Seattle Speaking Event: Design for Democracy

On March 29th I’ll be presenting a session in Seattle at the Design for Democracy House of Learning, hosted by the American Institute of Graphic Artists.

I’ll be presenting a session on strategy:

  • Designing Strategies that Work
  • Many efforts to increase democracy and equity are driven by good intentions, yet lack the strategy to succeed. This session will present the 4 elements of the strategy cycle: Goal, Plan, Check, Adapt. The format of the session will begin with a brief description of the strategy cycle (with a visualization, of course), followed by an open discussion in which participants ask and answer each other’s questions about the role that designers have in shaping the strategy of the projects they work on.

Here are the details of the event and a link to tickets.

  • Date: Tuesday, March 29th
  • Time: 6:00pm
  • Location: The General Assembly Studio, located in the Seattle Tower, 1218 3rd Avenue Third Floor, Seattle, WA 98101 (map)
  • Cost: $10-$35 (buy tickets)

I hope to see you there!


Advocacy Gardening: Help Your Campaign Grow (Deck)

This deck, which I will present for the Open Society Foundations in Dubrovnik next month, lays out a process for workshopping multiple campaign projects in a diverse group that includes grantee campaigners, grantee non-campaigners, funders, and consultants.

Video Advocacy Tips (Deck)

These slides, which I will present on behalf of the Open Society Foundations next month in Dubrovnik, describe what video can do for your campaign, how to get people to watch your video using “social proofing”, and how to measure the effect of your video on your audience through the interpretation YouTube metrics.

9 Quick-Start Blog Posts for Activists

Activists blog to build community, both by sharing resources and by strengthening relationships.

Yet they also have limited time.  Using pre-existing formats can help activists blog faster since they don’t have to start with a blank page.

These 9 types of blog posts below can serve a variety of topics and causes.  The steps to their creation, as well as examples from some of the best nonprofit blogs, are included in the slideshow.

The Posts:

  1. The Pass-it-Along Post
  2. The “We’re Real People” Post
  3. The Community Appreciation Post
  4. The “Our Response” Post
  5. The Informative Listicle
  6. The Mobilization Post
  7. The Ignored News Story
  8. The Guest Post
  9. The Email Interview



Thanks to NOH8 Campaign, ONE, Surfrider Foundation, Greenpeace, Invisible People, Human Rights Campaign, The Nonprofit Technology Network, Beth Kanter, and Melissa Gira Grant for the great examples.

What are other types of blog posts that you’ve used time and again as an activist blogger?

Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Activism Campaigns

Here’s a first draft of metrics for measuring the effectiveness of digital activism campaigns.  Feedback welcome.  Direct download here (PDF).

5 Basics of Digital Strategy for Youth Engagement

Last month I gave a big training for YMCA youth program staff .  (Did you know that it’s the biggest nonprofit in America and that 90% of us live within 10 miles of one?)   I created a cheat sheet (pdf) on digital strategy for youth engagement, which I’m sharing here.  It’s the usual strategic elements of goal, audience, media, and planning, with more lolcats to motivate attention and sharing.


Digital Activism Strategy (Session)

Over the summer I came up with three digital campaign models (slides) which I think are pretty useful.  The models are also follows:

Lobbying Campaign (in-person influencing)
Example: A group of former soldiers, along with NGO allies, shows a digital video about military sexual abuse to the Secretary of Defense in an invited meeting in order to convince him to change the way the military deals with these cases.

Initiator > Allies > Media > Decision-Maker > Goal Achieved

Vertical Campaign (mass campaign targeting authority figure)
Example: A group of animal rights NGOs uses social media to mobilize supporters to sign an e-petition to convince the mayor of Buenos Aires to sign a municipal no-kill shelter ordinance.

Initiator > Allies > Media > Citizen Groups (Supporters) > Media > Decision-Maker > Goal Achieved

Horizontal Campaign (mass campaign targeting citizens only)
Example: A public health NGO, allied with youth groups, uses SMS to increase condom use among at-rick youth in Port-au-Prince.

Initiator > Allies > Media > Citizen Groups (Targets) > Goal Achieved

Earlier this month I used these models at a regional training for grantees of the Open Society Foundations.  I began by presenting the three models to the participants using a color code to clarify the similarities and differences. Then the grantees developed strategies for their own campaigns…


Iryna and Dmytro of Ukraine confer with Susie from Interights, another trainer

Finally, the grantees presented their strategies to the group for feedback.


