Join the Impact: taking social network activism (and LGBTQ rights) to the next level

Fight the H8 in SeattleKate X Messer’s Young gay marriage activist leads national protests on 365 Gay profiles Seattle Amy Balliett, who started up the Join the Impact web site after a blog post and email by her friend Willow Witte.  Amy’s 26, and her day job is as a search engine optimizer.  It’s also an excellent history of the start of the movement:

By Monday morning,* a plan had emerged: Cities around the country would organize their own efforts to coordinate a synchronized protest for Sat., Nov. 15, 10:30 a.m. PST. The movement became officially global with hits from the UK and France, and by Nov. 11, over one million visitors had come to the site.

Across the country, posts on Craigslist, bulletins on MySpace, and emails on ListServs with titles like “Meet at City Hall next weekend!” and “Upset about Prop 8? Here’s what YOU can do about it,” began to buzz with notice of the upcoming national protest.

Nancy Scola’s Once a Local Legal Battle, Is Prop 8 On Its Way to ‘Net-Fueled Cultural Moment? on techPresident puts Join the Impact in context: “Its success is reminiscent of Columbia’s anti-FARC movement launched on Facebook that spawned protests all over the world.”  Yeah, really.

I don’t mean to slight the other LGBTQ rights activism going on out there.  Equality Utah’s brilliant idea of reaching out to LDS leaders by taking them at their word and asking them to co-sponsor civil unions in Utah presents the church with an opportunity.   At the same time the fiasco at the El Coyote press conference, the sticky situation for Sundance, and the artistic director of the California’s largest musical theater stepping down in the wake of reaction to his $1000 donation (“He said his sister is a lesbian in a domestic partnership, which he understands to carry the same legal rights as marriage”) all show the strength of the various boycott movements.   Still, Join the Impact, with its Wetpaint wiki and social network focus, is the one that has me most excited.

In Towards a rebirth of freedom: activism on social networks back in July, I suggested

The experiences from Get FISA Right and other social network activism campaigns are much more broadly applicable. As Cheryl Contee says, a lot of people “aren’t as concerned about, say, FISA or impeachment. They want jobs” — or an end to wars and institutionalized violence, voting rights, affordable food, different commencement speakers, marriage equality ….We did a fairly good job of taking notes as we were going, and so hopefully there’s a lot for people to build on; still, there’s much more to be said.

Indeed.  Observing the incredible organizing skill of the Millennials who have grown up with these technologies it becomes abundantly clear how we were just scratching the surface.  My reaction is consistently “wow, that’s kind of how I’d have approached things but they’ve done it much much better than I would have.”  It starts with their positive and inclusive mission statement; a brief excerpt:

Our movement seeks to encourage the LGBTQ community not to look towards the past and place blame, but instead to look forward toward what needs to be done now to achieve one goal: Full equality for ALL. We stand for reaching out across all communities. We do not stand for bigotry, for scapegoating, or using anger as our driving force. Our mission is to encourage our community to engage our opposition in a conversation about full equality and to do this with respect, dignity, and an attitude of outreach and education.

Well said.  Then compare-and-contrast Get FISA Right‘s prototype Fifty-state strategy and List of Senator-specific Facebook groups with Join the Impact‘s main page (with a list of states + DC + International as well as the navigation on the left), and individual cities — complete with embedded Google maps and links to Facebook groups.   Or check out their Twitter update directing people to a customizable press release template.

Join the impact on twitter

To be clear, I’m not dissing our accomplishments with Get FISA Right (GFR); we prototyped approaches like the 50-state strategy and use of SaysMe.tv, and GFR and the Voter Suppression Wiki together clearly had a big influence on Wetpaint wiki activism.  We continue to be used as an example of the power of social networks by people as diverse as Hillary Clinton’s Internet expert Peter Daou and Music for Democracy founder Bear Kittay, and with discussions like What shoud Get FISA Right do now? starting up we’re about to test Ari Melber’s and my theories about reactivating net movements.  More on GFR soon.

Still, Join the Impact has taken things to another level, and as we go ahead on GFR we’ll be looking to them for inspiration.  It’s not surprising: for me, and the generally-older crowd that’s been involed in Get FISA Right and the Voter Suppression Wiki, social network sites are with rare exceptions recently-learned behavior that typically isn’t integrated fully into our lives.  By contrast:

“For me it’s second nature,” says Balliett of social networking. “It’s my job. I think: Need to organize an event? Use the Internet. Throw a party? Use Evite. Technology offers a platform on which to hold the conversation. It’s also given a platform for us to rally together and organize.”

As I said in email to a couple of folks my age, “I feel old.  But in a good way.”

The Seattle protest‘s at Volunteer Park this Saturday. Festivities start at 10:30 a.m., the rally and margh begins at noon, and there are speeches at Westlake Center at 2.  See you there, I hope!  And if you’re not in the Seattle area, check out the wiki.  There’s probably a protest near you.

* the first mention I’ve found in the blogosphere is in a comment by wonderwillow on queersunited‘s list of Prop 8 protests on Friday, November 7.  The first post on jointheimpact.com is from 12:23 a.m. Monday November 10 (Pacific time I think).   Information about the Houston protest was up in a comment within an hour and soon after that there was an article on eHow.  By 8 a.m. Pacific time Monday there were posts on change.org andPam’s House Blend, and no doubt lots more elsewhere — and the Facebook groups and events were already growing.  Things really did move at internet speed!