hopefully, improve their score for the next study? On each state’s page users can submit the scores to their representatives. Together, we can push our legislators to enact more stringent laws and structures to help root out corruption. It will require a large movement of the people because up until now, at least according to this thorough investigation, states have not been moving that much on their own.
The Campaign for Stronger Democracy is delighted to announce the hiring of its new executive director, Peter Hardie. Peter has already begun his work at the Campaign, and brings with him extensive experience from both local and national electoral campaigns, in a variety of roles including field and leadership positions.
“There may be nothing more challenging than genuinely democratic communities; there is also nothing more transcendent, or more closely linked to our health and sustainability as a nation, indeed, as a global society,” said Peter. “The Campaign for Stronger Democracy is a community of folks from divergent fields and practices who all stand on this fundamental truth of democracy: the more the better. I can’t be more pleased and honored than to have been asked to lead this initiative.”
Peter recently completed a strategic thinking process with Demos/The American Prospect, and previously served as Executive Director of the Pushback Network, a national network of grassroots organizations developing electoral and voter engagement strategies for social change. Peter has also helped lead TransAfrica Forum, an international advocacy organization, and worked as a consultant to the Ford Foundation.
A graduate of Harvard University and labor and community activist upon leaving college, he helped shape many grassroots community initiatives around peace and justice, violence against women, youth involvement and public schools. He enjoyed teaching in a Boston public high school and working with activists on public school reform efforts. As a union member and staff person for a number of unions, he organized new members, negotiated contracts and addressed issues of workplace democracy.
Peter is also principal of Wayfinding Organizational Consulting, incorporating principles of community and discovery into the dynamics of organization, social justice and social impact.
“As father to a seventeen-year-old son, I know only too well the intrinsically human quest for democracy,” said Hardie. “We want to be heard. We want to shape and craft our surroundings. We want to grow, and we want others to grow alongside us. We want a stake, and a say.”
Now a couple of days removed from the 2011 State of the Union address, we take a look around at some of the reactions from the democracy arena:
- National Conference on Citizenship points out President Obama’s stressing of civic participation and public works as ways to jumpstart the country. NCoC brings the speech back to their report from 2011 on the connection between civic health and unemployment.
- The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights released a statement touching on the importance of closing the student opportunity gap; the loss of public sector jobs; and the pay gap between men and women, and women of color in particular.
- Public Campaign notes that the President pushed for an end to lobbyist bundling, which they say is a positive step. However, United Republic mentions that the President also receives bundled contributions, though not from lobbyists.
- Sunlight Foundation also touches on lobbying, saying that it is very unlikely for President Obama’s proposal from his speech to pass both houses of Congress. Instead, Sunlight suggests focusing on increasing lobbyist disclosure and tightening requirements for who must register as lobbyists.
- TechPresident has a rundown of some of the ways in which technology enhanced the State of the Union viewing experience, including the White House’s interactive feed, and twitter reactions.
- From ColorOfChange, executive director Rashad Robinson says that the organization applauds the creation of a governmental unit to investigate banks, but still demands full accountability from banks.
- In the Huffington Post, Sayu Bhojwani of the New American Leaders Project said that although President Obama spoke about the need for immigration reform, his actions so far in his presidency have not backed up what he has said.
- NoLabels pushed for Senators and representatives to sit together in the House during the speech. The New York Times reports that not many chose to intermingle with the other party (though most who did were Senators)
- In Nonprofit Quarterly, Rick Cohen examines the omission of the nonprofit sector from the speech.
- Research!America says that the President’s call for enhanced training in science and technology is a very positive development, but notes that funding must be preserved for progress to truly be made.
- Politico reports that one of the items President Obama spoke about in the speech, the STOCK Act, is coming closer to getting a vote and heading to the President for a signature. The bill would ban insider stock trading by members of Congress.
- Finally, Colorlines has word clouds for all three of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses.
Much has been said this week about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), particularly as it concerned the shutting down of some of our recent websites, even if only for a day.
The bills caused an uproar in the online community, and many websites including Wikipedia, Blogger, and Reddit decided to go dark for the day and direct their users to contact their representatives to oppose the bills. According to SOPAstrike.com, over 115,000 websites participated in the strike, over 3,000,000 emails were sent (and likely more), and over 10,000,000 signed the petition against SOPA/PIPA.
The strike showed a great amount of people-power, just in the sense that so many folks took the time to sign the petition and contact their representatives. It was a great exercise in mobilization and education on issues relating to the internet.
But, did it work?
In the short term, that answer appears to be “yes.” Today the votes on both SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate have been delayed, and the number of Representatives and Senators opposing the bills has grown in the past few days.
What, if anything, can we learn from this moment, and what are the next steps? In the future, will well trafficked parts of the internet have to shut down in order to draw attention to an issue? What are some other approaches to creating this sort of widespread protest to restrictive legislation? How can we connect issues from different parts of the democracy movement and have these 10 million people unite behind an array of other issues that may be of importance to them as well?
Clearly, there are still more questions than answers, but one thing for sure is that democracy is alive and well. People are willing to contact their representatives and make their voices heard, but they also have to be motivated. At the very least, the SOPA/PIPA internet strike shows what happens when the usually-napping giant of US democracy is awakened. Now, to just awaken it more frequently…