New media outreach for NGOs: a case study on the US Campaign for Burma

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A case study on how USCB is using new media outreach. Made for MIT's Center for Future Civic Media.

A case study on how USCB is using new media outreach. Made for MIT's Center for Future Civic Media.

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  • 1. New media for organizational advocacy Audubon Dougherty Media in Cultural Context MIT Center for Future Civic Media Fall 2008 Case study on the United States Campaign for Burma
  • 2. What USCB does
    • To strengthen the position of the rightful leaders of Burma by cutting the political and economic lifelines of the ruling military junta;
    • To organize and advocate for international intervention in Burma;
    • To inform grassroots citizens, international media and policymakers about Burma’s political, social and economic crisis.
    The mission of USCB is to build a broad based coalition of grassroots and institutional support for freedom in Burma.
  • 3. Outreach activities
    • USCB Campaigns Coordinator responsible for all outreach & organizing
    • update content on website (redesigned in 2007)
    • create e-newsletters, online petitions, listservs
    • manage social networking sites (6+)
    • produce web videos for USCB site, YouTube channel, WITNESS Hub
    • conference calls with activists
    • face-to-face meetings with regional coordinators and student groups
    • new initiatives: blog for lead activists; monthly webcast (Ustream)
  • 4. Measuring success
    • Effect of outreach measured by the number of:
      • new members signing up + donations
      • people contacting USCB
      • responses to action alerts and online petitions
      • new student groups created
      • YouTube/Fanista video hits
      • friends on social networking sites
  • 5. Who I talked to THELMA YOUNG Former campaigns coordinator for USCB NICKIE SEKERA Northeast regional coordinator and board member SAM GREGORY USCB board member & WITNESS program coordinator
  • 6. What works
    • Distributed content creation
    • Leveraging Hollywood support & media coverage
    • Building grassroots activists through on- and offline communication
    • Utilizing social networks for spontaneous actions
    • Using digital media to mobilize people to act
    • Being realistic: understanding staff capacity
  • 7. Challenges
    • Managing content created
    • Strategic marketing needed to promote media
    • Organizing can’t only happen online
    • Social networking sites serve particular purposes; fragmentation occurs
    • Limitations depending on audience, action, messaging
    • More staff is needed to continue outreach and organizing
  • 8. (pros & cons)
    • Distributed content creation
    • Activists create & share their own photos, videos, t-shirt designs, other resources
    • Message not controlled by organization
    • Self-replicating
    • Org picks & chooses what to use or promote
  • 9. The (viral) video campaign 30 days for a million voices. Burma: it can’t wait.
    • 30 videos in 30 days
    • 38 celebrities
    • funded by donor
    • launched in May 2007
  • 10. (pros & cons)
    • Leveraging Hollywood support
    • Fanista distribution/production partnership successful
    • Cyclone Nargis hit simultaneously
    • Many hits, but mixed reviews & lacked sufficient marketing
    • Goal of PSAs: to get one million new members; got 30,000 (but still impressive, up from just a few hundred in 2005)
    • Initial Jim Carrey video more popular because of media coverage
  • 11. (pros & cons)
    • Communication: online & off
    • Sometimes simple tools work best (ex: Gchat)
    • Face-to-face organizing essential
    • Communication methods should depend on audience
    • Haven’t tried coordinated mobile messaging yet
  • 12. (pros & cons)
    • Social networks: Facebook, etc.
      • P2P can be great for organizing quick actions
      • Facebook not built to maintain long-term involvement
      • Fragmentation of supporters impedes coordinated action but can inspire different conversations and ways to act
      • Need someone to update social network sites frequently
      • Does large number of “friends” mean large number of activists?
  • 13. (pros & cons)
    • Digi media: can it mobilize people?
    • Allows NGOs to reach new audiences more easily
    • Not everyone is tech savvy; utilize those who are to organize others
    • Can make the org look very active; but can staff respond when people do mobilize and want to act?
  • 14. (pros & cons)
    • Being realistic about resources & staff capacity
    • Be strategic about goals & what to prioritize; one person can’t do it all, esp. with tiny budget
    • Don’t be afraid to nix what isn’t working (ex: web forum)
    • New video initiative: need more staff/volunteers to implement
  • 15. Lessons
    • Bottom-up organizing: org provides resources to guide content creation & inspire leadership; grabs key user content for targeted advocacy purposes
    • Utilize “techie” activists in strategic ways
    • Use online communication in tandem with face-to-face communication , and as a means to facilitate local action
    • Social networks serve specific purposes: recognize their strengths for activism (spontaneous action, creating discussion) and exploit them
    • Prioritize organizational goals , then allocate resources or make cutbacks
    • Public relations strategy should be integrated into all org initiatives, on- and offline
    • Stealing corporate, Hollywood or mainstream outreach strategies is OK! Do whatever inspires cause recognition, understanding & action.