We Are The Movement We Are Waiting For

Apollo Gonzales is the Netroots Campaign Manager for the Natural  Resources Defense Council. Apollo provides campaign strategy to over a dozen programs, on campaigns ranging from Mountaintop Removal Mining to Toxics  Reform.

He is tasked with the mission of  moving online advocates from  one click activism to super activism, and bringing traditionally siloed  institutional experts’ voices to the blogosphere.

Of the 300 plus people currently employed by my organization, well over half are Facebook users and there are 456 people who list my organization as an employer. That means that there are about 100 people who continue to associate themselves with the work they once did here. With the average Facebook user having 130 friends (I topped 500 sometime last year), the 1st degree network of my colleagues is about 20,000 people.

I could, given the time, continue to detail out geometric growth of our human networks as they are defined by social media spaces. If I were inclined to include email in the inventory of these spaces, and I believe I’d be wrong not to, we could reach a number that would rival any organization’s “activist” list. If I took it one step further, to the 2nd degree (our friend’s friends), the number becomes akin to that of a Movement.

Anyone who has spent any time inside an organization of advocates, no matter the size, understands that the process of getting a message out to a list of activists ranks at the top of the most complex tasks. From selling the action as something important enough to require committed resources, to writing the copy, to segmenting the list, to testing the subject line, contacting the activist is a marathon. Very often organizations are running this marathon every week. In all of these steps we work to maintain our authenticity, to make sure that every communication with our activists builds the trust we depend on to elicit action.

The same is not true of our individual engagement with our personal networks. We hardly think twice when sharing a link to a funny video, or a powerful poem. No one is editing the copy or managing the tone. Save for maybe our inner critic. We are the advocates of our own living experience. We are the communications shop, the media shop, the web team, the policy team, the legal team, all wrapped up into one person. And from the looks of our Friends list, we do a pretty good job.

I work with 300 plus people who are passionate about the work they do. We lose sleep, we skip vacations, we work late hours, we celebrate victories and weep when we are defeated, and day after day we pick ourselves up and do it again and again. Not because we need to make ends meet, but because we LOVE what we do. How many of these people are sharing the work they do with their personal networks? When a staff member writes a post for the organization’s blog, do they share it with their 130 friends? When their colleagues are quoted in the New York Times, how deep into the social graph does the link to the article go?

This is the challenge we face, ending the expectation that it is the job of the Communications department to share our work with the world with a press release. We are all communicators, with a pedigree of authenticity that can not be faked. How do we get everyone in the organization, not just the “youth” or the Executives (who are often really just the “youth” behind a thin veil), to participate in a way that awakens the Movement that is the slumbering giant within our personal networks? The moment we make that happen, is the moment we finally make manifest the promise that social media will CHANGE everything.

No one, as far as I know, has written this story yet so I don’t have any reading to recommend. I’m hoping that after this year’s WOC, we can begin to write the story.