Interning For Organizing 2.0 Is Amazeballs

amazeballsHere at Organizing 2.0 we take internships seriously. So we’ve crafted a thoughtful description, posted it in a variety of useful places, and asked all our supporters to share on social media. But there’s nothing as powerful as personal testimony. So here goes:

Hey folks! My name is Katie and I just graduated Harvard. I know, being an intern isn’t always great—lots of busy work, and often little actual experience in the field you’re interested in. But when Charles asked me to help recruit interns, I couldn’t turn him down. I can honestly tell you that interning with Charles a few years ago was an amazing experience. I didn’t feel like an intern, I felt like part of his team.

That’s probably due in part to the small size of his team, but it’s also in large part because of the type of boss Charles is. As his intern, you might be in charge of everything from setting his schedule to helping run presentations to reaching out to contacts yourself. There’s no limit to what the intern can do, it’s just a matter of what you can handle. And that’s the genuinely cool thing about this opportunity: you can grow in your responsibilities as your term progresses. If you’re at all interested in online organizing, you’ll get more experience in this internship than anywhere else.

That’s from Katie, a native of Brooklyn and Russia who worked with me a few years ago.

More recently, I had the pleasure of working with Sam:

My name is Sam and I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin. Like many graduates, I didn’t have that much work experience when I left the bubble of college life and entered the real working world. I had done a few summer and mid-semester internships, but always found these work environments more of an opportunity for observation than contribution. Then I joined Charles. Within the first week, it became abundantly clear that I was not there to sit back and learn passively. Charles genuinely needed me to learn the trade and execute tasks to keep things moving forward. This is what I found so great about my experience interning with Charles- I was finally a contributing member of a team.

As my work progressed, I earned more and more freedoms and would say that I worked with Charles rather than for him. I learned so much so rapidly that around a month with Charles equated the same value for me as all my previous experiences. My daily work was dynamic and I learned tons of new areas of expertise: managing, supporter engagement, reporting, social media, design and more. I became more than an intern, I felt like an asset. So, if you are looking to really improve your skills in online marketing, organizing and writing- take this internship with Charles. But only do so if you really want to learn and work; and when you leave this internship, I promise you will be better prepared to enter the workforce. Your coffee making skills will not improve from this internship, but all of your other ones likely will.

Look, these are personal testimonies from people who have interned with me, Charles Lenchner. I’m going to be the primary supervisor for our Fall interns. So while most interns are focused on the letter of recommendation they get from their supervisors, candidates should be aware that at Organizing 2.0 we think about the letters of recommendation we’ll be getting from you.

If you like our approach – please apply to become our intern!

Organizing 2.0 Fall Internship

We’re pleased to announce our brand new internship program. Please help us share this posting widely. It’s an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in labor, progressive communications, local politics and digital strategy. (Download flyer here.)

Fall 2013 Internship Open in New York City

Do you support social justice, equality, and other progressive values? Do your friends rely on you for political news and current events? Do you regularly use social media, blogs, and your smartphone to make your voice heard?

Organizing 2.0 is a New York-based organization committed to building power for workers and community organizing groups. We’ve trained over 2000 people in the last three years to harness online tools for organizing – and we want you to join us. [BTW, read what former interns have to say about working with us…]

What’s in it for me?

Our interns will be helping to organize training events, our annual organizing training conference, and using our tools in support of local labor struggles that need us. We’re a lean organization run by volunteers, which means you’ll have plenty of serious responsibilities, if you can handle them. No fetching coffee or photocopying in our office!

The ideal candidate is comfortable with technology, activism and progressive politics. Our ideal candidate wants to make a difference – strengthening labor groups and unions, helping marginalized people organizing from below and progressive political groups fighting for the 99%.

