MobLab Dispatch

MobLab Dispatch | 23 August 2018
Dispatch tracks innovations in people powered campaigning, training opportunities and mobilisation jobs around the globe. Get it in your inbox and catch up on past Dispatches.

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Local action. National networks. Grassroots and national U.S. criminal justice organisations are making gains working to one another’s strengths. To sum up what works: “Critically, collaboration between different networks of local movements can allow organizations to share best practices, learn together from stagnation or failures, and offer a wider support system while maintaining their autonomy.” [Danielle Ziegelheim | New America Weekly]

More than memes? How to win with cultural campaigning.

Hacking pop culture, memes, organising around film, television, music, fiction and more. With the internet moving ideas, information, and video clips around the world in a heartbeat, cultural campaigning is an important strategy for social change leaders and campaigners.

We’re talking about cultural campaigning at MobLab Live next week. Please join us for an hour on 30 August.

New crowdsourced advocacy how-to guides. The Blueprints for Change project has five guides available now (A/B testing, crowdsourcing, distributed organising, peer-to-peer texting, and volunteer phonebanking) and five more in the works. Free to download and (best part?) you can your insights to the editable Google docs.

Toolkit shows us how to use Stories for Advocacy.  This looks great – an online guide to strategic storytelling. Sho Konno tells us that the toolkit was co-created by young sexual rights advocates who then tested it in their campaigns (from LGBT equality in Bangladesh to pro-choice in Zimbabwe) and annotated it with what worked – or didn’t.


Artists in Cuba organise with what they have: creativity and culture. A new government censorship decree has prompted Cuban artists to campaign for their freedom using events, digital security, online petitions and more. Several have been arrested but continue to organise creative actions, such as open mic concerts, an alternative biennial, and a protest performance involving human excrement. [Jasmine Weber | Hyperallergic]

Cooking brings together refugees and Malaysians. A social enterprise in Malaysia is hoping to use the culinary expertise of refugees to not only offer them a financial lifeline, but also to break down barriers and change discriminatory attitudes. [Thomas Brent | Southeast Asia Globe]

How the lobster emoji became a symbol of trans representation. Lobsters Against Transphobia is petitioning Unicode for a Transgender Pride Flag emoji and, until one is available, they say they’ll use the newly approved lobster emoji instead. Lobsters can display both male and female characteristics. [Penelope Overton | Portland Press Herald]

Where’s the line between a creative campaign and fake news? “Ivory Lane” was supposedly a Singapore retailer selling ivory jewellery. After days of public outcry, World Wildlife Fund revealed it to be a campaign highlighting the shortcomings of wildlife laws. In an age of misinformation, some criticized the tactic as irresponsible. Another view: helping people think about issues in new ways that aren’t focused on law, policy and science expose them to new perspectives. This used to be called learning, not “fake news.” [Heather Chen | BBC]


The far-reaching effects of investing in youth. After Subhash Kadam underwent youth leadership training from the Bangalore-based Art of Living Foundation, he spearheaded a community-based water conservation campaign that transformed his rural village into a drought-proof place with 24/7 supply. [Parth Sharma | News18]

Storytelling lessons from BBC’s hunt for new formats. “Choose-your-own-adventure” was a hit with readers. A movie-like intro easing the audience into the story? Not so much. “People want to know what the story is about before they decide to invest…” said Tristan Ferne, the lead producer for the BBC’s research and development unit. [Christine Schmidt | Nieman Lab]

How video is helping campaign against police abuse in Australia: “Stand back, don’t become part of it, de-escalate,” said George Newhouse, a National Justice Project lawyer. When recording video, “make sure your footage is saved to the cloud. In some situations, police try to delete videos.” [Giovanni Torre | New York Times]


Using radio to get around government social media shutdowns. “The Saudi authorities could ban Twitter at any moment and we would lose the archive of our thoughts. Whereas the radio gives us the opportunity to record programmes and broadcast them on other platforms.” A group of women campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia broadcasts using only a microphone, a laptop with editing software and live audio streaming website Mixlr. [Alma Hassoun | BBC]

Need your ideas for better societies. The European Women’s Lobby is partnering with civil society groups to collect new ideas, examples of communications and framing, data, research, and experiences that can connect issues, values and organisations.


Social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump. How? Traditional gatekeepers are weaker and local journalism is disappearing. At the same time, new algorithmic gatekeepers fuel mistrust and doubt for clicks; online echo chambers strengthen our feeling of belonging; and a narrow understanding of digital security prevails. [Zeynep Tufekci | MIT Technology Review]

“Nonprofit judo,” or how successful nonprofits turn perceived weaknesses into strengths: Commit to an underserved population, embrace the wisdom of volunteers in product strategy, keep marketing in mind when establishing partnerships, and be mindful of how your work not only benefits your target audience, but also your funders. [Kevin Barenblat | Harvard Business Review]

Tech powers authoritarians, reduces public protest, helps fake news evolve. Two recent pieces in Axios: One looks at government monitoring of citizens and communications, noting that the expansion of “facial recognition technology and big data possessed by [Chinese] authorities has dramatically reduced public demonstrations.” The other examines rapidly advancing propaganda tech which is bringing more sophisticated fake news to encrypted messaging apps and peer-to-peer texting channels. [Axios]

Challenging injustice through photography. Magnum Foundation’s Photography and Social Justice Program, which seeks to expand diversity in the field of documentary photography through capacity-building, is looking for fellows “who have a keen ability to recognize the nuances in their own cultures.”

Lessons in communicating about the noncommunicable. Awareness around noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is low, so successful campaigns must go beyond basics to reach potential funders, policymakers, and individuals. Two ways to do so are linking NCDs to other broader issues, such as human rights or poverty, and putting the spotlight on people living with NCDs. [Rebecca Root | Devex]

Aid workers faced a more dangerous world in 2017. According to data from the Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD), there were 158 major attacks on humanitarian operations across 22 countries. Of the 313 victims, 139 were killed—the second highest recorded annual death toll ever. [Yomi Kazeem | Quartz]

Social media mapping wildfire, climate impact, people helping others. Analysis of social media use in areas impacted by U.S. wildfires shows that “tweets are a clear demonstration that what people are really thinking about is what we should do and how people want to help each other.” [Elena Saavedra Buckley | High Country News]

Let’s talk about failure. Better. Researchers show that people are happier when they have an opportunity to talk about failure at work. And they learn faster. But talking about failure isn’t easy. It takes practice, a little technique, and the right crowd. [Oset Babur | New York Times]

Last word: Overcoming despair. Together. Grim news like the Hothouse Earth situation and events like wildfires and floods can leave us exhausted and hopeless. Programme Director Payal Parekh shares this: “We are working on an issue that is hard, scary and overwhelming all the time, but I hope each of you finds your way back to the reason you are doing this work and are able to find joy.”


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