Happy Earth Day, everyone!  What are you doing today to celebrate the Earth?

I wanted to use today to focus in on a question recently posed by my good friend Joe Solomon on Twitter:

What are the nonprofit/orgs that are working 2 wire the green movement, like what @netsquared does 4 nonprofits, @sunfoundation for politics; which orgs are working to expose data, leverage soc media, connect the orgs together?

How is social media being deployed to connect the Green Movement?

The way I see it, there are many directions that technology is aiding social change work:

  • enabling data sharing, exchange and mapping
  • connecting organizations for shared knowledge, partnerships and coalitions
  • changing individual motions into a unified movement

It’s this last item I want to talk about right now.  The climate change/ clean energy/ environmental (or whatever other title you prefer) sector is not unique to the broader social change arena in that there is still along way to go to really harness the power of the web.  This GreenLiving article asks, “Have Facebook, Twitter and Web 2.0 Made Earth Day Every Day?” – I certainly hope not! Otherwise we have settled for low impact and disengaged motions; I’m after a real movement!


Facebook has lots of applications, it’s true: whether they are specifically targeted at “green” efforts (like the lil green patch app) or not (like Causes).  But are Facebook apps really turning citizens into advocates, individuals into changemakers?  If the goal of your organization is to educate young people about the effects and causes of climate change and motivate/empower them to start making changes, Facebook could certainly be a part of your organizations strategy.  But what are you doing on Facebook? Simply “being there” isn’t going to cut it.

Facebook’s newest “renovations” have, as many people have already noticed, nearly relegated Groups as a thing of the past and pushed Pages onto the main stage.  As the numbers of users grow, so do your number of friends, and then in turn so does the frequnecy of news items, status updates, and general calls to action for your network.  So how do you cut through the noise, how do you sift through the hundreds of apps, how do you connect and engage? Good question.

The best answer I can give (without spending the entire brainstorming, strategizing, and working in person) is that Facebook is a place to connect, and round up supporters. The engagement takes place outside of Facebook.  You can make friends and call them into action, but those actions and real engagement will link to and live outside of the platform.


There are TONS of climate activisits and organizations on Twitter – spreading news, policy alerts, new developments, and ideas.  We have seen awareness campaigns like World Wildlife Federation’s “wildlife watch” (next time you see wildlife, Tweet it with the hashtag #wwf!), and news streams like #earthtweet.  There is a lot of potential with Twitter to spread messages and calls to action from sources onto the Twitter stream, and then back again.  For example, using Social Actions (which aggregates actionable opportunities from across the web), you could pull all of the actions related to your organization’s specific environmental focus and push them out via Twitter or your website, and so on.  You can also use Social Actions’ Twitter mashups to pull and push actionable opportunities to your network.  So how do you cut through the noise, how do you sift through the random updates, how do you connect and engage?

It’s the same answer: connect on Twitter, grow your network, and make those calls; but the real engagement, the action, takes place outside of Twitter.  Don’t create a strategy or even expect to use Twitter for the actions. It’s not going to work.  Use the tool for what it is: a communications platform.  Target your communications, leverage mashups and applications that help you deliver information, updates and calls to action that are important to your work and your network, and then move those supporters into the movement taking place above Twitter.


ItsGettingHotInHere is just one example of getting it right in the blogosphere – aggregation is key to really get content (read: messages) out and around the web, creating opportunities for more people to read and also more people to share.  The climate change movement has shown a lot of focus on helping people effected by climate change (everyone) share their story, voice their concerns.  This is excellent – something that many other sectors could learn from.  But it isn’t enough to only tell our story.  We need to couple real voices, with real opportunities to take action and get involved.

The power of blogs is the real-time documentation.  Something that can really help the climate change movement is documentation, shared between campaigns, organizations, and coalitions, about 1. what is happening and 2. lessons learned from the work.  Openly sharing strategies and what worked and didn’t work can help save time, money, and a lot of wasted efforts at reinventing the wheel.  Blogs are a great way to do this because of their immediacy, accessibility, and linkability.  So how do you cut through the noise, how do you sift through the random updates, how do you connect and engage?