What You Will Learn:

  • How to plan and manage professional events from A to Z
  • Organizing software and tools including Salsa,, Google Analytics, WordPress, Thunderclap and more
  • The makeup of New York’s and America’s progressive movement(s), including labor, community organizing, and
  • progressive infrastructure
  • The basics of online marketing as applied towards social good
  • Nonprofit management skills

What We Require:

  • Knowledge of current events and comfort with social media
  • A passion for progressive political change
  • Highly organized, with an ability to prioritize time-sensitive assignments
  • Fearlessness – not afraid to be a bold and outside the box thinker
  • Honesty and integrity in fulfilling your commitments

It Would Be Great If You Could:

  • Use graphics, video editing and web development software
  • Point to previous leadership experience in clubs, student government and community groups

We strongly encourage applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply (PoC, LGBT, Differently Abled, or Undocumented.)

This is a rolling admission – we accept new interns during August and September.

  • Minimum commitment is 15 hours/week, preference for 20-40
  • 12 week minimum
  • Stipends of $500-$1000 a month available (25 hours/week and up)
  • Suitable for school credit in a variety of majors

To apply, click here. No phone calls or emails please.

Organizing 2.0 is a collective of communicators and online organizers working for unions and social justice groups. We run events, trainings, consult and promote uncommon interactions within and between our communities. We cross boundaries between labor, progressives, nonprofits, tech firms, faith communities and techies of all stripes. We are located near Union Square in a co-working facility.

Commitment to Intern Rights. We believe that many internships are exploitative and amount to unpaid slave labor imposed on young people interested in interesting and challenging careers. Our commitment is that you will not be performing the job of a paid staff person, this will be primarily a learning experience, and you will be treated at all times with respect.

The Future of the Left – A Conversation on Unity

This event is over! But it was great and you should have been there. This is what you missed:

Welcome to our event! We’re sitting at the livestream table at SEIU1199 near Times Square in New York City. The full description of the event is below the video feed.
Participate in the conversation via Twitter using the hashtag #futureleft

A conversation on left unityFuture of the Left

Chaired by Pat Fry – Left Labor Project

Opening remarks from Mark Solomon – Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. (Read the article that launched a thousand conversations.)

Responses by:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara, Editor – Jacobin Magazine
  • Libero Della Piana, Vice Chair – Communist Party USA
  • Maria Svart, National Director – Democratic Socialists of America
  • Eric Odell – Freedom Road Socialist Organization

After the conversation, join us for a reception with light food and beverages. We’d love to get to know you, and we hope to give you
the chance to meet and speak with other like-minded people!

Hosted by:

  • Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Communist Party USA
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization

With participation and support from:
Jacobin Magazine | Left Labor Project | Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office | The Brecht Forum

Event: Organizers and Change-Makers, Not Martyrs (5/9/13)

You are an Organizer. You are a Change-Maker. You do this work because you have witnessed the power of you and your friends, working side by side for long hours, to alter the course of history.

In the culture of organizers at unions, campaigns or non-profits, we push ourselves because the suffering and obstacles we are up against are intense. And when it comes down to it, there can never be too many votes, too many donations, or too many activists marching for justice.

As organizers, we often fight harder for other’s health than our own. We know that health plans must include preventative care and our energy sources must be sustainable. We fight for wages that match the work being completed. But we often fail to apply these values to our own work.’

We can do better for ourselves and our organizations. Stress, overwork, and unhealthy work practices are accepted as the norm even though they cause lower productivity and burnout.

Join The Action Mill‘s Nick Jehlen , Dara Silverman and Organizing 2.0 for an evening about how we can move towards sustainability in our work as organizers.

RSVP Here for Organizers and Change-Makers, Not Martyrs on May 9.

The answers are in development from places like the Action Mill, which researches and designs tools that create better workplaces for people. They look at work habits, organizational structure, communication tools and more that have practical implications towards healthier and more resilient workplaces.

Nick Jehlen will discuss practical steps to reshape our unsustainable work, as is the the focus of The Action Mill. He will be joined by Dara Silverman, a consultant with experience developing and planning campaigns, supporting new and experienced organizers, fundraising, strategic planning, and board development

It is not just about taking better care of ourselves as individuals, but creating work environments that help everyone to be more productive over the long-term so we are ready to grow our movements and sustain them for the road to come.

