Marshall Ganz on the “story of the self” & where Obama, MoveOn and Change went wrong

In a biographical essay in The Nation (Feb. 3, 2011), Sasha Abramsky characterizes Ganz’s approach:

“The first thing we taught was story,” explains Ganz. “It was tapping into that moral resource and coupling it with strategy and leadership.” Shared values, he told the volunteers, lead to viable relationships and shared commitments. These make it easier to build organizational structure, to generate effective electoral teams, which makes the development of effective strategy possible and makes it more likely that you will attain desired political outcomes.

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In a book review in The Nation (Oct. 17, 2014), Ganz critiques use of technology in organizing:
Why Hasn’t ‘Big Data’ Saved Democracy?

Micah Sifry’s new book offers some answers, but misses important shifts in the power base of traditional progressive organizing.

The trouble with “Big Email,” the kind of online advocacy Move.On pioneered, is that even as the Internet makes it easier for us to “find each other,” it makes it harder for us to “bind with each other,” writes Sifry, in “common focus.” Big email mobilizers may aggregate millions of individual voices, but fail to connect owners of these voices to each other to create any new collective political capacity. As a result, Sifly wisely observes, it is easier to generate what he calls “stop energy”—that is, the reaction of individuals to crises—than the “go energy” created by people working together to solve common problems. Big Email franchisers of “distributed campaigns” like Change.org simply increase the number of individuals mobilizing mini-campaigns to support customized causes. The result is a cacophony that is much more “noise than signal,” says Sifry. Even more significant, at most online advocacy organizations, the people being mobilized aren’t the ones making decisions as to when, on whose behalf, or for what purpose to mobilize. Instead, the individuals who “own” the lists make these calls, relying on polling to “sample” their “base” for “input.”

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