I had the great privilege of co-producing the Cause 2012 Conference in Santa Maria, CA on Saturday, October 29th. The worlds of social media and grassroots organizing connected like two atoms smashing into each other to create a brilliant new energy.
But are the two worlds really that different? I say yes. Having recently transitioned from corporate marketing over to communications in labor, the perspectives are much different. In the former, attention from corporate suitors is an indication that we’re on to something. This could lead to a cross promotion deal, a side gig, or high profile presentation opportunity. In the latter, corporate interests are looked upon with suspicion. We’ve seen far too many private companies step into the public world and result in the deterioration of good jobs. Grassroots social justice organizations are even more careful about corporate involvement.
This is a pretty big gap to cross. The “Social Change Through Social Media” theme helped break down that distance. With presentations on the Lationosphere, reaching out to the media, grassroots organizing, social media best practices, and on how to move a campaign/nonprofit forward with social media, there were a lot of connection points.
Most of the conference discussions were related to using social media to meet the needs of nonprofit clients. One person was focused on working with veterans and is preparing to deal with the large influx of new veterans who will be coming back from Iraq. Another participant was working on ways to connect with his clients, young people looking to break the cycle of violence in Santa Maria.
Yes, there is a lot of interest in online Latinos, but to what end? If this interest is only because of marketing outreach potential by big brands then this relationship must shift. If big brands can help social justice organizations meet some of their goals in a way that is consistent with both entity’s missions then there is a great potential for collaboration.
The world of politics is also interested in Latinos and their issues and causes. We were fortunate to have Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) attend the conference and speak on jobs and to introduce Juan Sepulveda, Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans who joined us via Skype.
There was a lot of great content and interactions at the conference. With time for community participation and conversations, many new bonds were formed that will hopefully radiate from Santa Maria and have a positive impact, just as the farmworker movement did so many years ago.