A few weeks ago, we reached out to the community of progressive activists with a business proposition that seems mundane on the surface. We asked for $5000 to be commissioned to write a strategy handbook for the progressive movement in the United States. Thirty days later we reached this target and set to work.
The unusual thing in this exchange was that the crowd is our client.
More than sixty individuals contributed money to the project, all from a geographic spread including 21 U.S. states and four foreign countries. This is not how strategy documents usually get created… especially considering that the handbook will be given away for free when we’re finished writing it. It will belong to the crowd.
And this is only the beginning. Since putting out the call for pledges, we have received dozens of emails by people who want to contribute to the project. These people have a lot more than money to offer. They have specialized skills and knowledge in areas like brand marketing, graphic design, print editing, and organizational development.
We fully intend to unleash the power of the crowd in the next phase of this project. When the handbook is published, it will be treated as a work in progress to be improved by the people who use it. Once the first version is released, we will begin focused discussions on the various strategy elements that are recommended in the handbook. Each discussion will include an invitation for participants to add more richness and detail to the general approach. Some of these ideas will be incorporated into a later version of the handbook (and each contributor will be credited with an acknowledgment for their work).
Our hope is that people from many walks of life will gather around our handbook and begin to think of it as an object of reflection for them to collaborate with one another. As new campaigns emerge, we anticipate that people will explore strategies and tactics together and be active members of a community of practice around strategy development and implementation for the progressive movement.
Part of our motivation for unleashing the crowd comes from a simple fact – our leadership has failed us, so we’re taking this movement to the streets!
Another motivation is that the old models of electing officials and pushing policy agendas are inadequate. We need new modes of engagement, not just better messages. And it is our core belief that the crowd will be our greatest asset in restoring democracy in the United States and countering the massive propaganda machine that has thwarted progress for decades, even as our greatness has slipped away in a rapidly changing world.
So I am calling on you to be an agent of change, a social innovator, a progressive who seeks to make the world a better place. Come be part of the crowd and help us do what the elites in our movement have failed to do – capture the imagination of mainstream America with a compelling vision for a progressive future.