The Future of Emailing Congress

Computer with mailbox flagHave you emailed your congressional representative? Did you feel like it did any good?

Congressional offices are receiving hundreds of millions of emails every year, and the workload on staffers is enormous! As the number of emails has increased over the years, the staff size and technology budgets have not.

The Center for American Progress will be discussing this issue and posing some suggestions in it monthly Internet Advocacy Roundtable. As ususual, I’ll be live blogging!

You can follow along here!

Tibet, video and Human Rights

I am a big fan of the organization, Witness, and a recent project of theirs is called the HUB. Its kind of like YouTube for human rights.  It will be interesting to see how the project goes – it has its pros and cons, but here is a good example of its use.
 
Note that the video that is imbedded on this page is actually sitting on YouTube’s servers, but the group is using Witness’s HUB because it has the functionality to lead viewers to do something to help. This is a function that YouTube has lacked for a long time. With the creation of their Nonprofit Channel, they are addressing it, but it is yet to be seen how effective it will be.
 
So, please visit this page, watch the video, then take one of the actions. This is a very important situation – these protests are the most violent in almost 20 years. The Chinese gov’t say only 16 people have died, but its more likely to be upwards of 80.
 
International concern is growing as a result of house-to-house raids, imposed curfews, numerous arrests, and increased media repression. 
 
The Chinese government has reportedly placed restrictions on international media coverage in Tibet, blocking or filtering websites like Yahoo! and YouTube and censoring the local feeds of news agencies including the BBC and CNN. However, eyewitness accounts, photos, and videos (mostly from cellphones) are making their way out — and onto the Hub.   
 
 
Three things you can do now:
1) Forward this!- help keep the spotlight on Tibet;
2) Watch the latest videos on Tibet and take action on the HUB’s Tibet action center
3) Upload or embed – if you have or see Tibet-related video, photos or audio. You can also email the HUB.
 
 
Also, let me know what you think about the HUB.
Did you take one of the actions?
Why/why not? 

 

Intercultural Managment, and LiveBloggin

I am very happy to report that I’ll be attending the Intercultural Management Institute’s conference on March 13 and 14. I am looking forward to many interesting panels and workshops.I’m also excited to try live blogging for the first time. I’ll be using www.coveritlive.com ‘s application. I hope you join in!

To follow along, click here.

Game Over, Change Begins

Social causes and media have a long history, and nonprofits have become well acquainted with the use of media to further their causes. Beyond typical public relations, nonprofits have increasingly turned to documentaries to help tell their story and get the issues they care about out into the public dialogue.

But at the Making Your Media Matter conference last week, hosted by the Center for Social Media, it became clear that filmmakers and activists alike are turning to more than just the documentary.

Games for Social Change

The conference started off with a great session about using games to help affect change. Although its not exactly new, its becoming a more accepted tool for advocacy and education.

One great example was demonstrated by panelist Dennis Pamielri from ITVS (Independent Television Service). In 2007 ITVS launched an interactive online game called World Without Oil. The purpose of the game was to demonstrate our dependence on oil and simulate what life would be like if that oil were to run out.

The set up for the game was simple – for 32 weeks, the makers “created” an oil crisis. Players were asked to contribute original online stories about how their lives would be affected if this oil shock were actually happening. Contributions could be poems, images, stories, videos, podcast, even cartoons- anything that showed how life would change. Each week, creators posted an update complete with gas prices and story prompts. Week 1, for example, started with regular unleaded gasoline st $4.12 per gallon. After a brief summary of the week’s events, users are asked, “How would $4 gas affect your finances?”

Each week new prompts were posted, and each week players from around the country submitted thousands of creative contributions. It was a perfect example of some of the buzzwords we hear these days – crowd sourcing, collective creativity, collective intelligence.

But what was REALLY interesting was the comments coming in to the producers telling how much the game had changed the way players were living their lives. Players may have been posting imaginary scenarios online, but offline they were making real changes. Some started riding their bikes to work, some traded in their gas-guzzlers for hybrids. Over and over again producers heard about the true impact of the game.

Isn’t that why nonprofits use media? To make an impact? To change lives?

Susan Seggerman from Games 4 Change said this is becoming the norm, not the exception. Games are unique in that they fully engage the user. Players are able to make “safe” decisions – if they make the wrong choice, they can try again. Games allow individuals to see cause and effect more clearly- something that is difficult in the linear storytelling of film. And games put the user into the situation – they aren’t just watching it, they are living it- long after “game over.”

Human Rights and the Election, Part 2: Are We Compelled Enough?

Its not likely that you would find a presidential candidate that is against human rights. So why is it that human rights issues take such a backseat in presidential campaigns?

The Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) found that so far, only 5% of questions posed to presidential candidates were about human rights issues. Earlier this week CAPAF hosted a panel discussion and released reports on its findings concerning human rights issues in the campaigns.

In this second of four postings about the discussion, I’ll focus on the comments of Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission. (Click here to read the first post of this series.)

Mr. Haugen started off with a reality check. The typical American voter does not care deeply about these kinds of issues. “It will actually take a long time to shift the thinking of the American people who will do the voting to actually care deeply about these issues. And,” he continued, presidential campaigns are “a reflection of what Americans care about.”

But its not just about caring. Its about caring enough.

“They [human rights battles] are really very much a fight- between those who are perpetrators of these abuses and those who want them to stop. And the most fundamental thing we have to remember is that a fight always comes down to a question of who is most committed. And perpetrators of human rights abuses are extremely committed to what they are doing, and it is an utterly unfair fight if those who are trying to stop the abuses are not equally committed.”

So where does that commitment come from? Mr. Haugen says that in elections, when leaders speak about human rights, they come from one of three perspectives:

-They believe it is a compelling national interest- “this matters because it affects us”

– They believe it is a compelling national value- “this matters to us morally”

-Or, they have compelling personal visions or identities.

These could all be sources of inspiration that would cause us to be committed.

But many politicians are wary of speaking about human rights issues. Especially in an election campaign – to do so could politicize the issue, then they find themselves working against an issue simple because their opponents are working for it.

But, he says, we shouldn’t shy away from asking the candidates questions and bringing up the issues during campaigns. In fact doing so could be helpful in three possible ways:

1) First of all one could get a candidate to promise action. Haugen called this “memorialization of a commitment.” If a candidate promises something during a campaign, they will be reminded of it later in office.

2) Bringing up a human rights issue with a candidate can sometimes reveal a competitive advantage. One might expose a creative idea, or bold approach that distinguishes s/he from other candidates.

3) Conversely, one could expose a political vulnerability. By bringing up an issue and explaining to the candidate that his/her constituency is concerned about this, one can expose a vulnerability that may be significant to voters.

So for Haugen, there is a delicate, but predictable, balance between discussing human rights, and the getting the public will to do something about it.