Building successful movements for change, and empowering supporters to become advocates, requires strategic leadership from campaigns.
They must frame the cause, develop the narrative, coordinate efforts towards shared goals, then open it up to participation. To connect with people more effectively and increase engagement with your cause, campaigns should use digital platforms and technologies to facilitate grassroots momentum. This enables supporters to become agents of change, creating content or taking action that benefits the wider campaign.
Traditionally, broadcasting messages and hierarchical power structures have been features of NGOs and campaigning organisations operating from the top down. Networked campaigning involves creating the infrastructure, then relinquishing some control and relying on the network of stakeholder groups and individuals to become the campaign and influence their respective networks. Transferring power or control from the top and spreading it among the campaign network gives stakeholders a heightened sense of responsibility, which is likely to foster greater commitment in their efforts to work towards shared campaign goals.
Starting out as a Google Doc, the Indivisible Guide was designed as a resource for those who “resisted the Trump Agenda”. Written by former congressional staffers, it detailed practical steps people could take to hold their members of Congress to account, such as attending town halls, phoning congressional officials, attending public events and taking actions online. Readers soon began organising locally, and The Indivisible Project has grown exponentially to a network of over 6,000 groups across the US.
The movement began in December 2016 when the 23-page handbook was published. After Donald Trump was elected president, the authors could see the energy building among people dissatisfied with the outcome, but it wasn’t directed. In response, they created the infrastructure which harnessed that energy and directed it towards real, tangible actions. Receiving input from others in the Indivisible network, the guide is continuously updated and is now also available in Spanish and as an audiobook. Local groups are organising actions in their community and sharing their stories through social media using the #Indivisible and #resist hashtags. The Indivisible website offers resources and practical guides, for example on starting a local group, writing a press release and using social media to communicate with the media.
What Indivisible achieved in such a short time was due to a few key factors. Not only did the authors release the guide at the right moment, they did so in a way that allowed ease of access – the open-source approach enabled supporters to contribute skills and knowledge towards shared goals.
Networked campaigning transfers power from the top to the network of supporters involved with your cause. This is summed up perfectly in Indivisible’s tagline: “We’re not the leaders of this movement: you are.”
Changing the Narrative