Thursday, May 9


at the North Star Fund at 520 8th Ave, Suite 2230, Manhattan

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Special Guests: Kenzo Shibata and Erin Hofteig

Kenzo Shibata, new media coordinator for chicagot public teachers unionKenzo Shibata is the New Media Coordinator at the Chicago Public Teachers Union. In that role he had a massive and prominent impact on the successful strike last year. He’ll be speaking bright and early: 9 am, Saturday, March 23rd.

Erin Hofteig, former digital director of the AFTInterviewing him will be Erin Hofteig, outgoing digital director of the American Federation of Teachers. I’ve known her since she was helping to transition the AFL-CIO to Salsa (the database/CRM tool that most unions use). She’s an incredible teacher who wants to map out next steps for labor and new media tools.

We’re interested in questions like: what digital preparations were made before the strike? How was digital included in strategy discussions? What were the working relationships between communications (PR) and social media space? How did members’ roles evolve as users of social media supporting their union during a difficult time?

In other words, they’re going to have an open conversation about the nuts and builds of building power online during a strike, and the relationships inside a union local that is doing it right.

Got questions? Post them here in the comments and we’ll pass them to Kenzo and Erin. They will also be part of other sessions addressing labor unions use of new media at the local level.

Full bios:

Kenzo Shibata taught high school English in the Chicago Public Schools for nearly a decade and was a founding member of CORE: The Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators.

Shibata was a labor and public education activist who reported and blogged on education policy before taking a position with the Chicago Teachers Union. From 2010-2012 he was the chief publications editor before taking on the newly created position of social media coordinator in July of 2012. He manages social media, blogs, and edits video for CTU. His work can be seen in Gapers Block, Beachwood Reporter, AREA-Chicago, Alter-Net, In These Times, Substance News, Jacobin Magazine, Huffington Post, Labor Notes and Truth-Out. His social media work has been highlighted in NPR, The Daily Dot, and DNA-Info.

He’s been a guest on Take Action News and the Matthew Filipowicz Show.

Shibata recently completed his Masters in Public Policy at Northwestern University. Follow him on Twitter: @kenzoshibata @ctulocal1

Erin Hofteig is a new media strategist and manager with over a decade of experience during which time she has raised millions of dollars, launched strategic initiatives to win campaigns – both electoral and political – built large, multifaceted websites, run online advertising campaigns, trained hundreds of people to use these tools to strategically reach online and offline goals, and built strong connections to leaders of the progressive online community as well as with leaders of a variety of traditional progressive organizations.

Erin specializes in strategic planning, online marketing and communications, website design and outreach. A graduate of the California State University, Chico with a double major in Political Science and International Relations, Erin has worked with everyone from national Presidential campaigns, Democratic state parties, national party infrastructure, non profits, media organizations, private companies, individual campaigns and the labor movement. She loves to play poker.

Getting Your Skills On @ Organizing New York

ONY is comingWho needs skills training? Well… everyone. Which explains in part why progressives, nonprofit staff and activists are inundated with capacity-building efforts of every stripe. Webinars, Meetups, trainings, workshops, conferences near and far, free e-books, and courses you can take at your own pace.

It’s understandable really. New tools are coming out all the time, new research pours out with ever-changing best practices, and new people come up through the ranks with the unique lessons they want to share.

Organizing New York fits in this landscape by working with grassroots organizations and making sure our offerings match what they want, rather than serving as a vehicle to sell you products or services. Our larger purpose – beyond some session you find useful – is to create communities of practice that cross the silos that litter the progressive landscape.

Doing better at organizing is a shared interest for many. But it’s often a struggle to find someone in your own organization who has the answer to a small but nagging software question, a good canvassing checklist, or a vendor recommendation. Good communities of practice exist, and should spread, beyond our narrow issue areas, geographic focus, and constituency boundaries.

We hope you’ll come to one or more days of Organizing New York not only to learn, teach, share and network, but also to see yourself as part of more communities of practice than you knew existed. Even if you only wanted to learn how to organize your sock drawer!

