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How do we turn sympathisers into activists?

A number of people have commented on the hierarchies of involvement diagram that I posted in my e-campaigning article. To clarify, the diagram is taken from the Participate Online research project done by the BBC, so I can’t claim credit for it. Still, the responses reinforce my belief that it is a useful model to use in thinking about campaigning and participation.

In response to my post, Priscilla of Solidariti reiterated the important question “how do we move supporters and activists from one point on the chart to the next?”. Participate Online attempted to tackle this by looking at the triggers and barriers that affect people’s involvement.

Barriers and Triggers to Involvement

Taken from slide 50 - Participate Online - User Motivation in Mass Participation

Priscilla found that asking people directly how best they might contribute was an effective way of engaging with people. She cites the “too many additional/personal commitments” barrier as being prevalent, although I wonder whether if it is the “perception” of this that is the true barrier. She also turns out to be a trigger/motivator herself - a figure who her readers respect - which was not included in Participate’s list.

The Participate research also encourages us to look at participation as a journey:

Participation as a Journey

Adapted from slide 54 - Participate Online - User Motivation in Mass Participation

I think this model is useful for evaluating how the offline and online interact. In general, the cause and event are offline activities, whilst the call to action and community are increasingly managed online. Our attempts to shift participation should respect the larger journeys that people are taking part in, and the most effective methods of engagement to use at each stage. To build communities that last and are effective, it is necessary to allow for both online and offline activities, and for the community to evolve, so that new goals and journeys for participants will form.

The question of how to build this community is a much larger one, which many in the e-campaigning community have been dealing with for some time. I don’t think my ideas on this are particularly new, but I thought I should share them anyway since I’m on the subject. One of the key features of the hierarchy of engagement was that it was easier to carry out activities at the bottom of the hierarchy of engagement on a mass scale online, and that more direct activities tended to involve fewer people, and be offline. An effective e-campaigning network should cater for both. The below diagram shows a possible flow between three different levels of a theoretical community that might do this. The top sector is the most digital and mass, employing crowdsourcing to highlight issues raised by the community (the issues chosen here are just examples). The second “intra-team” sector provides a route through to the third sector, where smaller teams of like-minded, local, connected and more active individuals are able to collaborate, focus on problems, and contribute back to the community. When a team has completed work on a problem, i.e. it has come to the end of its “journey”, then the new relationships formed on this journey, and issues raised, will help individuals to form new teams and communities to continue the cycle. I see the second sector as a tool to encourage people to shift along the hierarchy of engagement and form teams in the third sector, perhaps by automatically forming suggestions of teams to work on issues based on common interests, relationships and geography. We therefore manage to combine the strengths of small groups of committed individuals, with the mass movements that can carry actions through to fruition.

Building Networks on the Hierarchy of Engagement (small)

Posted in ecampaigning.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Participation - the social web linked to this post on January 7, 2008

    [...] been watching Priscilla and Nicholas’s conversation with interest. Today I had a chance to review the research that sparked that [...]

  2. EMC Summer School « Zumio linked to this post on February 22, 2010

    [...] all this is included in my slide notes, I thought it worth noting that the diagram was conceived by Nicholas Street in response to a couple of reports, most notably the Participate Online research report (PDF 815 [...]

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