Your Twitter or Facebook calls to action might bring people to your blog, or your website. But the action is still taking place beyond the blog.  It’s a cop-out, I know, to say all of this, but it’s true.  And I feel like I have to say it to remind us that living and working and concentrating soley on social media is not going to change the world.  It’s what we do with social media to find and collect supporters, education them, empower them, and provide real opportunities to go out and make the changes that really matter.  Some of that work may still be online, and in fact much of it may be, but no Facebook application is going to install solar panels on my roof – though I could fundraise for those panels in the same space.

What do you think?

This post is really to start a conversation.  And I really, really, REALLY want to hear what you think.  Here are some things to help get the conversation started if the above didn’t already give you something to say.  These are just questions to get you thinking, and talking. I’d love for you to share your ideas, answers, questions, and thoughts below – but if you have the conversation offline, in your organization, and with your friends, well, that works for me, too!

FiredUpMedia wants to create a platform for youth effected by climate change to share their story and create news articles that can be cynidated throughout college radio/news networks and beyond.  This is a great example of providing a real, authentic voice to a global issue.  But how do you wish the platform would work? How could the platform also integrate policy items as well as education and action items to get people involved?

TakingItGlobal is an online community for youth interested in global issues that provides tools and resources for members to enagage and collaborate on issues they care about.  How can a youth-targeted platform like this bridge the sector to connect the stories, voices, action items and projects underway with those in other groups (whether those are geographic, cultural, racial, or religious groups) working on climate change, too?

Change.org’s Climate Change cause area has over 23,000 members.  How do you want to see these supporters engaged?  Is there a way you would want your organization’s community or membership to interact with the content or actions distributed through the Change.org platform?

Earth Day Network has a great website to help get people involved in celebrating and protecting the planet.  Should EDN be an aggregator for the sector, pulling in news and reports, information and so on?  How could EDN, or similar projects like Focus The Nation, move from a specific date-based event to a 365-day movement?

TechSoup Global’s GreenTech project has launched a campaign to education people about steps to “green” their work.  What are the most immediate actions a global organization like TSG could advocate for?  How could TSG integrate the GreenTech work with their international work of providing discounted technology projects to nonprofit organizations?

Happy Earth Day everyone!  I’m really excited about this conversation, about pushing the climate change movement forward, and about what we can all do, regardless of our position, skills, or location, to make a difference.  Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Wiring the Green Movement for Earth Day
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  • From Mashable today: The Social Media & Web Guide to Going Green:

  • I agree that social media is an important tool for the green movement, but you’ve also hit the nail on the head: how do you cut through the noise to get something useful, actionable, and of value?

    I’d like to see a service, along the lines of what we’ve been experimenting with at StockTwits.com, that aggregates the green conversation in a way that organizes it and filters it. Tweetdeck allows you to create groups, but that’s not enough. I want a stream devoted to energy, another to climate, another to sustainability news, csr, social entrepreneurs, etc. And I want a way to find the credible, reliable voices (as opposed to the cranks, yahoos, and boosters — it’s the skeptic in me).

    One of the advantages of the StockTwits platform, to me, is I’m finding some of the most informative individuals, whether on trades, companies or global trends, are surfacing quickly and have become trusted sources. I can see something similar for green or environmental information. The question is, beyond hashtags, how to aggregate the info. StockTwits has the combo of $ and stock tickers…


  • I completely agree. Social media is incredible tool, but it is sometimes lacking the bridge to Real Life, and as activists, that is what we truly care about– action IRL. Great article!

  • @Greenskeptic – Thanks so much for this; great example!

    I think the key to what you are saying is that what we need isn’t just a content or cause-specific stream, but one that also measures or filters out the noise.

    Do you think that when it comes to the “green” sector as a whole, the best voices, calls to action, and alerts are coming from individuals or organizations? What does the difference mean to you?

    Thanks again for adding to the conversation!

  • Thanks for contributing, Celeste!

    How has reNEWeconomy approached the issue of bringing calls to action via social media with real world action items and actions? Have you found certain types of issues are better able to bridge the divide than others?

    Thanks again!

  • Quick comment: on Twitter, I find the best updates and info comes from individuals not organizations. Orgs have an agenda, and their updates follow it. Same goes for most of their blogs. Best bloggers with most interesting and well-reasoned analysis are independent, I’ve found (at least on energy/climate issues).

