|Issue:||Asia-Pacific I 2008|
|Topic:||e-Advocacy – online lessons from the Global Call to Action against Poverty, GCAP|
|Author:||Michael Switow and Henri Valot|
|Title:||co-founder ONE (SINGAPORE), and founder of SUPERSEED and GCAP Web and New Media Coordinator|
Michael Switow is the co-founder of ONE (SINGAPORE) and the founder of SUPERSEED, a charity that plants new seeds in the community with superseded goods. He moved to Asia as journalist in 1996 and covered stories like Hong Kong’s return to China, the Asian Economic Crisis, Bird Flu and even the Wild Cows of Hong Kong. Since 2000, Mr Switow has worked in e-media (webcasting, podcasting, blogging) and as a freelance writer. Mr Switow has also worked in homeless shelters in the USA and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African countries of Niger and Gabon. Michael Switow received a Masters in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. Henri Valot works for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen’s Participation, by providing support to the Global Call to Action against poverty, the world’s largest civil society alliance against poverty and inequality. Mr Valot’s previous experience includes several posts in United Nations governance, capacity-building programmes and peacekeeping missions, in Angola, Cambodia, Mali and Mozambique. His experience in the field of information includes coverage for the UN Department of Public Information of the General Assembly and the Security Council at the New York Secretariat. Henri Valot holds a Master’s degree in philosophy and theory of law from the University of Nanterre, Paris, and began his career as a Refugees Protection Officer at the Refugees Division of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), an alliance of socially concerned organisations and individuals, is making extensive use of eMedia in their fight to eliminate poverty in the world. They have been refining the new art of e-advocacy, which gives them easy and widespread access to like-minded people throughout the world. The GCAP was organised to oblige the world’s governments to honour their pledges supporting the Millennium Declaration efforts to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and deliver sustainable development.
The Global Call to Action against Poverty, GCAP, is a loose alliance of trade unions, community groups, faith groups, women and youth organisations, NGOs and other campaigners working together across more than 100 national platforms. The global alliance is represented by 60 Web sites around the globe. The main website is whiteband.org, which ties together the family of GCAP sites. Thus far the huge traffic received by the campaign websites is more of a result of offline activities, including high-profile media events and campaigns, than a by-product of the websites’ own marketing and promotion strategies. In fact, the online campaign as a whole has suffered due to lack of a clear governance structure and lack of a holistic marketing strategy. Nevertheless, all GCAP actors understand that e-advocacy and e-campaigning are essential tools, so powerful websites and e-actions were implemented in 2005 and 2006. With a renewed focus on GCAP’s online activities several e-actions were put in place for the upcoming white band day, known as STAND UP and SPEAK OUT against poverty, on 17 October, 2007 and its various actions (whiteband.org, standagainstpoverty.org, bannersagainstpoverty.com, povertyrequiem.org, etc.). The major findings of the reviews of the GCAP sites highlight good practices and present ways forward for this diverse global campaign. They owe a lot to key reviews of the campaign online activities, presented by Brian Cugelman and Kanti Kumar (Review of Campaign Websites, 2006) and Duane Raymond (Make Poverty History E-Media Review, 2006). Benchmarking GCAP online activity The family of GCAP websites made a huge dent in the landscape of cyberspace in 2005, at times surpassing websites of major world political institutions in creating a buzz. The websites placed well in terms of their rankings by Google and Alexa. The biggest five websites – the UK, USA, Germany, Japan and the WhiteBand.org site – were ranked very high by both – a measure of the relevance of their content to the campaign. Make Poverty History was the UK’s highest profile movement in 2005 – and e-media made a significant contribution to this achievement. E-media, especially the www.makepovertyhistory.org website and its emailing list, meant that people could stay in touch with the campaign and take part in the movement’s activities. Without e-media, these accomplishments would have been too expensive and time consuming to be feasible. The achievements of the Make Poverty History website and email communications are impressive and include: • Getting half a million people to subscribe for updates; • Having more than one million actions taken on the site; • Informing millions of people – including journalists – about issues; • Providing webmasters and bloggers with ways to promote Make Poverty History and sharing the site imagery, content and practices copied by other national GCAP campaigns worldwide; • Supplying journalists with the content about Make Poverty History; • Providing a gateway to activity by Make Poverty History member organisations; and, • Recruiting thousands of new supporters to Make Poverty History member organisations to campaign online and offline. A number of interactive features were set up on many participating websites. The following table shows the distribution of these features Inter-activism GCAP websites include a wide range of interactive online applications that provide an outlet for users to take action. These included signing online petitions, contacting local officials, sending emails to friends, placing campaign banners on websites, and the