Singlebrook CEO, Elisa Miller-Out, interviewed James Slezak, Partner at Purpose, at this year's Social Venture Network (SVN) Annual Gathering.
Purpose is a social change agency and a group of social movement entrepreneurs. We create new movements of people using online tools and techniques as a vehicle for participants to take action in the real world. We’ve been involved in building a number of social change movements on a range of different issues--sustainability, human rights, gay and lesbian rights, and, in particular, the new economy. There’s a whole slate of campaigns we’re working on. Some are with existing organizations, and some we’ve created ourselves.
For a campaign we did last year around LGBT rights, we made a group called All Out. We’ve rolled out a platform where a lot of people are able to really easily join the movement and take action like sending emails that highlight injustices around the world. One of the biggest initiatives for All Out has been a bill in Uganda that was being debated which would have levied the death penalty on people with a gay and lesbian background in that country. That was one of the big growth moments for that movement. They were able to quickly deploy a scalable mechanism, sending out emails to a few thousand people and giving those people a frictionless opportunity to forward it on to their friends and family. It grew the number of people involved to about half a million.
I think it is really important to recognize the power of technology tools, but also to see them as instrumental to a broader strategy for mobilizing large sums of people. It’s very easy, because these tools are so powerful and exciting, to get carried away with the tools themselves. Rather than looking for nails to hit with the new hammer we have, it’s really critical to ask, “What is the participant journey?” Technology often asks, “What is the user experience?” If we take a step back from that and say, “We want to empower participants to make a change in the world. What are the steps that are going to lead them from not knowing anything about what we’re doing, to being an active, committed participant in the movement--step by step, day by day, click by click and word by word?” I think that’s the right mindset to take when figuring out how you’re going to work effectively and scale the way you want.