Posts filed under ‘Advocacy’

U Street upgrade project site lacks Web two point oh-ness


File this one in the annals of Web2., uh, sort of?

It appears as though a U Street upgrade project is underway in the District, and the D.C. DOT has created a nifty little Web site to involve the public in the process. Well, perhaps I should put the word “involve” in quotation marks.

Unfortunately, the site only includes broad descriptions of the project – currently in the “design” phase. (more…)


July 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment


This just in from Mashable, via the New York Times: MySpace is slashing 30% of its staff, bringing it to a total of 1,000 U.S. employees (Facebook has 850).

Which brings up the already much-asked question: Is MySpace peaking? (Or … has MySpace peaked?)

From a nonprofit and advocacy perspective, I’ve found that MySpace just isn’t as useful as Facebook. During a session at the recent Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in DC, many commented that what make those Facebook newsfeeds so pesky and annoying  – the applications and widgets – are precisely what make the platform useful for organizing and advocacy. (The benefits of organizing events, house parties, Causes, etc. seemed to outweigh the main drawback of Facebook: nonprofit group and fan pages cannot “friend” other users, but have to attract users to their pages). (more…)

June 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Avoiding the wonk

This morning, I read a good piece on Care2’s “Frogloop” blog about engaging new online activists and came across one of the best phrases I’ve heard in awhile:

“Avoid the wonk.”

A lot of organizations that “get” online communications are keeping this in mind. Some recent examples from my inbox:

“Improving women’s health is fundamental to improving our nation’s health care system — and that means that Planned Parenthood must be an essential part of health care reform.” – Planned Parenthood, tying their organization’s mission into the health care debate with one sentence

“Your generosity today enables Greenpeace to take on in-depth and global research that ties the Brazilian cattle industry to huge multinational corporations. More than that, it allows Greenpeace to take action against corporations and the governments that shield them and to show them that we will expose and hold them accountable.” – Greenpeace explains why a donation matters

“By deploying a fisheries management program called “catch shares,” we can make fish more abundant and fisheries more profitable — for generations to come.” – Care2 summarizes scientific studies

“If King Coal lobbyists get their way, communities close to these toxic coal ash sites will be left vulnerable to arsenic, mercury, selenium, and other coal toxins, and they will continue to face a very high, 1 in 50, risk of cancer.” – The Sierra Club details the dangers of toxic coal ash

Of course, saying you’re going to avoid the wonk and actually doing it are two very different things. (more…)

June 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm 1 comment

OpenSecrets goes open data

Transparency advocates received some great news today thanks to They’re providing almost 20 years of money-in-politics data, about 200 million records, to the public, free and downloadable.

What a deal! Not only can people can access data about money’s influence on politics, but developers can take the data and mash it up with other data sets and create new apps.

You can check it out here.

April 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Lobbying social-media style with Twitter: Examples and how-to’s

It’s been about a year since I’ve created a Twitter feed for my organization, Public Citizen.

During this time, we’ve posted links, conversed with followers, shared content related to our mission, and encouraged followers to take action. And overall, Twitter has helped us build Public Citizen’s brand, develop a younger following and seem more approachable. But one thing we haven’t tried is using Twitter to achieve what used to be a solely offline activity: Public interest lobbying.

Contacting lawmakers has become increasingly difficult. Their inboxes typically block large influxes of constituent emails (an example of this occurred news of the financial bailout first hit the news this fall), and constituents typically can only email lawmakers within their district. I’ve talked to some activists who have recommended going back to hand-delivering paper petitions to get the word out. There’s even a campaign from Consumers Union called Don’

Now, with the expanding world of social media, lawmakers are creating Twitter accounts. Granted, the person actually doing the tweeting probably isn’t the lawmaker, but this does provide another avenue, on top of paper, phone calls and emails, to communicate with elected officials. (more…)

April 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm Leave a comment

Storytelling: American Rights at Work “Gets It” in Employee Free Choice Act Campaign

The premise seems simple enough. A personal story, told from the heart, can speak volumes in a campaign. No matter how strong the policy argument may be, no matter how much data backs up an organization’s statements, a personal story is usually the strongest way to encourage people to donate or take action.

Seems pretty common-sense, doesn’t it?

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received emails from organizations (my organization included) that are bogged down in policy, wonk-ish language and abstract ideas. By the time I got to the email signature, I’d forgotten the point of the email (if there was one), or I was so bored from the text that I wasn’t inspired to do anything.

I know I’m not alone in this – many policy-driven organizations face the problem of “How do we communicate this complex policy idea to our base supporters?” (more…)

March 31, 2009 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

Speaking out against hunting seals for profit

This week marked the beginning of Canada’s commercial seal hunt. It’s the largest slaughter of marine mammals on earth, and it’s an incredibly painful, enraging issue to track.

As someone who has an immense love of animals and an immense hatred of animal cruelty, I found myself close to tears today as I read the stories and looked at the photos on the Humane Society’s campaign page.

But I’m only looking at photos and videos – I can’t imagine how painful it must be for the Humane Society staffers who are currently in Canada documenting the hunt in order to spread the word and organize protests against it.

Nineteen thousand baby seals have been killed in the span of just 2.5 days – primarily for the sale of seal pelts to fashion markets in Europe. What’s more, fishermen only make a small fraction of their income from this slaughter, and less than 6,000 fishermen participate in the hunt each year. This doesn’t minimize the immense damage done to the seal population, though.

The Humane Society did provide an image of hope, however – a survivor of the first phase of the hunt. And the organization is also providing ways to take action. You can find out more information and how to stop the seal hunt by visiting

March 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

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