Mobs, Media and Mobilizing Action

Brower Hub Members
Description of Hub Spaces And Community

Regina O’Connell – Moderator, founding member of the hub.

Join Matt Flannery of
Steve Newcomb of Virgance
Ben Rattray of

Regina and her introduction to action and activism
Focus on the Family
This is social activism and enterprise 201
We want to drill down about how to make this happen, operationally and day to day.

What do you want to know about these organizations?

Speak about your organizations
-What was the inspiration, the big idea, how did you start out and where are you going.
-Democraticization of publishing online
-Rapid dissemination online
-Build a modern media work around people making actions happen
-They reach almost 1 million people a month
-They have the opportunity to network across the web and to mobilize people everyday around a news item in a news cycle to take collective action.

How many people consider themselves entrepreneurs and how many consider themselves as activists?

It’s incredible important that people consider themselves both as activists and entrepreneurs

What was the 20th century about? It’s about innovation.
The 21-century is about building all the crap we built in the 20th century.
Haven’t we built everything wrong, don’t we have a lot to do?
When we characterize what our lives are about we’re going to call this generation the next greatest generation, the same way as the people from the Great Depression and made humanity turn on a dime.

We need 500 Apollo projects, not just one. He is an entrepreneur turned into an activist.

He’s a serial entrepreneur; he created a little over 3 million dollars in those companies.

The fundamental question isn’t how do we build one power project, how do I build an Apollo project factory. So Vergence is an Apollo project factory.

Each is for-profit.

The interaction that we will see is between for and non-profit.

Kiva – Matt Flannery

They were in this weird space between for and non-profit. They found out a way to stay in business, but not become wildly profitable.

-They started with this blogger on the site in Uganda and some goat herders. They got a lot of press.

-They have 100 partners and sent $80 million dollars back and forth.

-They have Kiva fellows all over the world travelling and fighting a lot of fraud.

Inspiration, Aspiration and Operation

The concept of mobilizing people for good. What is the secret sauce of mobilizing people to different actions?

-Matt: We haven’t found the secret sauce. A few things have worked well, giving people a sense of feedback. People want bite size pieces of feedback, which makes for small bits of money. We’re trying to create an addictive experience for them.

-Steve: Get shit done. There’s not time for dreams and rainbows. Be honest. You have to be passionate. Everyone that joins our company has to work for one month for free.

Everyone knows everyone’s salary and equity position. Every Thursday it’s “Naked Lunch” and they go into the park and invite the public and we invite the employees. Two rules: Anyone can ask any question and the second is that they had to answer it. They had to make a bold point of being 100% transparencies whether in public or private. That’s when you create trust in a for-profit.

What’s the secret sauce: For many people you would go to church on the weekend and then go to work and pollute all week.

When you are building a team, when you say we are building well, building the team is everything. All you have to say is look we’re building well and we’re doing it.

Trust is the secret sauce.

Ben from

-If you can’t mobilize 5 million people every month than you will fail by metrics.

-You don’t want the Obama team’s tools, you want that community. The tools are the underlying plumbing.

-The tools enable, but it’s the content that makes is possible.

-You’re competing against a lot of people trying to do the same thing.

-The answer is what is your really compelling message. What’s the most effective thing they used? Email and a sense that each person is connected to something bigger.

-Most people don’t want to start their own community, they want to be part of something powerful, where the message and tools are compelling.

-Obama set a framework for feeling empowered.

-Rainbows and unicorns vs. making people angry as two ways to mobilize or spark people to make change.


-Making people feel powerful is important

-subtle of collecting things, getting feedback, competing with others and being a little better, but always framing it in a larger social message.

The impact they had is not on Rockstar energy drink, we said we’ll ruin their brand if you don’t support Gay Rights.
Brands are remarkably exposed. If you’re a consumer brand you’re an undifferentiated product. If you piss of 10,000 people they will find each other and they are going to amplify that message and other people will hear it.

The carrot in this lawsuit and Rockstar agreeing to do this is:

We will promote you and defend you with you do all these things.

We want to see as a fair broker.

5 goals to be in a power project:

(There’s a role for the stick and a role for the carrot)
1. measure real change
2. involve as many people as possible.
3. use the carrot and never the stick.
4. a common model and technology for all
5. sustainable profit model where you earn your own keep

For example a business to get all members to go solar.

Right now even if we do business with the largest solar installer, we represent 1/3 of their LPNL.
They entered New Orleans 3 weeks ago. They have 300 people signed up in New Orleans right now, that’s change you can measure and that you can do as people all as one.

There’s a role for the watchdog to rapt the company on the wrist when companies do wrong. We have a deadline to the things we need to accomplish in the sustainability company. If any company wants to change their stripes, we are happy to work with them. So we will not protest Chevron.


One Block Off The Grid

The behavior of the average customers is not us.

