New York, NY — Today, 100 million Americans are involved with organizations or movements engaged in social change. Despite vast and quickly improving methods of communications and interconnectivity, many who work to "make a difference" are hobbled by technical barriers, often because there is no roadmap to connect these new information sharing methods. The emerging concept of "social media"--email and text messaging, iPods and music sharing, IM's and other tools that blend the intimacy of a phone with the reach of broadcast media--is going to be critical to clearing the path for, and fueling, future social movements, according to the new book, MOMENTUM: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (Jossey Bass; October, 2006), by Allison Fine.
"You'd be blown away by how the tools you've been too busy or scared to try can affect how you can change the world," says Fine, a philanthropist, social entrepreneur and Senior Fellow for Democracy at Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action. "I'm no geek, but one day, I decided I was too young to be over the hill."
Ever since, Fine made it her business to become a bridge between the old wisdom about creating change, and the new possibilities ushered in by a great technological shift. "I've seen folks become much more likely to succeed, and it's way more fun!" she confides in the book she calls a "GPS for social change agents, their fans and supporters."
Not a tech manual, MOMENTUM is developed as a guidebook — but not a classic, static blueprint that barks out procedure in bulleted "How-to's." The slim volume is a user-friendly road map for creating interconnectivity that equips social change agents to abandon "silos and go-it aloneness" for a rich, connected social web that can boost their efforts.
True to her views, Fine does not make the choices for readers. "It's up to you to set your own course," she teases her readers, "since there's no one size fits all." Then, without jargon but laced through with a hearty sense of humor, she highlights success stories from activists who embraced social media to replace what she calls the "half-hearted tango of half-truths between funders and activist."
Early in MOMENTUM, Fine defines the goal she wants to help readers reach: "You don't need to become more technical to succeed," she reassures her readers, "just more connected." Just as cell-phone cameras democratize photography, Fine shows how interlacing users and forms of social media can transform social and political change in the 21st century through ordinary and familiar tools.
Harness social media. Fine tells how Kuwaiti women recently won the right to vote and run for office by flooding officials with gender-blind emails and text messages from Blackberries beneath their burkas;
Move power to the edges. She shows how civic leaders put the power to change public sanitation into the hands of beachgoers by removing every trash can from a filthy New England beach to create pristine conditions; and
Replace top-down with a more democratic side-to-side style. Fine recounts how a swarm of bloggers sparked 150,000 calls from ordinary people to advertisers of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, when the broadcast giant planned to air a highly critical documentary on John Kerry at the campaign's peak. Within a week, the stock fell 10 percent, resulting in a $60 million loss in value and the film was scrapped.
About MOMENTUM, Fine says, "We don't need to be bigger, we just need to work smarter. We have an enormous opportunity right now for millions of Americans to participate in meaningful ways in social change efforts; to shape, drive, sustain, and improve them over time."
Fine's application of this new way of thinking in MOMENTUM goes further. Whether it's a new Rx for voter registration, a fresh take on pro-immigrant marches, what American Idol says about American voters, or the trajectory and impact of the blogosphere, Fine outlines the pivots and sharp-turns that reform movements can take when engaged through social media. Urging us to replace fear with fun, confidence and creativity, MOMENTUM outlines higher tech ways to do everything from drumming up new donors to taking the pain out of scheduling conference calls.
For more information about MOMENTUM, visit www.momentumthebook.com
ALLISON FINE is a Senior Fellow at Demos. Fine is the original founder of Innovation Network (Innonet), which has engaged the independent sector in Web-based tools for more than a decade. She is also the former CEO of the E-Volve Foundation, which provides seed grants for online democracy efforts.