innovative GCAPSMS.org website that allowed constituents to place messages on the website by sending an SMS. Online petitions were quite common, 67 per cent of the focal points said they offered this option. Online petitions were popular with users, too; 56 per cent of them said they signed the websites’ online petitions. Good practices A number of good practices are followed across the GCAP campaign network, though often in isolation and by only a few coalition members. Among many, we shall highlight: • eActions and emailings should, wherever possible, be coordinated with media coverage and by media relations and e-media campaigning practitioners; • Harmonization of branding and unifying symbol by using the White band which became a unifying act and symbol for the campaign – many coalition partners used it very effectively on their websites; • Use of audio-visual material on websites, often adapting the material available from northern campaigns to national contexts; • Viral marketing gives users the option to forward and share information and action options with their colleagues and friends, through the websites or with tools like Email a friend, Send an e-card, etc; • Interactive tools, which include options to comment on articles, blogs, bulletin boards and discussion forums, should be implemented to keep the website visitors involved in the campaign; and, • Popular mobilisation – including recruiting campaigners – calls for popular content like celebrities and clearer explanations of issues, backed up by policy briefings and other content for those who want to go into depth, and using the existing popular social networking sites. Future GCAP sites The Global Call to Action against Poverty clearly has a very rich and diverse family of sites, upon which to build and capitalize. The campaign, initially created to have an impact in 2005 kept growing, and will continue until 2015 with the following objectives: • Exploit and strengthen current online position by explicitly linking the coalition websites to one another and to the WhiteBand.org site; • Establish a clear brand and identity by building upon the existing campaign to establish a clear, unified identity for the campaign as a whole; • Improve coordination and governance through an integrated governance structure, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities to realise the full potential of the campaign. Given the loose nature of the alliance, close coordination and broad partnership rather than centralized control is needed, and to build strong relationships with the national coalition members and ensure their ‘ownership’ of the campaign; • Build the capacity of smaller coalition websites since GCAP will gain a lot by providing national coalition members with website building capacity and tools. In the context of a long-term campaign, an efficient content management system (CMS) will be an important resource; • Look deeper into online advocacy and social mobilization and evaluate mechanisms such as e-petitions, links to local politicians, event listings, or SMS2web services to identify what works best. Undertake an in-depth evaluation of online advocacy methods; • Plan strategically the online marketing and promotion. Websites should be marketed and promoted regularly in a consistent and planned way. Professional email management systems should be used for best results; and, • Contribute to open source applications developments such as the Phone e-campaigning tool developed for Whiteband.org and made available to the community; GCAP should continue to contribute to the e-advocacy development. Finally, the GCAP sites must always ensure the best possible contribution of the e-media to the campaign by going beyond the one-to-many ‘broadcast’ model of communications, by planning for popular communications throughout the campaign, by coordinating offline and online actions, and media coverage with e-Media activity. About Global Call to Action Against Poverty The waning years of the 20th century were a time of great global fragmentation and division; people all over the world steadily came to feel less safe. However, there was a prevailing belief among civil society organisations (CSOs) that the world could unite again for a battle truly worth fighting – the war against poverty. Nevertheless, the pledges required to meet the Millennium Declaration efforts to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and deliver sustainable development have been grossly inadequate. Governments too often fail to address the needs of their people, the quantity and quality of aid from rich countries is inadequate and promises of debt cancellation have not yet materialized. Rich countries have yet to act on their repeated pledges to tackle unfair trade rules and practices, although our world has never been richer and we have the means to turn this situation around. Galvanised by this imperative, a group of civil society actors including NGOs, international networks, social movements, trade unions, women’s organisations, faith-based groups and other civil society actors met in Johannesburg in September 2004. They launched the Global Call to Action against Poverty and initially targeted 2005 as the year when governments could take decisive action to deliver on their promises of the Millennium and make poverty history. GCAP is now a growing alliance of trade unions, community groups, faith groups, women and youth organisations, NGOs and other campaigners working together across more than 100 national platforms. GCAP demands solutions that address the issues of public accountability, just governance and the fulfilment of human rights; trade justice; a major increase in the quantity and quality of aid and financing for development; and debt cancellation. GCAP also affirms that gender equality must also be at the heart of eradicating poverty.