They don’t require people to be activists to do things with us. Most people will do things if they’re cheaper, not to save the world. Just make it cheaper.

What’s is like to actually get your organizations to get stuff done and to make it work everyday.

-Giving people a sense of ownership. You need to institutionalize the things that used to make you special.
What’s the ugliest challenge you’re facing?
-They launched the US loans part and a lot of people don’t seem outwardly poor. I’m trying to find the right balance between listening to our users and doing what they say. You have to learn to balance that feedback. People just want to give a sense that they’re hurt.

They have 42 people involved at Vergence

-Being a social entrepreneur you will be faced with different challenges. When you have 40 people in their 20s having identity crisis. You have to find a balance between having a identity crisis and say get over it.

-Success- keeping it small no matter how big you get. The biggest trick of all is choosing the office space, everyone else sits at table scattered about. They took over Twitter’s old office. Choose a spot that has feeling and passion in it. Don’t just put your company in a place that is blah. A good spot is that if you choose an office space you know that during an earthquake you’re going down. Keep it small, keep it rea
Advice about keeping things real and getting shit done.


It’s taken them 4 years to get 1 million users.

All I do right now is work. It’s aspiration and shooting for the highest possible. It’s a lifestyle, ti’s what I do.

-He’s found a way to work, that’s focused, but not as intense.


-You have to have a health skepticism.

-listening to advice and knowing which pieces to take and which ones to question.

Team is everything. When you’re buildng your team only have those types of people that were the killer people. Don’t let incompetence come into your tram.

A level people bring in A level people

B level people bring in C level people

Do the big thinss right and everything else gets easier.

My wise is writing a book called “My Husband is starting a company, have you seen him?”

Piece of advise you would give Ben (each to each):

Take your time, you have something really special, don’t forget to smell the roses along the way. Take it all in as you go.
Don’t do domestic. Brand is all you have. The brand is loans to entrepreneurs in development.
Open Questions Period:

No Pitches

No Solilqueys – how you feel about the state of the world, blog about it, tell your therapist.

(1) Revenue model for They work with big brand nonprofits and help them syndicate campaigns. They do cause marketing and syndicate. They have a jobs for change social enterprise social jobs that are paid jobs.
(2) How do you discipline your team when shit is not getting done?

If someone is not working out then you fire them. An interview is an incredible poor way of determining if they’re good at a job. That one month try before you buy period has been absolutely important.

The acquired One Block Off the Grid. He fired the founder of the company. He does not mess around with firing people, we will fire them in a dime. If you make after that month of try before you buy period.
Some of the best people have jobs, so it’s hard to sustain the policy, asks Matt.

Steve: they have lost people but it’s passion that drives.

Try before you buy, but you pay them for the month is an option. Ideally you would pay them as consultants.

How do you build your initial community?
How do you get people to come to your Web site and then get them to come back?

How do I build a sufficient amount of community so they come back.

Cites Flickr as an effective way.

Sustainable distribution strategy and when you get people there how do you get them excited about them.

Blogging and getting press and P2P referrals.

How did you give up the for-profit to change the world?

-Looking at money is a narrow version of compensation.

It shocks me to no end how many people hate their jobs and go through iterations of it so they can buy 600 thread sheets.

100 years ago you had no choice in what you do. With the education and resources we have phenomenal choice. You not doing about what you care about ask yourself why not? The easiest time right now, it only gets harder. Look at yourself right now and what you really want to do.

Enlightened self-interest.
Did you take money from other people and how do you keep stakeholders from taking over your mission?

-Choose your investors wisely. Steve, he raised money from all sorts of places. For Vergence they weren’t write for venture capital, we were like a misfit choice. They went to a group of billionaires who felt there was a space between this for-profit and activism space. They are not raising from traditional Tier 1 VCs.

-Creating a marketplace to seed enterprise is hard. They went to socially minded angels.

-Revenue models are essential from the beginning.
Kiva – 80% is paid by their users.

-It’s never easy whether your for profit or nonprofit.

– When they first got coverage on television, they put a picture on their Web site with their employees saying: “Would you be willing to pay the rent?”

How do you reach the marginal customer?

-Moveon is 5 million people. their goal is not to go for everyone. Rather than trying to get all -300 million people in the country is all you need.

-The notion that old people aren’t online is a myth.
If Facebook were a country it would be the 5th largest country.

The largest growing demographic on Facebook is seniors.

They create a facebook game, they get half-a-billion pageviews a month. One of the things we will see as a constant is the power of social networks and what comes after democracy and what comes after capitalism.

Ben’s advice to Steve:

Idealab was considered a failure because they had too many companies.

“I just read the internet, I don’t listen to it.”

Expanding more and more is hard to do everything well.
Cards from people about what they want to hear next.

Write down the people you want to hear from and you think should be members of the hub.

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