Monday, March 23, 2009

Think Locally; Act Globally

Years ago, while conducting program audits for a federal agency, I was amazed to see how disjunctive the various regional offices were. There was very little information shared between these offices. The outside contractors knew this and were able to hide their fraudulent activities for years longer than they should have if the regional offices compared notes.

That was before online social advocacy.

In a previous post, Develop a Twittering For Your Cause, I commented on ways to use new online media tools to draw attention to a cause. Now, I want to dig a little deeper.

Let’s say your organization is addressing deplorable conditions in housing in your area. You could work with the local media and perhaps get the attention of the local housing code enforcement agency. The landlord, a limited partnership whose general partner is a corporation based in another city, would eventually make some improvements to avoid fines until the attention faded.

Or you could really make a difference.

Start by alerting your followers that there is a problem. Post some pictures and quotes from tenants. Encourage others to look for similar situations in their area involving the same principals or related entities.

Next, get a press release out that combines some of the content and links the posts together. Follow that with a call to the local government office responsible for enforcing habitability laws. Ideally, this will happen in multiple locations at one time. If you have not already received a call from local press, call them. Keep the content refreshed with pictures, comments from tenants and government officials and updates on the progress that the landlord makes in addressing the situation.

Now what was a local, isolated issue can become a coordinated, regional or national effort to force the principals of these limited partnerships to clean up their properties across the board or sell them to someone who will. With a larger audience filled with housing advocates, you can draw more attention in more places. That may in turn alert other advocates in other cities who have problems with the same landlord. And retaliatory actions against the tenants should be far less likely with so much scrutiny already in place.

Re-read my post on “Developing a Twittering” and imagine how your organization can turn the heat up on your adversaries in order to effect change in your neighborhood.

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