    Also, here’s another example of how to bring together a community to discuss related issues (and filter it): the “collective” site’s run by SocialMediaToday, including The Energy Collective, where I write. They pull in feeds from a number of blogs writing on topic areas (like social media, sustainable building/design, energy and climate change, etc.) and then filter those feeds (through an editor) to pull out top posts. Then posts can be ranked (vote up or down style) by members and also filtered by most active comment streams (rich dialog being a goal and of interest to people). Pretty cool platform I think, and The Energy Collective is building up nicely.

  • Amy,

    What an AWESOME post!!

    Your post starts out with some really intriguing possibilities for using the web and social media to wire the green movement:

    ***enabling data sharing, exchange and mapping***
    ***connecting organizations for shared knowledge, partnerships and coalitions***
    ***changing individual motions into a unified movement***

    It seems like cutting through the noise is a major theme here as well. The problem is, out-of-the-box, breaking through the noise just doesn’t scale. As we all figure out ways to cut through (by hacking Twitter/Facebook/blogs/etc.), we’ll just create another layer of noise we’ll have to cut through again. And this will then repeat itself. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Watch what happens when we come back to your three points:

    ***enabling data sharing, exchange and mapping***

    If nonprofits, orgs, and individuals embraced sharing data in the green movement – What would that look like? Maybe climate change APIs like AMEE (http://www.amee.com/) would become super popular. This would enable the movement to contribute, review, and distribute data from a major vetted resource. What happens when any given org can share the latest climate research on their site and any kid can display the latest evidence of global warming on their Myspace page — all while pulling from the same data set? My guess is by uniting the data, we could deal the world of ‘noise’ a major blow.

    ***connecting organizations for shared knowledge, partnerships and coalitions***

    The web is designed to unite us. What happens when every organization leverages the web to connect with other orgs with similar missions?

    The best model I’ve found for this, in the green movement, is 1Sky (http://www.1sky.org). 1Sky is a new platform that connects climate groups and concerned citizens in states across the US to accomplish shared goals. Check out the Community Page for 1Sky Washington to see what I mean —http://www.1skywashington.org/community
    What blew me away (and it may seem small) was when I visited the website for Climate Solutions (http://www.climatesolutions.org/) – and saw a “Take Action” button leading to the Washington 1Sky website. This reminded me of the MyBarackObama website in its heyday and how that helped elect a president by uniting people and communities across borders (”for change”).

    Can you imagine dozens of green orgs sharing the same call to action as part of their strategy — and how maybe that might enable such a larger impact. And in the process, be a shining line for people to engage with? Shwoop – Goodbye noise!

    And connecting actions is only part of the equation:
    What happens when orgs share their mailing lists and communities?
    What happens when orgs share their fund raising campaigns?
    What happens when orgs share their news & research?

    A networked web is helping us envision & enable nonprofits that will be inextricably networked together in the real world – and I’m SO excited for this potential!

    By uniting and highlighting work across borders, we can break through the noise and accomplish more. Web culture & web thinking (phrases I’ve heard from Jason Mogus of Communicopia), I think, will be instrumental to help us explore the possibilities. The technology already exists in spades.

    ***changing individual motions into a unified movement***

    Wow, this is a tough one – How can the web transform individual motions into a unified movement? I’m not sure what the answer is, it may be more a number of approaches than any given one.

    I think that whenever we launch a new green Facebook app, iPhone app, twitter hashtag, website, project etc – we should examine how it fits into, connects, and supports the other projects in that ecosystem. Otherwise all your project did was splinter the field and create another silo. It is up to us as responsible “change-framers” to empower “change-makers” (we can be both!) so that our varied & diverse actions unite towards common goals.

    Questions we should ask:

    How do our projects share data?
    How do our projects share users?
    How do our projects share impact?
    How do our projects connect with other projects?
    Should we be collaborating on another project rather than inventing another wheel?

    Technology that may help with this might include Open APIs, OpenID, and ways for sharing and tracking impact across different projects.

    Outside of new technology – I think we would also do well to consistently be sharing – to promote the work of our colleagues & ‘competition’ in our fields – to share tweets, Facebook updates, and newsletter blasts about the things that further our mission, and not necessarily our initiatives. In a sense, let’s create more noise together, noise that networks us, connects us, and unites us for change.

    (Amy, Thank you SO much for starting this conversation!)

  • Jesse-

    Thanks for these additional examples! I really want to highlight that The Energy Collective is not only leveraging the power of RSS in all manner of ways, but is also focused on conversation, dialogue. Helping sift engaged conversations to the top is a great start!

