Without the conference or panel organizers here to adjudicate, it’s hard for us to answer questions about exactly what set of skills or qualifications are most appropriate. All of us are guessing at what they want, at best. At worst, we don’t care what they want, because this will be a fun trip and all of us seeking your support know it.
I’m an online engagement professional. I’ve been active with a variety of groups, technologies and sectors since 2003. This has given me a certain kind of perspective that is often lacking – and I’ll explain that.
Here’s a list of some projects, organizations and causes I’ve been involved with: Part of the tech/communications team for US Social Forum in Atlanta and again in Detroit. Attended the first World Social Forum in Brazil. Attended and presented at a number of key US conferences that deal with online organizing, including Netroots Nation, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, Personal Democracy Forum, Jobs with Justice, NYC Grassroots Media Conference and Organizing 2.0 since 2005. Also, presented at a wide range of more technical events, including Drupal, Joomla and gov-geek unconferences. Trained at the New Organizing Institute, the premier training institute for progressive online engagement. Helped organize trainings in online engagement for unions, community organizing groups and others.
This has meant that often, I’m one of a small handful of ‘outsiders’ attending someone else’s ‘insider’ event. My political history has included radical, non-electoral politics communities alongside Democratic Party presidential efforts. Third world solidarity (support for Palestinian liberation) with New York City/State politics (with the Working Families Party.) Activism with left wing, old-school political parties as well as new school, swarming mobilizations (anti-globalization movement 1998-2001). I’ve worked for a Palestinian human rights organization, an interfaith environmental center, a software vendor serving progressive organizations (Democracy for Action) and even a synagogue.
It can feel strange crossing worlds that way. But the challenge of our time is actively seeking the connection between struggles and constituencies, as opposed to drawing boundaries. To this end, I wrote a few well received articles (here and here) comparing the US Social Forum with Netroots Nation. A few others were written examining the organizing and digital strategy behind OWS. If you don’t have time to read all my articles (I’ll understand) you can still draw the relevant conclusion: I’m a close observer and participant on how movements and organizations engage in online politics, particularly in spaces that don’t have a lot of resources for trained staff, expensive software and costly initiatives.
All of this was on my mind when I attended the first public general assembly for Occupy Wall Street, way back in August. My goal was to offer my skills while getting a front seat to whatever might emerge. It was on my mind when I made the rounds of various committees in the first weeks, trying to figure out what systems were being used and built to manage the mass online communications efforts. And since joining what we used to call the Internet Working Group, I’ve been focused on the problem of delivering communication services to the movement.
This is different than being a social media super star. It’s definitely not a traditional leadership role. And I can’t offer myself up as someone who has representative status. But you can trust me to have conversations about tools and strategies that could be helpful to our efforts here. I’m easy to get along with, I work hard and I don’t party. I’ve been to international gatherings before. But most importantly, I’m intimate with the specific projects, challenges and opportunities facing us movement techies at Occupy Wall Street because I’m spent the time.