I don't really have any insightful (read: publishable) thoughts about my neighborhood, so instead I'm just going post things I stumble across.
These will in turn evoke a sense of place like an Illustrated Classics version of A Tale of Two Cities.
"This work is hard. If it were easy, it would be done already."
-Micah Sifry, asking the PdF community to take care of one another
You know nothing,
Jon Snow campaigners
How do you know when you’re changing the world (a component of how DO you change the world?)
Taren says that organizers empower other people to create change, while campaigners set their sites on a specific change and go about creating that change, whether that involves empowering other communities, or drinks with a Senator’s nephew.
This is a room full of campaigners. Taren challenges us to temporarily suspendthe assumption that we’re accomplishing anything
Taren questions whether all of us do-gooders are having any impact. GiveWell has been looking for measurable improvement in the health and wealth caused by NGOs working in the developing world. It found only one NGO with strong evidence that they were helping. The group claims it’d be more effective to just directly give people in poverty money.
The Analyst Institute and AFL-CIO have studied campaigns’ tactics on voters and found that TV ads have very little effect on elections until the last week of the campaign. And yet we spend billions of dollars on these ads.
Last year, Aaron wrote a post, Confront Reality, with this quote from George Orwell:
We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
—George Orwell, “In Front of Your Nose”
Modern psychology has found a litany of biases in the human mind. Perhaps we have a ccgnitive bias that we are changing the world despite any evidence. We talk about the importance of the issue, the access we got, shifting public opinion, metrics like phone calls, and lastly, actual victory of actual change. Taren says that these are all vanity metrics. All of them could be true, and your work could still have no impact. She points to healthcare, where many groups worked on the issue, but their work cannot be independently verified as critical to the eventual passing of the Affordable Care Act.
1. Try science.
The new wave of online campaign organizations (MoveOn, Change.org) have the capacity to empirically test tactics across many campaigns. While at Change.org, Jess Kutch guided some of the many homeowners campaigning against foreclosures and banks and tested the tactics that scale.
Aaron was fascinated by the idea of testing campaigns against state legislators to measure whether all those phone calls to politicians have any effect. Who cares about the subject line of the email asking you to
Failing to measure tactics in an empirical way is one of the biggest missed opportunities.
2. The Goldilocks strategy
Even if you don’t have the scale to test empirically, you can choose small challenges that are jusssst right. Goals that are too easy always succeed, and really hard goals ensure you’ll never fail, because it’ll always be too soon to tell. So pick a medium goal, Aaron said, because you’ll be able to test whether or not you’re having any measurable impact on a meaningful development.
Taren says that SumofUs picks campaigns that would not be won without their work, but are big enough to merit their efforts.
As we learn to change corporate behavior, we’ll be able to ratchet up the difficulty of our campaigns.
Aaron also said, “Reality is painful, but it’s impossible to get better without confronting it.”
Taren asks the funders in the room to raise their bar on the evidence of impact they’ll accept. And fund the social entrepreneurs with the mindset to affect reality. They’re harder to find, because they’re more honest about failure than those invested in their own biases of success.
To the campaigners, Taren asks that we not believe our own assumptions, that we work at organizations that value empirical testing, even at the cost of admitting that past work was a failure.
Get Smart window of the daycare at 14th and Irving