Tamuna from Georgia presents her team’s strategy. They are aiming to increase access to hepatitis-C medication in their country.

Social Media Attitudes (Session)

This week I am in lovely Black Mountain, North Carolina to give a training at the YMCA Youth Worker Summit.   Teen and youth program staff from 28 states are here at the Y’s mountaintop conference facility (yes, the YMCA has some amazing resources) to learn how to serve young people better.  I felt like I was around people honestly committed to making America a better place, which made me very happy.

I presented an interactive session on social media perceptions.  Usually I would do this using a slide presentation, but the conference was very active and camp-like (silly dancing and such) so I decided to so something a lot more kinesthetic and participatory than I usually do.  I think it went really well and I feel I am becoming ever more Beth-like as a digital activism trainer, which is my ultimate goal 🙂

Here are some pics:

Me on (2nd from left) setting up a social media spectrogram.

Setting up a social media spectrogram on stage (I’m 2nd from the left) with five volunteers who will act out different opinions of social media.


This participant is acting out the skeptic’s position: “I use social media in my personal life, but I don’t see its value in my work at the Y.” After the set-up, participants congregated to the position that best expressed their feelings about social media.

The social media spectrogram in action - most participants clustered to the far left, meaning they are excited about the use of social media in promoting the Y.

The social media spectrogram in action: Most participants clustered to the far right, meaning they are excited about the use of social media in promoting the Y. (I’m in the foreground reading my notes.)

Group work: discussions on the theme "room to grow: how my Y can develop its social media use"

Group work: discussions on the theme “room to grow: how my Y can develop its social media use”

More fun at the social media session.

More happy faces, despite the fact that my session was right before lunch.

Social Media Promotion in 5 Easy Steps (Slides)

For a presentation to YMCA youth workers in North Carolina that I’ll be giving next week:

Steps are:

  1. Schedule (time to do your social media work)
  2. Listen (to people online who influence your target audience)
  3. Connect (to those influencers and share their content)
  4. Mobilize (those influencers by subsequently asking them to share your content)
  5. Save the “Starter” (save you contacts so you can use them next time)

How to Write a Nonprofit Blog

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.59.25 PMI know I rarely post such practical tips, but I created this list for a consulting client and thought I’d share.  The list is remixed from a blog post by Desi Cabrera of Miratel in Toronto.

  1. Write Focused Content: Keeping your content focused specifically on your organization’s cause and mission.
  2. Post Length of 200-750 Words: Short posts are more likely to be read and (because they require less work) more likely to be written. The ideal length is 500 words.
  3. Highlight Key Ideas: Some people won’t have time to read the whole post. If you put a few of the post’s key ideas in boldface, they will still get the main idea.
  4. Tell Stories About Real People: This type of post can be created at any time, is conceptually easy to create, and will be accessible to any visitor to the site. To ensure that informed consent is given, every person who is the subject of a story on the blog should sign a release form, ideally using a Google Form (the form is the text, they write their name in a text box and click submit).
  5. Write Lists: Top 5 reasons charter schools are over-rated, top 10 best practices of needle exchanges, top 3 environment NGOS in New Orleans – these types of posts are easy to read and provide a simple format for the writer. There is even a name for a blog post that in list form, a listicle.
  6. Include Photos/Video: In almost every aspect of social media and digital marketing, visual components such as photos and videos enhance the content that is being shared and should be included in blog posts. This is also a very quick way to create content. Individuals must sign the web release before their photo is posted.
  7. Have a Consistent Schedule: There should be a blogging calendar which states which day each person who commits to write for the blog knows they are responsible for writing a post. (For example, Allison might be responsible for posting every other Wednesday.) People can write additional posts when they want (for example, for breaking news), but with a calendar you will not find yourself with blank spaces where no one has blogged all week.
  8. Enable Feed (RSS) and Email Subscriptions: If a reader enjoys your blog you should make every attempt to make it as simple as possible for them to return. You can easily create an RSS feed using Feedburner and place sign-up in a visible place around the bog post so visitors who like what they read can receive new posts via feed or email.
  9. Look for Examples of Good Nonprofit Blogs: Start here:

Image: Etsy/LivyLoveDesigns

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