I was having a conversation with a friend about the purpose of Web of Change and kind of brainstorming about how such a space could be most beneficial in furthering a social justice movement. Initially, as I thought once before I attended WOC, I thought it had to do with bridging communications tools and digital media skills with the experience of the struggle in the field, with those who are sacrificing themselves for their families, for their communities, and trying to protect their rights and fundamental sustenance against government entities, free trade agreements, corporate powers, systems of privilege limiting access and promoting isolation or exclusion.
I visualized individuals from both sides of this spectrum (communications/web specialists and grassroots organizers) coming together and contributing their particular tools, assets, and insight to a WOC toolbox, where everyone would learn about the tools in that toolbox throughout the conference and leave with tools that differed from those that they came in with. Maybe others saw it in a different way. Maybe I never really understood the concept, but I think that part of moving forward is having better clarity of what that experience means for participants and what they get out of it.
It was interesting for me because after having my conversation with my friend, he sent me an email that only had a link to a video inside of it (http://bit.ly/ilTscz). In watching the video, I was able to see from him, the criticism that perhaps he felt uncomfortable verbalizing to me, and that has to do something with trust: the trust of technology and the role that it is playing in our lives and the impact it will have on all of our work in the future. I think that's one of those hurdles we face in figuring out the potential impact of Web of Change in our world. Grassroots organizers want to know how the web and media helps to genuinely bring people together, build collective ideas that improve community, and share important information about the horrible things that are happening and that are being done against us, that all of us should be aware of.
Basically, the question is (in reference to the video): How do we make sure that the communications tools and digital campaigns we are developing aren't turning us into those "gatekeepers" of information dictating what people have the access to become aware of. For those struggling and organizing against some of the worst of the world's injustices and abuses, they want to know that technology can also play a role in exposing truth, beyond just what is popular, trending, or comfortable for us. How can me multiply the impact of campaigns like the Change.org "Halt Corrective Rape" initative (http://bit.ly/eM8g71) which engaged hundreds of thousands of people world wide to use social media to hold politicians accountable for the support of inhumane practices? How will Web of Change play a role in breaking apart that "filter bubble" that we live in and are pushed into by web algorithms? And will our collaborations remain honest and faithful to the experiences of the people living the daily struggle and counting on us to use our skills, expertise, and resources in sharing their story and the story of the their movement nationally and globally?
My hope is for this team to be a working team that people feel they can trust, and that when Web of Change convenes every year, it does so as a step forward in helping to realize that collective vision of justice and equality.
Juan is an alumni of WOC10:10 and works with the Florida Immigrant Coalition