I recently had the pleasure of presenting my research on 350.org and Hollaback!’s innovations in distributed campaigning at the Goldsmiths, University of London Social Media Activism and Organisations conference. A summary of my observations is presented below as well as a full video of my talk.
The paper looks at how two new advocacy organizations, climate campaigners 350.org and Hollaback!, a global network of anti-street harassment activists, have incorporated horizontal mobilization approaches from earlier “networked social movements” such as Indymedia, the Arab Spring uprisings, the Indignados and the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Recent studies of networked social movements, specifically those that arose from 1999-2011, have noted their rapid rise to power, their use of social media and other digital communications technologies as well as their emphasis on horizontal decision-making structures. However, as digitally-savvy activists are now adapting tactics at the same breakneck speeds as technological change, networked activist models studied in the 2000s or even as recently as the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 have already been supplanted by more recent evolutions in form and practice.
Referring to studies of these past movements by Manuel Castells and Todd Wolfson, this paper draws on interviews with key staff and observation of 350.org and Hollaback!’s operating practices to show how they have adapted elements of earlier horizontal movements and paired them with a new “hybrid” command structure that allows for efficient top-down decision making but also confers a good deal of freedom and agency on its local chapters.