Great post Marc. I too have been struck by the incredible person-to-person connectivity enabled by the web and the variety of new tools at our disposal.
I co-founded the Cascade Climate Network in 2007, the Northwest's largest network of youth activists working to build a clean, just and prosperous future (www.CascadeClimate.org
). But building that real-life, regional network would have been impossible without the online tools we now have at our fingertips. Not only would a regional network across to large western states been next to impossible without the online and communication tools we used to keep in touch on a day to day basis, but I never would have connected with the other amazing leaders that came together to form the CCN in the first place, had I not made several connections via ItsGettingHotInHere.org that would have been impossible otherwise. Here's the story:
I'd been organizing locally from Portland, OR and writing and editing for the youth climate movement's online soap box, ItsGettingHotInHere.org. Via IGHIH, I had come to know Richard Graves, one of IGHIH founders, who was based in Washington DC. Richard and I had met just once in person, but he knew that I was looking to connect Northwest organizers to build a more powerful network capable of tackling statewide and regional issues and able to have an impact on our federal elected officials. Richard was a graduate of Macalaster College in the Twin Cities, and knew Timothy Den-Herder Thomas, a star organizer at Macalaster, Sierra Student Coalition leader, and organizer of a new statewide network of youth climate activists in MN. Richard connected Timothy and I to brainstorm ideas and offer advice on how to start up a network in Oregon.
Timothy knew that several SSC-affiliated organizers in Oregon were up to similar ends, and introduced me to Nathan Jones, who at the time was at Portland Community College, and Juliana Williams, at that time at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. The two were already planning an in-person summit on Mt. Hood to connect Northwest youth organizers interested in banding together to form a regional network. Just days after Richard connected me with Timothy, I was on conference calls with Nathan, Juliana and several others across Oregon and Washington working to organize the summit, which led to the creation of the Cascade Climate Network in October 2007.
Both organizers were "in my neck of the woods" yet it took an internet-enabled connection to someone in Washington DC, who bounced me an organizer in Minneapolis-St Paul in order to connect back to organizers in my own state and even city! And it all revolved around connections made at a blog that's become the online hub of a real-world global movement.
What's revealing in both Jamie's story and mine is the overlay of online and offline networks. I think Tom Friedman once chastised young organizers to "get off of facebook and get into the streets." That kind of sentiment evidences such a horrible lack of understanding about how this model of organizing works. This doesn't live online. It's not people sitting at their computers and ignoring the real world. What the online component does is enable incredible fast connection of offline resources and connections, and enables coordination on an unprecedented scale. What would have taken far longer to scale and connect via traditional (and generally isolated) offline networks now takes a fraction of the time, as the online networks enable people to "hop across" now connected offline social networks in a way that was not possible before. That can have powerful implications, as this post makes clear.