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In Part 1 of this two-part series I argue why new social movement funding infrastructure is necessary. In Part 2 I’ll suggest how to do it.
Q: Why is new financial infrastructure needed?
There’s a big disconnect between how social change is happening and how resources for change-makers are distributed. Unless changes occur in the activist funding system the most effective activists will be starved of resources and change will not occur.
A: Social movements look different…
In 1920, the NAACP decided to publicize and condemn the epidemic of lynching through a communication campaign. They hung a flag with the words “A MAN WAS LYNCHED YESTERDAY” from the window of their New York office whenever they learned through their network that a person had been lynched the day before. In 1938, they stopped the flag campaign, not because the crisis was over, but because their landlord found the flag disturbing and they risked losing their lease.
Compare this to the hashtag commemorations like #FreddieGray and #SandraBland that have sprung up around the Black Lives Matter movement, its own name taken from a hashtag. Mass broadcast of hashtags on Twitter is free and immediate. Victims of police violence are named, not commemorated in anonymity. Anyone can raise the alarm, so long as they have internet access. And a hashtag – shareable with a click – is very difficult to silence.
…and the changes go deeper than the screen.
These changes are more than switching from flags for tweets. From Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009, to the Arab Spring of 2010, Occupy Wall Street and the indignados in 2011, to Ukraine’s Euromaidan in 2013, to Black Lives Matter, mass movements are increasingly being initiated and sustained outside of the brick-and-mortar infrastructure of nonprofits and legally incorporated civic institutions.
New organizational infrastructure is emerging online…
Scholars such as Lance Bennett, Alexandra Segerberg, and Manuel Castells have observed that there is an “emerging alternative model” for social movements. According to Bennett and Segerberg, “Formal organizations are losing their grip on individuals, and group ties are being replaced by large-scale, fluid social networks.”
Social media isn’t only changing the medium of social movements. It’s also changing how they operate. According to Bennett and Segerberg, “technology platforms and applications