Building an advocacy action community

This is an extension to my previous thinking on creating an online community/Center for Teaching and Learning. To think more about the issue of creating online community around a problem, I’m beginning a dialog with the Western Watersheds Project a non-profit group who’s mission is “to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.”

I just sent a note to HuffingtonPost.com to explore how to get WWP news into their site. This offers some potential for high profile exposure for news about WWP successes, such as the recent Federal Court Order requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a status review as to whether the Big Lost River Whitefish deserves Endangered Species Act protection.

Some of the news stories I read on HuffPost are ‘reprints’ that link back to the source’s website. What would be interesting to know is how to syndicate WWP news to HuffPost and bring readers back to the WWP site.

A number of sites I visit have links near stories inviting users to use Digg, or other services to highlight stories. This is a way to promote one of the “teach Google” strategies, and it has the potential to raise the profile of WWP news pieces so that it show up better in searches. I don’t know the exact mechanism for adding this to WWP’s site, but I expect its fairly straight-forward.

I use the social bookmarking tool Diigo, less popular that Delicious, but it has some group features that are more enhanced. If WWP were to adopt a social bookmarking tool it could be used to point at items across that web that were of interest to WWP members. Further, it would generate an RSS feed of those items that could be placed on the WWP site. The Diigo group mechanism would allow a collaborative effort in gathering these related links.

The reason to do this, and the focus for it, would be to help build the community around WWP issues. A previous strategy I proposed was to find high ground (e.g., Wikipedia) and announce where a community could be found. There are some pointers to WWP’s work in Wikipedia, so I’ve been thinking more about how distributed and disaggregated communities actually are (I suppose this is a comment on how long the long tail is). A person like Stephen Downes reads, comments on, and synthesizes parts of what is going on in the community, but he does not get me in touch with all I find important. So, I think another part of the strategy is to make your own site rich in pointers to other parts of the community. The challenge is to do this without spending the amount of energy that Downes spends, hence the idea for a bookmarking/commenting group. Our own CTLT & Friends is beginning to get a little of this traction.

Since there are several bloggers who write about WWP-related items, another part of the strategy should be to merge the RSS of their blogs (or some tags in their blogs) with the RSS from the bookmarking site to make a richer mix. Yahoo Pipes will do this with a fairly high degree of control.

Finally, in thinking about what to do with new eyeballs arriving at the WWP site, I looked on VolunteerMatch.org. I’m not very familiar with that site, but am considering how WWP might use and post opportunities for volunteer efforts. For example, here is a potential example for a group of voluneteers — a mapping party. They are mapping an urban landscape, but WWP could use a similar approach.

Do you have any insights that might help me sharpen this analysis?

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