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The most important thing we can do is share

September 08 2011 | Strategy, Chapters, Campaigns, Activism, Communications,

On July 21st of this year a five year fight ended with a meaningful victory. Surfrider's Portland chapter, along with a strong network of partners, helped drive a unanimous vote from the Portland City Council and secured a very meaningful regional bag ban.

I vividly remember this as I was sitting in the back courtyard of Saturdays Surf in NYC meeting with our New York Chapter when I got the text. As a past New Yorker (fueling my sense of local pride) I immediately turned to our local crew and encouraged them to try and duplicate Portland's victory in Manhattan.

When you listen to the story behind the Portland ban you'll find it wasn't easy, it took a long time but the work yieled great fruit.

All of us are proud of the Portland fight and the win but none of us are satisfied enough to stop our larger fight to keep single-use plastics out of the ocean... and so the question becomes "what can we do to scale our knowledge and wins?"

How can we scale our mission?

In order to truely scale the movement of coastal preservation Surfrider Foundation must continue to shift our culture towards one that is tightly networked and relentlessly focused on sharing best practices.

When we learn of successful strategies or tactics in one region our culture must not be satisfied until those things are shared and implemented everywhere. This isn't new to us, we've been doing this for over a decade via regional conferences, regional managers, etc. What I'm talking about here is never being satisfied with our level of integration as one never really arrives.

The Surfrider network is now 81 chapters strong in the United States and the network now spreads well beyond this country's shores to at least 15 other places on the globe.

Size matters when talking about the value of a network. Think of the telephone. If only one person has a telephone it's not of much value. The value of a tool like a phone is tied to how many other people also have phones. This is the network effect.

What matters even more is how integrated it is.Think of those same phones. What if 100 people had phones but none of the phones worked with each other? 

To say this another way, the network effect applies to Surfrider. As our network increases in size it increases in value. The assumption here is that the various nodes (chapters/activists) are sharing. Thus the title of this post.

Our ever-growing network, now spanning five continents is impressive. What will make it formidable, everywhere, is directly related to how much it shares its assets, intelligence and learnings across the network.

Going back to the Portland ban and the long list of bans that came before it. When we work together in a region we can do great work, we can shift the way a regional culture lives. When we work together across regions, across time zones and across hemispheres we can scale that cultural shift to the entire planet.

I was in New York last night, at the same place... Saturdays Surf... talking with the same leaders of our New York chapter. If they decide to take this fight on one of the first steps they should do is learn every possible thing they can from the Portland mavens behind that ban. Those learnings may shorten the fight from five years to three or they might increase the chances of success from 50% to 70%.

This is our future.

The most important thing we can do is share.


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