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A room with 800,000,000 people

February 15 2012 | Strategy, Activism, Modern Activism,

It is never about the technology, it's always about what the technology enables.

This came to me as I read Mark Zuckerberg's S-1 letter to potential investors. He states Facebook's intentions cleanly, inlcuding the words below.

I think we look past this point much of the time. Instead, we take on a cynical view regarding innovations like Twitter and Facebook, dismissing them as trendy or this week's waste of time.

Platforms like these are as trendy as the printing press or television. They can be used, like all platforms can be used, for many things... folly, influence, change, etc. Instead of dismissing innovations we should seek to understand these new tools and platforms.

We should ask the question "how can this accelerate and amplify an idea... like the idea that is Surfrider Foundation?"

We, Surfrider Foundation, believe that water should be clean, beaches should be accessible and our coastlines should reflect their natural, dynamic state. Those ideas have spread all over the world. We care about the size and potency of our prescence in coastal communities because we know where there is a Surfrider prescence there is an active, engaged voice for coastal preservation.

When we see tools, any tools, that can help us push those ideas forward we must test them.

Like many activist-driven ideas, Surfrider puts an emphasis on face-to-face interactions. We understand slacktivism isn't the same as in-person, but should that mean it's less valuable to our organization? It's easy to assume that a person acting online isn't anywhere near as valuable as a person making a statement in front of a local city council. What we need to focus on is how to leverage an online supporter and get them to "show up." The reason we leverage evolving platforms like Facebook is because we're looking to maximize our impact on our mission. Our goal is to grow a powerful activist network. Our goal is to embrace an online activist who maybe liked our Facebook page, or signed an online petition, acquaint them with Surfrider and provide them ways to engage at a local level, and eventually nurture them into becomming a stellar activist who shows up in a city council meeting and makes a statement.  If we're lucky, someone in the room will capture their statement on video and post it to YouTube, Facebook, etc. and that video will take on a virality of it's own, and inspire other online activists to engage deeper with our mission. If we can use a tool to get more people engaged in a campaign, connected to a local bag ban... we're doing what we exist to do. We embrace tools like Facebook for the same reason we used the telephone in years past, the fax machine after that, etc. It's for these reasons that Mark Zuckerberg's comments resonate with me.

Facebook is a gathering place. It's a platform for engagement of all types. It's a room with 800,000,000 people in it.

Sure, every for-profit organization answers to the bottom line and Facebook isn't any different. They exist to maximize returns for their stakeholders. I'm not suggesting we put technology platform on a pedestal or suggest they have inherent, humanitarian intentions. I'm suggesting we leverage them for all they're worth. I'm suggesting we use the tool... well. I'm suggesting Mark and the crew have literally created the largest forum on the planet. It can be used for shared ideas and dialog with supporters and opponnets. We need to test, demand results and embrace evolving platforms that enable us to push our mission forward better.

I was stoked to see the language in the above-noted letter because we all see the potential for change all over the planet. It's nice to see the founders of Facebook also connected to those same opportunities.

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