One of the areas that I like to cover in the Social Computing ecosystem is that surrounding Community development and management. In the past I have been far more focused on exploring open source platforms and the raw ingredients that have shaped the success of community development as an alternative to push marketing.
Involvement in a variety of community initiatives over the past few years has led me into a lot of reflection on the edge areas around open source/proprietary – volunteer/paid but I have found myself dwelling only in these edge areas and missing some core developments around community organisation – and this morning even more grandiose : Nation Building.
What spurred me to a bit of an ah ha moment was a push from a contact from a decade or so ago that was kickstarting a new documentary BIKES vs CARS (kck.st/1f7i1Xj). He is very actively and creatively not just funding the documentary itself but creating a vibrant community around the movements ideals. Its worth investigating and I suspect I will talk more about in the future. The point to hand though is that he is using a commercial product – NationBuilder. There is a rapidly maturing number of platforms available in this space. NationBuilder promotes itself as an opportunity to ‘turn your life into a movement’. No small promise. Many of these platforms seem to have grown out of well funded and partisan political campaigns in the US – hence a portion of their pitch dedicated to dealing with whether they are partisan or non-partisan themselves. Apparently this is a factor that really matters in this space. As well – if you want to turn your life into a movement – you’ll want to use the platform to conduct some fundraising to pay for its use. It would be very naive to assume we can carry a movement without finances of some sort. I am a little surprised that in this case they don’t even stoop to the crack-cocaine model of marketing and let you use it with no fee for a just big enough purpose to become addicted and pay for it for what it can be. So the reality of fundraising component of the movement is right up front. I suppose there’s an honesty and transparency in that. I really was impressed by their boldness in differentiating from their perceived competitors through a ‘Why we are different page‘ and a further one ‘Correcting Myths about NationBuilder‘. The existence of both of these is I presume a means to try to take control of the debate – it’s clearly a contentiuous and a very intriguing space.
What strikes me though is that they are commercial – unabashedly so. Its a dot com not a dot org. Big political movements (certainly in the US and of course elsewhere) have financial backers – it’s reality. Emerging and existing social media tools do allow individuals and self-organised groups to accomplish much without having to pay for professional services. However, the big time – without real guerrilla creativity – is still a funded space. What this raises is a point I have been nurturing over the past week about groups working towards shared objectives with radically different ways of getting there. Movement and communities really have to focus on the end point and realise that objectives may be shared, but values may differ – can this work??