Digital Organizing is Just Writing Things Down

I felt weird sending this yesterday, with an open rebellion in Minneapolis and Donald Trump’s bizarre and cryptic anti-Twitter Executive Order out yesterday.

I felt even weirder about sending this today.

But then I kept scrolling and scrolling through social media.

It made me feel ineffectual + horrified like it was 2014 all over again.

I think a lot of these principles, especially around asynchronous communication, are key to building social media that connects + builds movements.

If you’re sick of the dopamine harvest that happens when you scroll, feeling powerless, benefiting only tech companies, I hope some of this can be helpful and actionable.

If you want to donate to funds in MN, you can go here.

Stay safe.

Over the next couple weeks I am posting a series about how ‘digital organizing’ can be useful (as opposed to annoying or ineffectual) as the “new normal” becomes the norm. Here is the first part.

digital organizing is just “writing things down”

So you want to do “digital organizing”.

Or maybe you don’t call what you want to do digital organizing — but you’re ready to explore digital tactics that will help you build your base.

Great news! What next?

It’s time to start writing things down.

It might sound a little obvious.

But think about your key pieces of campaign strategy: meeting structures, leadership development plans, target research, skill building practices, or ideal base.

Is any of this written down somewhere?

OR — is it written down in a format that makes sense to someone who doesn’t live inside your brain?

Bonus round: are those documents formatted well and easily available(at least for the trusted members of your base)?

Why It Matters

There is a lot of immediate pushback when I ask these questions of organizers — concerns about confidentiality, their base’s access to technology, limited time and capacity, and more (i’m going to address those very very real concerns in other parts).

But consistently, the good digital tactics in organizing I see — that are focused on leadership development, expanding an organizers irl base, honing the strategy of both the organizer and their entire team — is, at the root, just writing more things down .

The goal is that other people can use that information themselves — or improve or adapt it.

That’s what makes a campaign go viral, allows a membership-base to grow, creates “leaders,” and freaks out targets. Writing things down.

What should I write down first?

I’ve heard the phrase Asynchronous communication during the pandemic more than I ever have before, from giant tech company HR people to people on the She Ra subreddit (the longer this pandemic goes on the more time I am spending there).

Asynchronous communication refers to any communication, decision-making, and discussion where responses are not expected in real time.

What is Asynchronous Communication in Organizing?

Slack polls, emails with a reasonable timeline to provide feedback, ranting blog posts like this one, are all examples of asynchronous communication.

Less technology oriented examples include voicemails with prep for a target meeting, worksheets on how to do power analysis, and really any scripts you’ve ever created in your organizing work.

Digital organizing models like Momentum are also a good example of asynchronous communication in organizing.

Potential organizers and members of a movement provide support for people in the movement, but the templates for the work, be it setting up a strategy, building a group, having a press conference, writing their messaging, is all available in a template designed for a group to customize to their needs.

At any rate, asynchronous communication — — like digital organizing — is just writing things down.

For any organizer or campaign, I think focusing on creating specific asynchronous communication tools for the political ecosystem where you operate is critical, whether you’re doing it as part of “digital organizing” or not.

Some prompts to start Writing Things Down:

+ What’s one key topic, policy, or political nuance once that comes up in meetings that not everybody seems totally on board with? Spend 10 minutes writing about it with the following prompt:

If more people understood X, then this campaign would be easy to win.

When you’re finished, send it to your base or a trusted member and ask: does this make sense? Where is it clear? Where is it not clear? How does this compare to the conversations we’ve been having in meetings?

+ Are you stuck? Do you have a major political strategy decision you cannot figure out? Set a timer for 10 minutes and write an email to 3 people you’re working with 3 different options,on how to solve it, and include the pros and cons of each decision. Bonus points: Include when you need them to respond by.

Next week — — more on meaning, more on mediums in digital organizing.

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