Check out this great and brief presentation by Jeremy Heimans who is the founder of Purpose, a group working to help organizations and movements harness the myriad of tools available today to combine and build power around issues that matter.
The thing that strikes me most about Purpose, and most conversations about ‘social movement building’ in the 21st century, is the focus on technology and new tools that allow people to associate and communicate. As Heimans discusses in his talk, it was only a couple of decades ago when the finest piece of organizing technology available was the fax machine. How does the accelerating pace of the development of tools, platforms, and modes of communication create new structural potential for people to work together on issues that matter?
There’s no doubt that technology, novel platforms, and modes of communication have the potential to revolutionize the way we aggregate power. But I also hope that the focus on technological innovation doesn’t distract us from the task of building human, person to person, real organizations that allow people to form new relationships that are rooted in common purpose and that allow those people to act collaboratively to take action with one another.
I don’t think that these things are by any means mutually exclusive. But, I do sense a tension between the silicon-valley-esque slickness of online mobile platforms and the very 20th century seeming models of old school community organizing. In the end, the space of innovation is probably someplace at their intersection. We need to simultaneously innovate on tech tools while also better cultivating organizations and institutions that foster the relational capacity between people to get real work done.