Three Tracks, Three Days

Our sessions are formally divided into three tracks: online organizing, civic engagement, and grassroots fundraising. Practically, many of them cross those boundaries – and that’s on purpose. It’s hard to pretend anymore that online tools and traditional organizing methodologies aren’t so completely interwoven that you can’t do one without the other.


Software and Tech Training: Many of our organizations use NationBuilder, Salsa, CiviCRM, and the VAN. Our priority is to offer basic training sessions AND opportunities for more advanced folks to get help. Staff from NationBuilder and SalsaLabs are coming to the conference, and we’ll have many experts around who can try and solve some of those harder questions.

Strategy and Tactics: What is digital strategy? How to campaign in low turnout elections? Can your organization run a successful crowdfunding campaign?

Fundraising: Most fundraising trainings in New York are geared towards foundation fundraising.  We know that only about 12% of foundation funding goes to social justice groups.  We need to create a funding base in our own communities.  This track will offer some of the best experts in the region training on everything from building a volunteer fundraising group,  running amazing events, building your online fundraising capacity to creating asking (and receiving) big gifts.

Racial Justice: Sometimes, tech-oriented conferences skew towards white dudes. But our mission is to advance all our causes, and to prioritize issues that impact low-income communities, communities of color, women and queer people. This means highlighting and foregrounding experts from grassroots communities and making sure the conference is accessible to everyone.  This also means addressing racial justice explicitly in a session about grassroots fundraising for people of color and sessions on working with the Dominican, Puerto Rican and African American online communities. We’re also happy to announce that some sessions will be offered in Spanish, with others having simultaneous interpretation, that we will have child-care throughout the entire conference. We are working in partnership with base-building communities from across New York City and the region to move this from an idea into reality.

Workshops from the Community: Our third day is also called Rootscamp. That means it is part of a New Organizing Institute tradition of putting on ‘unconferences’ that feature workshops proposed by attendees that become participatory skill shares. We are using this page to solicit workshop proposals and to learn what the community values the most. Submit your proposal today, and on Sunday morning volunteers will assemble the day’s agenda based on feedback from the participants.

Camp Wellstone: Politics, how does it work? That’s a question often asked by activists trying to master the detailed specifics of running an election campaign or winning victories on issues during and after election campaigns. Camp Wellstone participants will spend most of their time together, learning from professional trainers. This is a highly sought after training and registration will close soon. Camp Wellstone uses the same registration page, but you can learn more about them here as well.

Faith: We are also running a special session on Friday for organizers from the faith community. If this is of interest to you because your nonprofit has a religious or interfaith affiliation, or you work from a strong faith perspective – please contact us at for more details. This session will only be open to those who have pre-registered for it.

Organizing New York takes place March 22-24 at the United Federation of Teachers, 52 Broadway. Register here. A full schedule for Friday and Saturday is here. A listing of approved sessions appears below, though it is subject to change.

Please note we do have childcare – please let us know what your needs are. The venue is completely wheelchair accessible.

  • 501c3 and 501c4: How They Work and What Is the Difference
  • Campaigning in Low Turnout Elections (Both Online and Offline)
  • How to Scare Companies and Influence People Online.
  • Developing Effective Communications Strategy
  • Getting National Activists to Focus and Engage in Local Campaigns
  • How the NY State Legislature Works
  • How to Use Policy To Build Progressive Power
  • NYC Government Power and How It Works: Public Advocate, Council, Speaker, Mayor, etc.
  • Online Ads: When You Have No Money
  • Personal Stories That Drive Online Campaigns
  • Running Against the Machine
  • Special Events Planning 101 and 102
  • Winning Statewide Fights
  • A-thons
  • Best Practices in Data Management- Analyst Reportback
  • Building a Culture of Fundraising
  • Building a Fundraising Team: Volunteers, Boards and More….
  • Building Authentic Donor Relationships
  • Developing a Fundraising Plan
  • Fundraising From Your Membership Base
  • Grassroots Fundraising 101
  • How To Ask For A Gift
  • Online Fundraising 101 (with Spanish)
  • Parties for Fun and Profit
  • People of Color and Fundraising
  • Planning Your CrowdFunding Campaign
  • White People and Fundraising
  • Advanced Social Media Strategy
  • Building Engagement on Facebook for Your Organization
  • Easy Design Changes to Make Your Website More Engaging
  • Evangelizing Online Organizing Within Your Organization
  • Facebook 101
  • Google Analytics
  • How to Ensure That Your Web Project is a Complete Failure
  • How to Manage or Be a Social Media Volunteer Captain
  • Introduction To Digital Strategy
  • Making Video that Doesn’t Suck
  • Mobile Phone Organizing Strategies
  • Nationbuilder Training
  • NYC Online Local Politics