    Next, what is there was a widget or other tool (a button, for example) that could sit in/on/next to those lively conversations and provide direct access to actionable opportunities to those who wanted to do more than talk? Social Actions has a whole slew of options to do this (many new ones from their Change the Web Challenge).

    I don’t mean to pimp Social Actions, necessarily. But I think we always have to look at things and say, even when they are great, “what could make this better – what could raise the level of impact?”

    Thanks again for jumping in – hope to keep this conversation going (and see you soon in San Fran!).

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  • Joe – Thanks for the most excellent and incredibly comprehensive reply! This is obviously a huge conversation we are trying to tackle in a short blog post and some comments, but hey – that’s the blogosphere!

    I want to respond to a few different points you make, and think others will as well:

    Your point about pooling and sharing data sector-wide makes me wonder also about what organizations could then do with it. As I’m thinking, there’s all this data and it gets pulled in together and then all the organizations and groups have access, can push it out, use it, etc. But that also means they have reliable data that they can map uniquely for their constituents, or direct to their legislator. And in the open source natural of it all, once someone maps it then the others can access that map and show their region, etc.

    The power of the web is truly in the networks. And using social media tools to network campaigns, organizations, and missions is truly the secret sauce. For example, one piece of legislation might be in the headlines at any given time, so what if there was ONE petition to sign if you wanted to show your support, ONE set of talking points and references for contacting politicians, and ONE feed aggregating all of the news and conversations about it? Organizations large and small could use the link, call out to their members and share the same feed for news. They can work into their other projects and mission but think of the effect of everyone in the US signing the same petition and sending that list into the legislature, instead of multitudes of organizations and campaigners drafting various iterations of the same thing. You’ve hit the nail on the head here. So, how do we make it happen?

    We need a giant backend to the climate movement that is the mother of all databases, tracking and linking and everything else. Say I was interested in finding out about the sector but wasn’t involved. I might do a Google search and land on The Nature Conservancy because of my search terms. Yes, they have climate change and environmental recovery campaigns and information, but maybe I’m also in college. Something like PowerShift, Focus The Nation, or the Cascade Climate Network might really be what you are after but you just don’t know how to find it. Signing up on the Nature Conservancy’s site and indicating your geography, your age, and your real interst areas though could sync up to that master list and get FTN in contact with you instead. Maybe that’s too scary of a system for people though. What do you think?

    In discussing the tools issue, you say, “I think that whenever we launch a new green Facebook app, iPhone app, twitter hashtag, website, project etc – we should examine how it fits into, connects, and supports the other projects in that ecosystem. Otherwise all your project did was splinter the field and create another silo. It is up to us as responsible “change-framers” to empower “change-makers” (we can be both!) so that our varied & diverse actions unite towards common goals.”

    I completely agree! This is no different than the networked issue from the previous section. If data and actions can be networked, so should the tools.

    I LOVE your list of questions to ask when starting/building/launching something new. I’d add to that list:

    – Where is this tool going, how can it change or adapt with the next call or campaign?
    – How is this contributing to the movement (and not the individual motions)?

    Thank you so much for this post – we will continue this conversation I’m sure!

  • This conversation is getting interesting! Great replies, Joe and Amy! I am a 1Sky precinct Captain for the same reason, because I have been so impressed with the unity and cooperation I am seeing among organizations like 1Sky, Powershift, Green for All, Climate Action, etc. I see the interaction between these organizations as the spark that is really lighting the fire for a powerful movement! It is these relationships between organizations and the growing number of committed individuals involved taking action in real life that are making a movement, but I also see how twitter and other online formats are an incredible support to keep people involved. Twitter really kept me involved with the recent Climate Action in D.C. even though I couldn’t afford to go. I got to see it live and that fed my commitment with renewed inspiration. When I’m in conversation in real life relationships, I can refer people who want to know more to blogs and the links I have posted. I can also subsequently find them on facebook or twitter to keep them hooked in. For me, it is this interplay between online and IRL communities that makes online resources a powerful organizing tool.

    -I also wonder where Organizing for America (the post-election network of Obama campaign volunteers) , and MoveOn fit into this network, because they both have really vast databases, and I am seeing Organizing for America gearing up and getting more active in my local community.

    Thank you both, Amy and Joe, for proposing questions to help us discern how to target our efforts to unite and magnify impact rather than splintering the movement. I’ll use these as tools.

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