Technology Toolbox: Learn from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy YOUR Street

by Amy Sample Ward on December 26, 2011

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“The revolution will not be televised.” Maybe not. Be as we have seen in events around the world, the revolution will be tweeted, photographed, mapped and posted to our status. And most importantly: it will be documented and shared by large numbers of people, experiencing it first hand, and sharing news and updates in real time. The revolution may not be televised, but no matter where you are, you can now have a front row seat to the broadcast.

As a community organizer and network weaver myself, I am incredibly excited by the #OccupyWallStreet movement that started in New York just over three months ago now (on September 17th) in response to a failing federal economy and political process that impact local, national, and international markets. In less than a month, over 1,700 other cities started Occupy events – both in solidarity to the thousands protesting around the clock in New York’s financial district, and with a loud voice that these issues are not unique to the US. The “leaderless” organizing of the Occupy Wall Street movement has helped avoid strategic arrests or censorship but has also prompted a powerful use of social technologies.

Online Homebase

Over the past few years, the use of social technologies during disaster response has become a central component to news and information delivery. One key element is the use of an online homebase. We are now seeing this put to great use with #OWS. There are many free online website and content creation tools available. Creating a space where you can collect and aggregate the news, content, and updates of your movement is important for people to better understand, follow, and join you. It doesn’t have to be fancy (remember: less is more) – it just needs to pull all the pieces together for your community.

Brought to you Live

The power of “now” is what makes something go from news, to breaking news. Thankfully for members of #OWS, there are various tools to livestream events, just from your mobile phone. The livestream – whether it’s video, audio, or just text – can be embedded in your online homebase and shared across social networks. The updates and first-hand accounts bring attention to a movement and generate more participation.

Personalize It

The most successful fundraising campaigns, advocacy efforts, and even personal experiences center on one person, one animal, one story, especially when trying to support a huge, faceless issue. #OWS has made the economy and political process a personal issue, inviting people around the US and the world to put their story on paper and share a photo of themselves with the story online. This level of personal connection inspires sharing and participation by those on the ground, and those following remotely.

How To: Use Tech to Organize Today

1. Build your online homebase with a wiki, a website (like or Google Sites), or a blog (like Tumblr or Posterous).

2. Keep people connected to live video (like Livestream or Vimeo), regular audio updates (like CinchCast or Audioboo), or live feeds of text from a Twitter hashtag or an open chat like CoverItLive.

3. Invite everyone to join the movement by sharing pictures, stories, and signs to spread your message (try Flickr or Tumblr).

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  • Michele

    Great post on the outreach and engagement lessons that one can take from the Occupy movement. I have been interested in exploring the intersection of nonprofits and Occupy – in overlap of concerns (if and where they do), how each views the other and the lessons that can (and have) been shared between them.  The sector is as varied as the movement – where do they meet and as allies, collaborators or competitors, or all 3? 

  • Women Business Grant

    It’s been a long, cold
    winter already for Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement that burst
    onto the scene in September to focus national attention on income
    inequality and the perceived greed of the rich and powerful.

  • Acting School

    The internet group Anonymous
    encouraged its readers to take part in the protests, calling protesters
    to “flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades
    and occupy Wall Street.”[11][12] Other groups began to join in the organization of the protest, including the U.S. Day of Rage,[13] and the NYC General Assembly, the governing body of the Occupy Wall Street group.[14] The protest began on Sept 17th, 2011, an Occupy Wall Street page on Facebook began on September 19 with a YouTube video of the early protests, and by September 22, it had reached critical mass.

  • Baby Doll

    Delightful article. Looking forward for more other articles.