Sunday is Rootscamp!  The process to determine the rootscamp program has begun on the Google Moderator site and the final schedule will be determined on Sunday morning when we fill in “The Wall.”

You can vote on proposals such as these:

  • Place-based digital campaigns: It’s Not About Tools, It’s About People.
  • Integrating blogging, Facebook and Twitter to Mobilize and Get the Word Out
  • Advanced Excel for Analytics Strategy
  • Local online organizing: how unions, community organizations, and political campaigns can effectively use online organizing, even without a large budget.
  • Email Deliverability: How to make sure your supporters are actually seeing your awesome content. (for folks with mass email lists),
  • What to do when your city is drowning? Integrating climate justice into progressive struggles of all kinds in New York City – basically a discussion about how stopping climate change can connect all kinds of campaigns/struggles in NYC.
  • 0 to 200k in 6 months: how to get a Facebook page of the ground and make it viral. We’ll go over best practices for social media posts: type of content, time of day, whether to promote it, and tricks to get your posts noticed (+ a bit of analytics).
  • How do you stay independent from special interests while doing online activism ? Create and sustain an online campaign around social, economic, and legal issues that identifies special interests and steers clear of pitfalls of being co-opted.
  • What is NVDA (non-violent direct action)? How do you organize Civil Disobedience? amongst diverse communities and issues?
  • Panel on recent efforts to organize low income service workers – fast food, supermarket, car wash and others. Emphasize what has been learned about the utility of new tools, explain the organizing model.
  • Do you need a website where folks can build expertise, organize (start or join working groups), and take action (using lots of tools, resources and support along the way)? We can discuss pooling $$ 2 create an open source site 4 use by many groups.
  • Managing Difficult People, every organization has a problematic stakeholder. Participants are given scenarios where they take roles with the idea of keeping the stakeholder within the organization without alienating them.
  • Drupal 101: A completely easy workshop aimed at new Drupal users (not at developers). For folks learning to post and edit content in Drupal.
  • Healing: how do we incorporate more healing and dealing with trauma spaces within organizing. burn out is not just about workload but also the trauma folks are holding.
  • Social Media Metrics- or why it doesn’t matter how many followers you have- we’ll explore how we measure what matters- engagement and conversion to action
  • Pinterest: How best to use it in advocacy and electoral campaigns (case studies and brainstorming)
  • 0 to 200k in 6 months: how to get a Facebook page of the ground and make it viral. We’ll go over best practices for social media posts: type of content, time of day, whether to promote it, and tricks to get your posts noticed (+ a bit of analytics).
  • Former Congressman Major R. Owens headed NYC’s Poverty Program in the 60′s and 70′s. it was a landmark example of bringing the community to the decision table as a full partner. He would offer an important perspective as a conference speaker.
  • Targeted voter registration. How to target and use voter registration trends to your advantage. When is voter registration not necessary.
  • Student Organizing in New York State: How students in NY are getting engaged at a local and national level and how they are building power
  • Building solidarity: how do we do it? are the voices of those queer, trans, poc, youth, people with disabilities and immigrants represented? are these folks speaking for themselves? how do we build that organizing space?
  • What small actions can organizers take online to boost offline campaign / mobilization success?
  • In the heat of the moment: Coordinating Twitter in street guerilla protests. What happens if DHS jams the internet? Limitations and advantages of Twitter for direct action and disaster relief. Will the revolt be tweeted?
  • Developing Your Brand, this would be a workshop of organizers interested in presenting their cause/candidate to the outside world. It would be hands on where participants are given resource materials and asked to develop a brand.
  • Too many campaigns, news and information sources, and even contests require the public to participate on Facebook, which many smart or private activists refuse to ‘LIKE’.How to create an effective and/or viral on-line presence WITHOUT using Facebook.
  • 9/11-Katrina-Sandy: How Govt recovery funding/agency oversight is demographically/politically/geographically biased. How delay & improperly regulated response endangers health of recovery workers & the public.
  • “How Facebook Helped Win Gay Marriage” Digital and social media played a crucial role in changing marriage from a losing issue to a winning one. Come learn what worked, what didn’t and what’s next.
  • Organizing Faith Based Committees, faith leaders have huge reach, organizing them into a political group can help progressive candidates win elections. Led by proven faith based organizers this could help conference goers move into new areas.

