While the rest of the world seems to be on pause (and rightly so!), progressive campaigners can’t take their foot off the gas. As the world struggles in the grips of a virus we have yet to understand, the gaps in our systems — from healthcare to social justice to workers’ rights — are becoming increasingly evident.
That’s why the need to campaign on the most pressing issues of our time won’t — and can’t — stop in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we need to come up with creative and strategic solutions to mobilize our communities when in-person collaboration is off the table.
Here are 4 ways to organize online to keep your movement and momentum going.1. Urge your representatives to hold virtual meetings and town halls
Let’s be honest with ourselves: times are scary right now. More than ever, people are feeling anxious and panicked, and are in desperate need of frequent and transparent communication with their leaders. Having an informed community will be key to overcoming the challenges of COVID-19, so now’s the time to demand that our decision-makers stay connected.
To foster connection in a time of social distancing, you could use multi-channel advocacy and engagement tools, like New/Mode’s, to call on representatives to hold virtual meetings and town halls, where they can respond to our pressing questions from the safety of their home. These virtual gatherings are great opportunities to raise concerns your supporters are having in the midst of the pandemic, while also making sure decision-makers stay responsive to people’s needs.
If you’re unsure about the idea of a virtual town hall, you could also engage your decision-makers with simple one-click emailing or one-click calling tools, or even launch an easy tweet-your-rep campaign about your COVID-19 concerns.
Housing is a basic human right. We've launched this campaign to make it easy for you to Tweet@ your Governor to suspend residential evictions during the #COVID19 pandemic. Please share widely. https://t.co/9ZOI1QFJiH pic.twitter.com/2aGIIm5uQQ— New/Mode (@NewModeInc) March 18, 2020
2. Stay attuned to how your community is affected by COVID-19 — and be ready to campaign on it
This pandemic will have devastating impacts, with many communities already suffering greatly. As organizers, we need to think about the needs of our supporters and make sure our campaigns reflect our current reality, even if that means pressing “pause” on other campaigns.
Whether it’s demanding a universal basic income and paid sick leave; protections for all workers, including and especially frontline medical professionals; or asking ICE to release detainees who are at greatest risk of acquiring the virus, there’s no shortage of issues to campaign on right now. Click here to see how other organizers are campaigning on COVID-19.
Unfortunately, this will be our reality for a while so the time to mobilize supporters is now.
If you’re not quite ready to launch a campaign just yet, there are other ways to nurture and engage your community of supporters, many of whom are physically isolating. For example, you could host regular Zoom meetings or Facebook Live events to interact with your supporters and volunteers. The benefit of this is getting direct and immediate feedback on what your community needs right now, and how you should organize to support them.
3. Information is power — and builds community — so share online resources often
Nothing about our current situation is “business as usual” so let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other, knowing that many people will understandably struggle with our new normal. Sharing helpful resources with each other is so important right now — this not only builds community and showcases solidarity, but it gives people the information and tools they need to adjust.
For example, we and our friends at Metric recognized that many people would likely find it difficult to transition into remote work, so we co-hosted a webinar offering tips and tools for working from home. You, too, could consider hosting your own webinars or livestreams on topics and issues affecting your movement and community during COVID-19. Additionally, you could use this time to seek out free professional training videos and opportunities for upskilling.
Now is also an incredible time to connect with other movements from around the world that share a similar mission and goal as yours. Are they campaigning during the pandemic, and if yes, what are they doing? Take this opportunity to learn from each other, inspire one another, and map out what you can do right now to move your mission forward.
(It’s also important to note that resource sharing shouldn’t just be work-related! We strongly encourage the sharing of workout videos, memes, pet photos, funny gifs, and anything that will spark joy during such an anxiety-inducing time.)
(Silly pet pics are always welcome)
The situation we find ourselves in right now is new to us all so it’s going to take some time and experimentation to figure out what online civic engagement could look like during COVID-19. If you’re comfortable and have the budget and capacity to do so, the pandemic presents a challenge to think outside of the box with your community advocacy and engagement.
Here are just a few ideas:
- One tried and tested tactic is organizing an online or digital strike, where you encourage your supporters to share photos of themselves holding up signs and using an easy-to-find hashtag. Right now, for example, Greta Thunberg is calling on supporters to join her every Friday for #ClimateStrikeOnline. If you’re using a Tweet storm tool, you could automatically have your tweets to decision-makers tagged with your online strike hashtag.
#ClimateStrikeOnline today with strikers from all over the world. We can’t gather on the streets but we will not be stopped. We want #PollutersOut. @fff_digital @GretaThunberg @Fridays4future @pollutersout pic.twitter.com/MMaGIJIgEM— Saoi (@saoi4climate) March 20, 2020
- If you’re hosting — or contemplating hosting — virtual rallies, you could consider boosting engagement and supporter acquisition by incorporating keyword opt-in actions (i.e., Text CLIMATE to 55555). To learn more, watch our webinar on the dos and don’ts of SMS engagement.
- Politicians and lawmakers aren’t the only people in positions of authority who need to act during this crisis. Think about sending mass calls, text, emails, or even faxes to the CEO of an organization that’s not doing enough to protect employees, or the head of a bank that’s denying people deferred mortgages. We all have a part to play in flattening the curve and keeping each other safe — corporate executives aren’t an exception.
- Since we know that multi-channel engagement works, you could launch a campaign using different tools and call for a week of action and solidarity. Each day could be devoted to a different tool (e.g., on Monday, let’s flood this decision-maker’s email inbox; on Tuesday, let’s call them en masse; on Wednesday, let’s get their name and our issue viral on Twitter, etc.)
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working closely with our subscribers to empathetically and creatively come up with solutions to keep our movements and momentum going. We’ll be working hard to amplify the voices and stories that need to be heard right now, while also making sure our communities — including our staff — are kept safe.
Ultimately, it’s our collective responsibility to come together to protect one another, limit the spread of COVID-19, and stand in solidarity with the communities who are severely impacted by the pandemic.
Stay safe, be kind, and wash your hands. We’ll see you online! 👀💻
Additional Resources for Campaigners:
- A guide to organizing during COVID-19 | Organizing While Corona, a project of The Tuesday Company
- Resources for organizers, campaigners, and digital strategists to respond to coronavirus | PowerLabs
We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas for other ways to digitally organize during this crisis. Drop us a line in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org