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July 24, 2007

Workshops and Committee Meetings

Tuesday morning and afternoon were devoted to workshops and committee meetings. In the morning, I presented a workshop on Online Activism. There were many workshops presented during the morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, since you can only be in one place at a time, I can only tell you about my workshop. It was well attended. For the first portion, I gave an overview of online activism and during the second portion we discussed an action plan.

Lunch was absolutely delicious - including more Bolivian delicacies than previous meals. We are very lucky to be well fed; it helps since the work can be difficult.

After lunch, I attended a meeting of the International Middle East Committee. Attendees included the Lebanese delegation, the Israeli delegation, an individual from Sweden, and several individuals from the United States. Unfortunately, our Palestinian sisters did not make it to the Congress and were therefore unable to join us. We reviewed previous statements - the Committee's Statement from Berlin in May 2007 and the Israeli Section Gaza Strip Statement, June 2007. Our purpose was to create a draft resolution to present to the Resolutions Committee so that the resolutions passed during the Congress would include resolutions on the Middle East.

That meeting happened during a workshop time period because of conflicting committee meetings. All of the standing committees and working groups met during the same time. Due to this conflict, the Communications Committee meeting had three attendees, though several more committee members are attending the Congress. The bright side is that we've already recruited two new committee members from Latin America!

During the previously scheduled social hour the report from the Quito Conference to Abolish Foreign Military Bases is occurring. (More info to follow.)

If you follow this post after the jump, you'll find my presentation on Online Activism.

For those who don't know me, my name is Cynthia Jane Minster - I go by C.J. I've been a member of WILPF since 1999 and am serving my second term on the US Section national board. I am currently the US Program Chair, overseeing 2 campaigns and 7 committees. I am also a member of the International Communications Committee and active in the Los Angeles branch. I work in direct marketing and I am a recent thyroid cancer survivor.

This workshop is an overview of the world of online activism and how to harness the power of the net to further WILPF / LIMPAL's mission.

WILPF has a great deal of knowledge and does incredible education and advocacy. In recent years, we have increased our use of email and we're starting to use our listservs. But there's so much more we can do. The goal of this workshop is to break down the barriers between tech junkies and technophobes.

Many people think of me as an expert in the field of online activism. I'm honored by the designation, but want to be clear - there is much I don't know. My first year of college in 1996, I was scared of my computer and had never been online. It took me awhile to understand that I would not break a computer by using it regularly. It also took me awhile to learn how to feel comfortable with online communication.

My goals for this workshop are:

  • To explain online activism in a way that is inviting to people with no experience with it
  • To gather the knowledge of others who already use the web beyond email
  • To formulate an action plan for WILPF to implement these tools

Online Advocacy is Already Established
How people gather on the web

Blogs have been around for 10 years. Recently, the Wall Street Journal featured an article about the importance of blogs. While we have nothing in common with the editorial goals of the WSJ, it's important to realize that this is a forum that is being taken seriously by the mainstream media. A blog is a website written in reverse chronological order on any topic. The large community of blogs on the web is generally known as the blogosphere. I believe this is the easiest way for WILPFers to become more visible: in addition to emailing each other our opinions on world events, we can publish those same words on the web for the entire world to read. By identifying ourselves as WILPFers, by publishing on our official websites, we can enhance the world's understanding of WILPF and remind them that we are still active, and not just something you read about in history books.

This is easy and free - there are many free blog publishing tools, including Blogger. We're working on creating blog capabilities on the international website. The US Section's blog was recently moved to its official website, so that can show you an example of WILPF blogging. Personally, I've been reporting on the official portions of this Congress on my own blog - www.socialupheaval.com - so that our sisters who cannot be with us can share in what we're doing.

Social Networking Groups
These include MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook. I don't want to go into detail, but just want to point out that by having discussions on these sites, we can build an opportunity for WILPF to increase its younger members. I created WILPF groups on Friendster and MySpace and without any work, we've gathered 48 people on Friendster and almost 30 on MySpace. I would love for other people to join and take responsibility for generating discussions on these boards. It's free and a way to increase our visibility.

Comments sections of major sites
In the information age, commenting on major news sites and blogs is the 21st century version of writing letters to the editor.

Structure Decisions are Political Decisions
People shun hierarchy publicly, but still use it. What I mean is that we say we want open access to decisions and discussions, and then we do things that limit access. When we use email instead of listservs, we are limiting the access to our words and we limit the historical record of our work. What I mean is that our committees are large and it’s easy to forget people when sending out an email to individual addresses, rather than the single address of a listserv. Listservs also serve as a historical record of our communication, something that is very difficult to do when using email alone.

Online activism is a way to democratize our process - to allow more people a voice in the decision-making process. We can have a Members-Only section to discuss policies and procedures that would be open to all members. This could help us focus our communication. Rather than the flood of news articles and reports of other organizations that often occurs on our Intl listserv, we could use this space to work on building our organization.

Online Activism is Already Thriving
As many of you know, most advocacy organizations have more robust websites than WILPF. At the same time, most organizations do not have as much information on the web as WILPF. This is the key difference between how we have presented ourselves on the web and how other orgs present themselves. We offer our knowledge and we monitor international fora, but we are not at the forefront of mass activism. What I'd like us to do is expand our use of online petitions, online fundraising, and online networking.

Discussion Questions

  • must a core group maintain control over WILPF's image?
  • what holds us back from using more than just email?
  • Creating a timeline for our work forward

Posted by cj at July 24, 2007 2:47 PM


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