Workshops and Presentations at Organizing New York

Here’s a partial listing of what you might learn if you come to Organizing New York (March 22-24):

Y U No Register for Organizing New YorkOnline campaigning and digital strategy

  • Classes in NationBuilder, Salsa, and CiviCRM (popular databases)
  • Mobile phone organizing strategies
  • Building engagement on Facebook for organizations
  • Using humor and comedy in your communications
  • Personal stories and story-telling that drive campaigns
  • Advanced social media strategy
  • Introduction to digital strategy
  • Online political tactics for local campaigns in New York City
  • How to ensure that your web project is a complete failure (!)
  • Seven easy things you can do to make your website more engaging
  • Online Idol: Experts evaluate existing campaign and organizing websites and social media usage
  • Using online video in your organizing without wasting vast resources that have no impact
  • Running an online advertising campaign when you are broke
  • Safe space and no judgment! Facebook and Twitter 101
  • How to choose a CRM and CMS (database, donation tools, website design software)
  • Google analytics for beginners: what every online campaigner should know
  • Taking on corporations online and winning
  • Working with bloggers and the blogosphere to advance your issue
  • Managing your volunteer social media communicators to deepen engagement
  • Working with Puerto Rican and Dominican American communities online
  • Working with African American communities online
  • Evangelizing online organizing within your organization

Civic Engagement

  • Recruiting ‘national issues’ activists for local political impact
  • Leveraging New York’s progressive power for national impact
  • Understanding the most important elections tool – the VAN
  • How to advance statewide issues (like marriage equality, fair elections and higher taxes on the 1%)
  • C3 and C4 legal workshop: advancing progressive issues without getting into trouble with the IRS
  • How to advance city wide and local issues in New York City
  • Introduction to this economic mess we are in – understanding the progressive narrative on inequality
  • Performing the narrative: how to speak and message on economic issues for maximum impact
  • Running against the political machine (any machine!)
  • Have you ever thought about running for office? Find out what it takes
  • What we know: recent lessons from organizing citizens and workers in low income communities using online and offline strategies in perfect harmony
  • Using policy initiatives to build progressive political power
  • Campaigning in low turnout elections, online and offline

Grassroots Fundraising

  • Online Fundraising 101
  • Grassroots Fundraising 101
  • Collaborative and creative fundraising strategies: thinking outside the box
  • Developing a fundraising plan
  • Building a culture of fundraising in your organization
  • Getting your board on board with fundraising
  • Major donors: building a team, running a campaign
  • Thon-a-thons: thoning the %&*! out of anything
  • Fundraising from your membership base
  • People of color and fundraising
  • White people and fundraising
  • Planning your best fundraising event EVER
  • How to ask for a gift
  • Kickstart this: planning your crowdfunding campaign
  • Building authentic donor relationships
  • Building a fundraising team: volunteers, board and more

Whew! Still think we’re missing something? Submit YOUR workshop idea for Rootscamp, the unconference day (Sunday, March 24).

