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Allyson Kapin 8 min read

Netroots Nation Conference Highlights

Netroots Nation, one of the leading conferences for activists to gather and participate in 70 panels and 30 training training sessions, caucuses and strategy sessions wrapped up on Sunday and had some terrific take-aways. Participants from across the U.S. discussed building long-term capacity within the progressive movement, pushing the practice of online and offline organizing forward and changing the debate on policies. Check out some of the highlights from some of Care2's Frogloop favorite campaigners.

Tracey Conaty, AFSCME

This was actually my first NN. (As a labor, lesbian, vegetarian, new media, progressive type how could that be?)  It was such a wide ranging experience it's hard to boil down to a few take aways, but here goes:

  1. Test. Test. Test -- this from a workshop on online ads. I confess, testing often feels like a bit of a luxury but I left with a greater appreciation of needing to make this more of a priority.  
  2. Let a thousand ideas bloom. AFSCME had a pretty large contingent of staff attend this year's conference. Folks were tossing out so many interesting, creative and sometimes off-the-wall ideas. I want to keep this creative energy going back at the office. 
  3. Comedy and video go together like peanut butter and jelly but it takes time and probably the help of a trained professional to pull it off. 
  4. Unions would not have been able to push back on the attacks on workers as hard and effectively as we have without the power of the netroots.  
  5. NN is in Providence, RI next year, my hometown.  Wicked good!


Shana Glickfield, Beekeeper Group

This was my first time at Netroots Nation, but definitely not my last. Although dubbed by mainstream media as a "blogger" conference, the attendees come from many activism backgrounds and progressive causes.  A big theme was supporting each other despite these differences and working together to protect the American Dream of a middle class.  Progressives also need to come together around the tough challenge of organizing for Obama for 2012.

My top take-aways include:

  • Progressives identify well with traditional organizing methods
  • Coalitions are a fast track to therapy
  • Making a call to legislators isn't as challenging of an ask if it's already coming from their phone
  • Keep videos around a minute
  • Move stories through a larger media cycle

Ayofemi Kirby, Mobilize.org

This year's Netroots Nation really focused on developing a cohesive national message that members of the progressive movement can use to inform and organize their constituents locally, while maintaining a strong connection to the overall vision and values on which the movement's foundation has been built.

The greatest highlights were the keynote speakers including Van Jones, Al Franken and the interview with White House Director of Communications, Dan Pheiffer who as he said, entered the "Lion's Den" as he answered questions from Daily Kos' Kaili Joy Gray.

It seemed as though the theme was for the progressive movement to get "back to basics", to clarify the progressive agenda and make sure that distractions were minimized and that progressives stay focused on their goals, holding leaders and each other accountable for achieving wins on every level, large and small.

Jeff Mann, Energy Action Coalition

My biggest take-away from Netroots Nation is that our online organizing — like our work on the ground — needs to start at the local level, and then build from there into the diverse, strategic, powerful force that is the youth climate movement. When we started building up the WeArePowerShift.org community this April, the goal was always to give the 10,000 young organizers at Power Shift 2011 a platform to tell their stories and showcase the campaigns they are launching on their campuses and in their communities — but these rather abstract goals didn't truly came into focus until this weekend when I had the chance to hear first-hand about the successes and challenges other organizers have had.

Our power as a coalition is in providing organizers with the tools to do their work better and amplifying that work by tying it together with others across the country. The same has to be true for our work online. It's tempting to think about our online community as an additional "storytelling layer" to showcase organizers' work at a national level, but that's wrong. Our online tools need to be as deeply rooted in our campaigns as any other tool we have, and our online community needs to grow the same way our movement does — from the ground up.

Laura Packard, PowerThru Consulting

The highlight of the conference for me was meeting all the people that do great online work for progressive organizations and campaigns around the country. Also there were serious discussions about how to make blogging sustainable for progressives, how and why we lost on so many progressive issues in 2009, and where to go from here. During the online tools shootout, it was great to see new cool tools like NationBuilder in action. Finally one of the best tips was from my session with Steve Olson on Thursday, "How to get your organization/candidate organizing online cheaply." Use custom Facebook tabs to not only ask for likes, but to collect email addresses. Far too few groups use their Facebook presence to actively build their list, and this is an easy way to do it. 


Adam Rosenberg,  Edelman Digital

I'd say my key take-away was that you need to "ABE - Always. Be. Engaging." I've learned that if you're constantly creating content and managing and engaging your community, then you can more easily activate them.


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.