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The Personal Democracy Forum conference has always been a celebration of technology’s role transforming politics and redefining democracy. But this year’s celebration included particularly strong notes of caution, like danah boyd’s talk on the unintended consequences of code, Mark Surman’s warning that internet freedom is shrinking and Mariana Ruiz Firmat’s reminder that equity within our organizations is a design imperative, not just a good hiring practice.

The chorus of realistic voices was my second favorite thing about PDF16. My favorite was our own cautionary panel, “Is the Civic Tech Story Broken?”, which I presented with panelists Sam Dorman, Elizabeth Eagen and Shaifali Puri.

AR-Scribing-Edited_Global-Standard

As citizens in many democracies seek greater participation in public debate, international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are seeking a new model for advocacy: one where supporters become fuller participants in priority-setting and tactics, and where leadership demonstrates accountability to those participants on an ongoing basis.

“People power”, unleashed and expedited by newer technologies, can help ICSOs scale their impact – through crowdsourcing projects, for instance, that harness the input of thousands of unconnected individuals, or through networked campaigns that disseminate not only information but also campaign leadership across hundreds of small groups and thousands of miles.

"Digital Forest" - MobLab

This post by Julien Burns comes from Greenpeace’s Mobilisation Lab, a longtime participant in the TABridge network. The “MobLab” functions as a testing ground and “forward-looking space” to help Greenpeace’s global network and it allies understand and pilot “people-powered” campaigning, online and off.

“I am not saying ignore what’s working for large organizations,” writes ActionSprout CEO Drew Bernard, “they often provide great inspiration. But don’t mistake what they are doing as a path to success.” His email came in response to a call for help I sent out to a brain trust of progressive digital advocacy wonks. After watching countless small nonprofits struggle to establish digital presences, I was losing faith that organizations with at most a handful of communications staff working across all media could compete.

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