Candidate College on Social Media in Local Politics

In 2011, I participated in a candidate training organized by Morgan Pehme of Civic NY, a good government group. While I was a panelist on the last session (which addressed social media in particular) the highlight for me was asking four high powered campaign consultants about using new media in local campaigns. Specifically – are any of them claiming expertise in using new media? And if not – who do they recognize in the field as having expertise they respect?

The answers were revealing. There was a recognition that politics is changing, and that this is an important field. Just not important enough that any of these folks needed to develop actual expertise it, in contrast to other campaign management skills involving field, fundraising or phone calls. For one of them, it was enough to hire bright young things and be done with it. None of them could name an actual ‘expert’. The most fascinating response was that ‘social media is only worth 100-200 votes, so you can give it to a volunteer if that’s what they are most passionate about. Don’t waste too much time on it.’ (I couldn’t stop thinking about former Congressman Weiner while hearing this.)

And then the New York Times Magazine article about the Republican’s use of online strategies in the 2012 election came out two weeks ago. In it, you can hear the frustration of Republican operatives who tried mightily to help their team do better at social media and online tools generally – but failed mightily in multiple dimensions.

“There are always elders at the top who say, ‘That’s not important,’ And that’s where the left has beaten us, by giving smart people the space and trusting them to have success. It’s a fundamentally anti-entrepreneurial model we’ve embraced.”

Here in New York, the division isn’t between R’s and D’s. It’s between smart, entrepreneurial people who don’t have status power, and the insular, top down cohort of political consultants and campaign managers who essentially run every race. My impression is that some of them are now working on the question of how to project expertise in social media, online advertising, and other new media tools, notwithstanding that just about all of them adopted counter-factual opinions and practices in the last few years. And that’s actually progress; even their most misguided and trusting clients are demanding that the folks who yesterday said that social media wasn’t that important now offer guidance on using Twitter. Obviously, folks like me are in the same category as ‘premature anti-fascists’ were in the 40s; clearly suspicious for not having soberly waited to become a late adopter.

I suspect that almost none of them are asking the most important question in 21st Century, open source and open ended politics: how do we remove that insular filter that puts us two steps behind instead of being the ones that are two steps ahead? That my friends, is the real question. Social media just gives us a better way to ask it.

If you want to help answer that question while learning hard social media skills, don’t forget to register for Organizing New York, March 22-24.


Introducing: Organizing New York – March 22-24

We’re very excited about the next big training conference. Here’s a very rapid summary of what you want to know.

Important pages and links:

Current partners and sponsors include Working Families, Civic Engagement Table, Wellstone Action, Rootscamp, & Democracy for America. Stay tuned for more!

Location is United Federation of Teachers, 52 Broadway, New York City. (Right by Wall St.)

This is a skill sharing conference. We have three main subject areas: online organizing, advocacy and campaigning & grassroots fundraising.

Wellstone Action will be putting a special Camp Wellstone as part of this event. Registration for Camp Wellstone will be done separately.

Finding Your Place With Occupy Wall Street: A Guide for Digital Strategists & Online Organizers

The Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its second month, is a protest force of nature. Unions, progressive organizations, community organizers, even big ‘D’ Democrats are coming out in support. If your nonprofit or political organization hasn’t come out with a public position on the #occupy movement, maybe you should check for a pulse.

But never mind our organizational homes. As individuals we can jump right in without further ado. And what better way than with our skill sets as digital strategists, online organizers, social media gurus, and branding experts? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Joining the movement can be a challenge. Existing systems are designed with full time occupiers in mind, not volunteers with an hour, a day, or a specific task in mind.

So here’s a guide, by a digital strategist, for digital strategists. If I’ve missed some useful tips, add them below.

