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Caleb Gardner of Organizing for Action

Caleb Gardner, Deputy Digital Director of Organizing for Action joined us to answer the question “how do you build a movement?” OFA’s approach to building a movement has a few pieces to it:

  • Inspirational leaders
  • Symbolism
  • Common interests
  • Sharing emotional experiences
  • Community

OFA wants a long-term grassroots movement that makes change for this country; they want to foster and sustain a community of people moving towards a common goal.

Building a Movement

The work of OFA’s community can be grueling work — moving policies forward, working with legislatures, etc. How do you get a group of people who want the same things to want to continue working together and working towards the same goals?The answer can be found in community building.

Here are Caleb’s solutions to making people feel like they’re a part of a movement:

  • Membership: OFA has made their walls for what it means to be a community member very transparent. It’s easy to learn how to become a community member and the barriers to entry are low.
  • Shared emotional experiences: OFA community members treat each other like a family – and OFA uses emotional language intentionally to express that in order to represent their community.
  • Bi-directional influence: If you’re going to be part of a community, you have to feel like your voice matters. OFA has learned from their volunteer community that they care about more issues than originally thought. They realized that if they can build a tool for their community members to network and connect, they will be successful.

Mission-driven communities

Tphoto (3)raditionally, when we think about communities, we think “you’re either in the circle or out” — known as set theory in mathematics. The opposite is the center-set model. It’s not important what your ideology is; what matters is where you’re going. There are some people who are moving in the same direction, towards the same goals, with the same values. Then there are others who are on the same page some days, but not on others. Then there are people who have no idea who you are.

The question in building a movement becomes: do you want to join us in this journey? You must tweak your communications with people depending on where on the path or journey they are. For example, you’re going to communicate with someone who has the same ideals differently from those who have no idea who you are.

Caleb introduced the Ben Franklin Effect – people are more likely to do something because they like you. Don’t be afraid to ask your community to do something for you. This is likely to result in a more engaged community of people who want to join on your journey.

You can now watch the entire talk from CMX Summit:

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