Mobile Organizing, Your Organization…And The Future

Cheryl Contee, Partner at Fission Strategy, specializes in helping non-profit organizations and foundations use social media to create social good. She is also the co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics writing as “Jill Tubman” on one of the top 10 black blogs online. Cheryl is included in The Root 100 list of established and emerging African-American leaders. Fast Company has named her one of their 2010 Most Influential Women in Tech. She has over 13 years of award-winning interactive expertise and previously served as Vice President and lead digital strategist for Fleishman-Hillard’s West Coast region in San Francisco.

 In just under 10 years, the world has experienced a massive leap forward in our ability to communicate with each other and connect around the issues that matter most to us. Social networking has revolutionized how people dialogue with each other. The ways in which institutions and individuals negotiate power & influence has shifted dramatically. It’s hard to believe that it was only in 2002 that we saw the first blogs as we know them today. Yet there’s an even more powerful set of innovations on the horizon and too few nonprofit organizations are prepared for the next quantum leap.

As a WOC Host, I’m excited to convene a conversation around the expanding use of mobile for outreach and also discuss the potential that emerging technologies such as geo-location and augmented reality applications have for empowering our audiences to drive positive social change.

Many organizations are eager to attract more diverse and younger audiences to their causes. Mobile is closing the digital divide not only here in the US, but also worldwide. Today at least one third of Africans own mobile phones. Soon there may be more Africans with access to a cellphone than to a clean toilet, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

In the United States, teens prefer texting and social networks to email. 50% of mobile data traffic is Facebook-driven. According to Pew Internet, 72% of all teens– or 88% of teen cell phone users — are text-messagers yet only 11% of teens use email. Another Pew Internet report in summer 2009 confirmed that mobile internet access has shrunk the old digital divide to near nil. From the New York Times BITS blog:

“The report found that nearly half of all African-Americans and English-speaking Hispanics (the study did not include a Spanish-language option) were using mobile phones or other hand-held devices to surf the Web and send e-mail messages. By comparison, just 28 percent of white Americans reported ever going online using a mobile device.”

If you’re trying to reach African-American or Latino audiences, especially those that are younger, a strong mobile action strategy may make all the difference.  One of my company’s clients is Reform Immigration FOR America, the largest immigration reform coalition in America. We’ve helped RI4A build a comprehensive interactive presence to complement their offline organizing efforts. We counseled early on that mobile would was a must-have element in their strategy and partnering with Mobile Commons, we helped them launch a bilingual (English/Spanish) network. Fast Company described our work with them earlier this year:

“Contee and her team at Fission Strategy have helped Reform Immigration for America to build a mobile action network of over 150,000 people. They've found that potential march and rally participants are six times more responsive to text messages than emails. For a March 21 March for America event in D.C., that meant nearly 200,000 people attended the immigration-reform rally. "It's proven to be a hugely important publicity method for us," says Contee.”

Now that geo-location applications like Foursquare and augmented reality apps like Layar are shifting urban commerce at the intersection of mobile internet and social networking, my goal in sparking this conversation is to help kickstart greater focus on these emerging innovations and the myriad opportunities (and challenges) they provide to nonprofits and their mission for social change. I’m looking forward to sharing stories of success and struggle with you!

Resources:

  • http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2010/0719/The-next-revolution-is-coming-to-Africa.-Cellphones-are-bringing-it
  • http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2010/0803/Google-continues-push-into-Africa-with-free-Gchat-texts-for-Senegal
  • http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/mobile-internet-use-shrinks-digital-divide/
  • http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults/Summary-of-Findings.aspx
  • http://www.flowtown.com/blog/teens-and-their-mobile-phones?display=wide
  • http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia012010nr.cfm
  • http://www.howstuffworks.com/augmented-reality.htm