The Organization of the Occupation
This description is based on the Wall St. crowd, but my understanding is that others are following similar models. While all major decisions are made by General Assemblies, most of the activists, including full- and part-timers, are part of Working Groups. Working Groups might be meeting more than once a week. Those meetings might not be efficient or accessible to newcomers. Still you’ll want to join one or more that make sense for your interests, and start digging in to any documents they’ve posted online and listening to the conversation on their listserv. Finding WG’s is easy for the Wall Street folks, might be harder for other cities. There is an effort to standardize names of WG’s across occupation.

The Internet and Open Source Working Groups
Here in New York, we have an Internet Working Group (IWG) and a Free/Libre/Open Source Working Group (FLO). The former has mostly worked on developing the main website for internal coordination, This site will continue to evolve in ways that serve specific working groups, and developer help is much appreciated. The FLO folks are promoting ‘open sourcism’ as an embodiment of the true principles of the #occupy movement. They also work on the tech infrastructure: hosting, servers, LDAP, a future CRM, wiki and more. The vision is not just to assist #OWS with tech solutions, but to create replicable, robust and secure systems available for all occupations, in the U.S. and around the world. They also welcome your help. A number of core team members are part of both WG’s.

On-Boarding for Newbies
Unfortunately, it’s been hard for the IWG and the FLO peeps to incorporate new people and new ideas. New ideas, even good ones, represent a challenge because of the pressure of uncompleted, previously agreed upon tasks. Some of the best work done by techies in support of the movement is being carried out by free agents ( and outside/inside coalitions ( that don’t even try to interface with formal working groups. That said, a corner has been turned, and there are now systems in place to make it easier to onboard new volunteers – and even new ideas.

Start Here
If you want to help, fill out the volunteer form for the Internet WG. If you want to propose something you’ve come up with, read this post first or you might come across as an egotistic time-waster. Finally, learn more about developments already underway at the wiki. (It’s not as complete as it should be.) Be aware, that the project management tool Redmine is being used to track projects. Github is being used to manage development. There are listservs for all the WG’s, and for even smaller things like the Digital Strategy Team within the Internet WG that I joined.  (Follow the links above, and you’ll reach the proper signup pages.)

That said, as an online organizer I’ve noticed that the IWG and FLO teams are full of web developers, sysadmins and coders. Not small dollar fundraisers, CRM experts, digital marketers and solutions consultants. That crowd is likely to wonder where the official public facing website is, or why no one seems to be taking advantage of SalsaLabs generous offer of free services.  (Or the offer of a certain text messaging vendor….) As of this writing, no one seems to have the ability to send mass emails outside of a Googlegroup or Riseup listserv.

There are tech savvy organizers around (I’m refraining from mentioning names, but you’ve heard of them or their firms/organizations!) They seem to be attracted to the top level strategy questions involving press, media, and tactics for nonviolent direct action planning. I’ve also heard an argument firmly against the use of email list based organizing by #OccupyWallStreet. Who would write those emails? What messages could ‘the movement’ agree on, given the anti-hierarchical bias and refusal to issue specific demands?

While not all the organizers are young, or inexperienced, the vast majority associate CRM enabled organizing with groups like MoveOn or the Obama campaign. Liberals tainted by their focus on electoral or mainstream politics. Many associate the tools with top-down organizing, the antithesis of the General Assembly process.Personally, I think that position is incorrect. The ‘movement’ is using CRM all the time, as then they raised money on Kickstarter or chose Googlegroups as the primary listserv tool. They just aren’t using their own CRM, or taking advantage of all the possibilities.

An emerging area where expertise is needed is in technical strategy more generally. For example: the accounting team was overwhelmed by the needs for trasparency and basic bookkeeping. An expert in nonprofit administration have been able to help with software suggestions. The Outreach Working Group is engaged in marketing, to be sure, but they aren’t far along in developing their marketing strategy. Given limited resources, which communications should be directed at which groups for the most immediate benefit? Great questions.

The bottom line is, you don’t need to be physically present to contribute important online organizing skills to the movement. And you don’t have to start something on your own. If you’d like to understand more of what’s going on, feel free to reach out to me – I’m easy to find.