“What we’ve been doing is trying to teach people to do what Obama does during his speeches — to tell their own stories to motivate others,” he says. “You’re building this sense of commitment to both the values and people, but you’re structuring it purposefully to achieve goals like, ‘In this district, we need 2,000 votes.'”
Obama is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organization that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale.
… The controlled chaos of Obama’s ground game owes a debt to the civil rights and farmworkers’ movements of the past, as well as lessons from the 2004 campaigns, and an organizational-team theory developed by Ganz and colleague Ruth Wageman, a psychology professor at Harvard, in a recent project for the Sierra Club.
In 2003, the Sierra Club realized that its local grassroots volunteer programs weren’t effective. In late 2005, it commissioned the Harvard scholars to undertake a two-year research project to figure out why, and how to fix it. The researchers discovered that the kind of volunteers that the Sierra Club attracted were “lone ranger” types who focused on accomplishing goals on their own, rather than effectively working with others with “shared purpose.”
The danger of this approach, Ganz says, is that individuals burn out easily. They try to do everything themselves rather than breaking the goals out into specific tasks that members of interdependent teams can accomplish in pieces. That’s why relationships are so important, they found. Ganz and Wageman’s model gets members of teams to find out more about one another’s experiences, and draw on each member’s expertise. The model also uses personal storytelling during workshops as a way to motivate peers and potential recruits to action.
Ganz says that his and Wageman’s training system works well for the Obama campaign, because it’s designed to channel the enthusiasm of voters who are emotionally inspired by orators such as Obama. This appeal to the right brain contrasts with most of the recent Democratic political campaigns, which have appealed to voters’ logic by selling concepts and policies.
Obama organizers, and some volunteers, enter the campaign machine through weekend training sessions called “Camp Obama.”
The sessions vary in size from groups of 40 to more than 300, held variously at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, in rented office spaces, union halls, churches or on college campuses. In addition to leadership and motivation training, the camp features storytelling sessions, where the volunteers are broken up into small teams organized by congressional district. Each member of these groups is asked to tell personal stories in two minutes, in the same format Obama used in his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“Ultimately, your story should move people to specific action by painting a detailed picture of how things might be different if we act, giving us hope that if we act now we can make real that different future,” explains the training manual.
The stories are an exercise in relationship building, says Ganz.
Visionaries in the realm of Internet politics, several of them well-known among Obama activists, would like to see Obama go further and use Internet social networks for ideas and collaborative problem-solving.
“Obama has launched Change.gov. According to the site ‘Change.gov provides resources to better understand the transition process and the decisions being made as part of it. It also offers an opportunity to be heard about the challenges our country faces and your ideas for tackling them.
The Obama Administration will reflect an essential lesson from the success of the Obama campaign: that people united around a common purpose can achieve great things.’ The site is extensive and contains Obama’s agenda for economy and education among many others.
They first define the problem and then lay out the plan. Everything is in simple English without a trace of Washington-speak.”
update: via MSNBC on November 10, 2008:
The Washington Post has a great piece this morning about the Obama Administration’s attempts to harness the internet for their governing purposes.
… the bottom line is that Obama’s will be the first Web presidency, and that will create a media paradigm shift that we can’t necessarily foresee right now other than to note it’s something that’s coming.