Marty Kearns on Netcentric Advocacy in a Socially Networked World

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"What is Netcentric Advocacy? It is an advocacy strategy focused on reaching out to and mobilizing citizens in their social networks and bringing them into yours.

You have no doubt heard much about social networks like MySpace, Care2, Flickr, and Yahoo 360. These are the virtual gathering places of our times. Other social networks, like MeetUp are all about using online tools to grow offline social networks linked online. LinkedIn, Friendster, and Plaxo are professional social networks. This is where people are gathering online and this is where you need to find them to engage them.

Our May 2006 speaker, Marty Kearns, has given much thought to social netowrks and their role in advocacy campaigns. As described in the vison statement for Marty Kearns' latest project, Netcentric Campaigns, "Global culture is polarized, splintered and self-absorbed while simultaneously being wired, networked, connected and 'plugged in'. We are individually ignorant yet overloaded with information. The opportunity to create radical and unexpected change lies in developing strategies along the fault line between these colliding and competitive forces.

"Families, communities, sports teams and leagues, old boy networks, alumni associations, churches, civic groups and work associations have always been a strong part of our human experience. However, the ties of these social networks now extend beyond geography and organizational walls. Social ties can remain strong even though people graduate, move across town for a new job, or across the country to a new community.

"Cheap long distance phone rates, email, instant messaging, cell phones, easy exchanges of photos, blogs, online communities and affordable travel enable people to "stay close" across huge gaps of distance and time.

"In this highly mobile and transient society, traditional community organizing techniques and locally-focused team models are insufficient. Creating power and influencing social change in the new culture requires an approach focused not only on the individual or organization, but also on the network as a mechanism for exerting influence. The network-centric approach unifies the strategy for creating change with the dynamics of our age."