“I don’t think change happens when 10,000 people sign a petition. It happens through change in culture, expanding awareness, building a sense of purpose with people who want a better future.”—Matt Mahan
Why the World Needs a Purpose-Driven Network Dedicated to Social Good
The Internet provides more opportunity than ever before for people to get involved in making the world a better place. It should be - I’m confident it will be - the greatest campaign organizing tool ever created. Yet for many, online engagement in political and social issues has been an infrequent and shallow experience.
Online engagement for social good is broken. It relies heavily on top-down communication and parcels out involvement through single transactions: Sign a petition. Click. Make a donation. Click. These clicks fulfill neither our desire for shared identity nor the satisfaction of personal sacrifice for a worthy cause.
As a result, I believe most of us feel powerless.
To enable people around the world to get deeply involved in creating social and political change, Causes.com is introducing the Supporter Network, a purpose-driven network for social good.
Social movements require deep, personal investment from a core group of supporters. The ability for these supporters to act in concert is the difference between rhetoric and impact. With the Supporter Network, we are helping to connect like-minded individuals and organizations to facilitate collaboration and inspire collective action.
I discovered the power of collective action first-hand through organizing a divestment campaign in college.
In 2005, during my senior year at Harvard, I learned that the University was investing millions of dollars in PetroChina, a Chinese oil company that was underwriting genocide by investing in the Sudanese government.
At the time, I was Harvard’s Undergraduate Council President and had unique relationships with student groups across campus. These connections helped in building a broad base of support for the idea that our tuition should not be invested in a company that facilitates genocide. As a core group of supporters came together around that simple idea, we distributed responsibility for the organizing work. Together, we organized public debates, letter writing and petition drives, and protests that raised awareness and put pressure on Harvard administrators to act.
Within three months, we had gained support from thousands of students and secured national media coverage. Leveraging our collective influence, we directed our “senior gift” contribution to an escrow account that was set to automatically donate the funds to the Carr Center for Human Rights if the University did not divest by graduation. Our ability to recruit significant numbers of supporters and concentrate their influence through collective action paid off.
Two months before graduation, Harvard announced the first and only divestment it has ever made.
As CEO of Causes.com, I’m leading a team of talented Silicon Valley technologists who are all, in one way or another, activists. We envision a world in which cynicism and disenfranchisement have been replaced with optimism and individual empowerment. With the launch of the Supporter Network, we aim to help people build a base of supporters who can work together on behalf of a common cause.
From my own experience, I believe that this is the foundation required for real grassroots organizing to happen online.
“It turns out that while the tech media spent most of 2013 complaining that Apple “wasn’t innovating,” Apple was secretly developing its new Mac Pro supercomputer, perfecting its Authentech-based Touch ID technology that the industry has been flummoxed to copy, completing iOS 7 (while Google took a Kit Kat break with Android Key Lime Pie) and OS X Mavericks (while Microsoft fiddled as Windows 8 burned), while also bringing an entirely new 64-bit mobile architecture into production ahead of the world’s leading chip designers and foundries (which didn’t see a pressing need to move to 64-bit and lacked Apple’s experience in doing so), and, as nearly a side project, spending billions to build out a series of new iCloud data centers…”—Daniel Eran Dilger
“Start a business because it addresses the problem you want to solve and produces the product you want to build. Figure out how you’ll make your first dollar. Then determine how to make the first million. Eventually, you may grow to a billion-dollar company, but it’s OK if you end up as one of the 99.995 percent. There is a whole lot of room for success between a billion and dead.”—Gleb Budman
“Why do so many founders build things no one wants? Because they begin by trying to think of startup ideas. That m.o. is doubly dangerous: it doesn’t merely yield few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them.”—Paul Graham
“Is the pressure on you or on the pitcher? Make sure it’s on the pitcher. Once the pitch is out of his hand, he’s done — you’re in charge. Are you going to be in charge for 56 feet or not until the ball gets to the box?”—Clint Hurdle
“To my mind, a lot of people are missing the point when they talk about whether Tumblr is worth $1 billion price tag Yahoo! is paying. I will leave that question for others to decide, but I do know this: The deal is a disaster for fast-growth companies because it tells entrepreneurs to be gamblers rather than leaders. In fact, I think the deal is bad for American business, period, and I fear we may have three to five years of Tumblr silliness in the market as a result.”—Cliff Oxford
“Jared’s team interviewed hiring managers and asked what the best designers in their teams did: tell stories, critiquing, present effectively, facilitate meeting and align people.”—Jared Spool via LukeW
“We wake up every day passionate about one thing: bringing people closer together. We believe that just as Twitter is building the town square, and Facebook is building the newspaper, that Path will build the homes. We receive notes every day from passionate users that tell us: my family has never been closer than they are now because of Path. This drives us more deeply than anything else to continue to innovate in how people connect, share, and communicate so that they can become closer to the people they care most about. We believe we are only at the beginning of the development of how humans will interact through technology. Finding new ways to bring people closer together is what keeps us coming in to work every day.”—A nice internally-facing mission statement from Dave Morin
…when I was in a purpose-driven community, I felt safe to push myself and try for things that seemed out of my reach. As a member of a community, I grew because others pushed me; failure didn’t seem so scary because we were taking risks together…
If you are going to do something that terrifies you, first find a group.
Agreed. At Votizen we worked on both sides, with a common principle: authenticity, and working with friends. For example, a friend who wants to fight SOPA can locate friends who are represented by the officials deciding on the issue, and start a conversation, hopefully resulting in calls or letters to Congress from a real constituent. In terms of elections, we believed in the same principle of finding friends, and turning them out to vote. We believe fundamentally in the power of bottom-up movements, not top-down advertising. I wish that the Political Innovation Summit featured more discussions of solving problems in a bottom-up way, and building consensus around ideas and a platform, as opposed to optimizing top-down advertising spending.