The New Organizing Institute is a vital piece of progressive infrastructure, training a new generation of online organizers.
Each summer they have an intense one-week "Boot Camp" which, in addition to many daily trainings, includes a mock election run by teams organizers over the course of the week. This year's election featured super heros running for DC mayor.
Here is the basis of my endorsement. I've written here on OpenLeft about the importance of a "theory of change" in online activism. When someone asks you to take action, there should be a plausible way that you taking action could actually have an impact toward the desired goal...as opposed to a random petition with no theory behind it (see most DSCC emails).
On the first day of this year's election, I tried a little experiment. I formed a Facebook group called "End Street Cleaning Tickets in DC!" (This is a pet peeve of mine. You can read my super-compelling case on the Facebook page. Or read about how DC collects $67 million from tickets each year.)
I got over 80 people to join and pledge to support the candidate that did the most on this issue. My hope was that this incentive would prompt one of the teams to go nuts with activism, exert real-world pressure on the city council, cause a stir, and actually get this issue on the city's radar.
That didn't happen -- with the exception of me getting a local elected official to join the Facebook group. David Alpert at GreaterGreaterWashington.com summarized the impact on the race:
Numerous groups had petitions. The Atom had a fun YouTube video. Wonderwoman had a valiant attempt at a theory of change (though honestly, I didn't understand it). The Green Lantern came closest to showing an understanding of what a theory of change looks like:
Each [DC] neighborhood council has the power to end [street cleaning tickets] in their jurisdiction. You can ask them to forbid these tickets and surveillance cameras in your neighborhood.
If 20 or more people in a neighborhood sign this petition against street cleaning tickets, I will personally hand-deliver your petition, and report back.
Of course, if elected Mayor, I, the Green Lantern, will end this problem on my first day in office.
Bravo. If this was a real campaign, I'd go for that.
The nature of this super-hero campaign forced teams to focus more on tactics than strategy. (This is why next year I will advocate for teams to organize around real-world topics instead of fictional characters.)
But these teams really excelled in the tactics. They all deserve a ton of praise. Check out all the cool websites.
An honorable mention goes to the Atom's videos. While not viral sensations, they were a cogent series and were actually quite fun. Here are some worth mentioning, in progressive order of fun'ness: