Information into action

Online Activism: The Movie – Ten Tactics for Info Activism
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

Activists around the world are using social media tools to make change. A new 50- minute documentary film called “10 Tactics for Turning Information into Action” is a guide to how best to use take advantage of the power of these tools and avoid hidden dangers. The site and film include inspiring info-activism stories from around the world, a set of cards with tool tips and advice. The project comes from Tactical Technology, inspired their info-activism camp in India.

The film is being shown in 35 countries, showcasing the experiences of 25 human rights advocates from around the globe who have masterfully incorporated tools like Twitter and Facebook to take on governments and corporations.   The film also covers the security and privacy issues faced by human rights activists.


In today’s world, the huge amount of information makes it impossible for one or a few people to quickly examine a complex situation and begin to formulate a successful response. It requires a knowledge of social interactions as well as an appreciation for systems thinking.

These ten tactics fit right in the sweet spot of systems approaches and social interactions. There ned to be good facts and information. There need to be great stories and an understanding of policy. Here are the ten (there are more but ten is such a great number):

The Ten Tactics

1. Mobilise People

2. Witness and Record

3. Visualise Your Message

4. Amplify Personal Stories

5. Just Add Humour

6. Investigate and Expose

7. How to Use Complex Data

8. Use Collective Intelligence

9. Let People Ask the Questions

10. Manage Your Contacts

These tactics can be incorporated into several strategies for systems thinking to produce some powerful solutions to complex problems.

My model is the bacterium. It does not know where a food source is, yet moves quite rapidly towards it. Bacteria, such as E. coil, have no eyes or nose. How does it find the sugar, or other nutrient it needs? It is called chemotaxis and is actually a very simple solution to a complex problem.

E. coli has a few flagella to propel itself. When they all rotate counter-clockwise, they work together and move the bacterium forward. This is called swimming. When they rotate clockwise, the bundle of flagella breaks apart and the bacterium rotates in a random fashion called tumbling. Here is an example:

The combination of these two behaviors allows the bacterium to move towards a food source. As long as the concentration of the attractant is increasing the bacterium swims. If it gets off track, and the concentration begins declining, it tumbles, eventually picking a new, random direction to swim. No attractant, more tumbling. More attractant, swimming.

This actually results in a very efficient method to move to, or away, from things.

When the bacterium fails to successfully follow the correct path, it makes corrections to see if a better path arises. If these corrections fail, more tumbling until it succeeds. It has a process for dealing with failure that inevitably leads to success.

Same with systems approaches. Intermediate evaluations, rapid failure, path to success. Incorporate the ten tactics into these strategies and you are well on your way.

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