Organizers' Network

Last updated 20030809 at 0810 EDT by editors
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Brainstorming

[Lots of worthy ideas are suggested in the normal course of events, only to be forgotten in the press of the immediate activity overload we all face.  This is a simple attempt to create a shared collective memory  of all such worthy suggestions we hear.  Please feel free to camp-on to any idea on the list with what may seem a minor variation to you but could be significant to someone else.  Send all brainstorming suggestions to the editors.  No serious suggestion will ever be ignored.  -- ed.]

  • NEW (30 days) ►  Broadband Residential Internet Access as an Incentive for Professionals and Businesses to Move to WNY:  CB, one of our steadfast Sunday vigilers, suggests using low/no-cost residential broadband Internet access as an incentive to attract professionals and businesses to the WNY region.  While not within the normal purview of progressive activist organizations, we're including it on the brainstorming page because a) it's an innovative proposal that seems worthy of serious consideration and b) it could dovetail nicely with other brainstorming proposals directed at reducing the digital divide in underserved communities.  Also and from a distance, any growth of residential broadband at all will serve to accelerate the cost reductions that arise from economies of scale.  Since there's clear benefit to the community at large and since workers, businesses and business development opportunities benefit, this kind of incentive could be a lot more attractive than the more usual tax breaks for corporate owners.  If the idea of a generalized professional and business incentive seems too republican, the same concept could be used in efforts to selectively attract more service professionals -- physicians, social workers and the like.  In all cases, the "image" of the entire WNY region would improve.  WNY could become the place to move-to for the younger on-line set.  20030809

  • NEW (30 days) ►  Urban Guerrilla Broadband Distribution:  JW's been dreaming about this one for years and waiting for component costs to drop to practical ranges.  He thinks we're close now.  As high performance limited distance digital communication technologies (e.g. WIFI, free-space optical) continue to drop in deployment costs as economies of scale reduce manufacturing costs, it is becoming increasingly practical to consider bottom-up grass roots community designed, installed and operated broadband distribution networks to bring broadband internet access to underserved communities at the lowest possible costs and without the overheads of profit motives.  The concept will be outlined more completely on separate pages as time permits but revolves around addressing the most expensive component, the last mile, with a community based (as opposed to corporate) solution set that could include everything from a $100 WIFI access-point/bridge with a home-brew Pringles-can directional antenna on up to whatever a block or person could afford.  Once basic regional standards are defined, anything that works and does not disrupt the larger network could be used for last-mile distribution of bandwidth derived from high capacity access/traffic aggregation points that could be conveniently fed with donated, grant-funded, and/or fee-derived high bandwidth Internet trunking.  If you're really interested in exploring the concept before pages on the topic appear on-line, contact Jim Whitlock direct at whitlock@buffalopeacePeople.org.  20030809

  • NEW (30 days) ►  Shared Volunteer Operated Button Manufacturing:  Inspired by the button work of Mark Rogovin and his marvelous peace buttons, JW thinks we should consider a shared and volunteer operated high-quality button-making machine for regional progressives.  Supply costs are low and the process appears to be simple.  We could make the machine available to anyone willing to be trained in its operation or to a group of volunteers willing to service our larger family of organizations.  Buttons are a fun and practical way to deliver a message, whether it's general (Healthcare Not Welfare), political (Kuzma for City Court) or fun (Peace is Sexy).  If we had a machine handy and a group who knew how to use it we could make greater use of the medium.  20030809

  • NEW (30 days) ►  WNY Commercial TV Station Event Logging.  Far too often, records of our local activist history are lost and National program broadcasts of importance to local people or groups are missed.  Requests for broadcast program logging are common and often go unmet.  JW suggests that a small group could be equipped and prepared for such logging activities.  In the ideal case, high quality source connections (digital cable or satellite) would be used and a small bank of recording systems that include SVHS and some form of digital recording would be available for those who can handle recorded formats of higher quality than VHS.  The same group could also develop the capability to transcode recorded video into various on-line file formats of interest like QuickTime, Media Player, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 etc.  Pending demand and interest, the group might also develop post-production editing skills and systems for creation and delivery of polished media segments from raw recordings.  All of these services could be offered to the progressive activist community as a whole.  20030711

  • NEW (30 days) ►  Robust Commercial Grade IMAP & POP Email Facilities for WNY Progressives.  Observations:  1) the effectiveness of the WNY progressive community is seriously impeded by our singular failure to accomplish much work asynchronously on-line,  2) use of free email services (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo, etc) with attendant commercial mining and SPAM and with harsh file-space limits that result in frequent cut-offs of active organizers appears to be a significant part of the problem, 3) trust and security appear to be related impediments to greater comfort with on-line work in general and email based work in particular, and 4) many people appear to be using clumsy and limited Web based (HTML) interfaces to email services, possibly because that's the only interface offered by free services, and are thereby further discouraged from effective use of email for organizing work.  Given those and other observations to follow as time permits, JW suggests exploring commercially hosted & backed up, possibly redundant, servers for supporting robust commercial-grade IMAP and POP email facilities along with other collaboration support services (e.g. TWiki spaces, shared streaming video servers, etc.) for WNY progressive activists.  Security and management issues would need to be resolved but we seem to have a sufficient number of technically proficient progressively-inclined people to be optimistic about success if we decided to take this on as a group.  20030710

  • Peace Cranes, Children's Songs & Stories, and Hiroshima Remembrance.  JW proposes a public event, on or about August 6th, with tables for teaching anyone (but particularly kids) how to make oragami peace cranes, volunteers to read the story Sodako and possibly other children's peace stories aloud, and volunteers to lead children's peace songs.  This activity would lead into other activities planned for the 6th/8th, possibly a candlelight vigil or float release in the Niagara River.  For the children's Peace-Cranes/Stories/Songs event, we would probably want to pick a modestly well-traveled outdoor park and have lots of lead-up publicity, paying special attention to neighborhood churches, supermarkets, and the like.  BuffaloPeacePeople could provide a sound system and a few camp-tables & chairs.  Peace crane projects could also be organized and started in schools before summer vacations start and in summer day-camps as well.   20030707

  • Buffalo Police, Rogues Gallery.  While most of our local police officer corps behaves in a thoroughly  professional manner, Buffalo, like most large metropolitan areas, has its fair share of police officers with a penchant for abusing authority, indulging in unnecessary violence, and behaving with apparent racist intent.  The question is whether or not clearly identifying them along with any published material on their alleged behavior would be helpful in the long term or simply inflammatory.  If the former, then maybe this is something a small group could start to assemble.  With a bit of effort, we should be able to collect names, photos, and published reports.  With a bit more effort and a few Freedom of Information requests, more illuminating material might be forthcoming.  20030602

    • 20030624 Update: Thinking further about trying to make this more positive and proactive, if a rogues gallery is constructed, there probably ought to be a time-out of some kind.  Maybe the first offense would get someone listed for two months, the second for four and so on.  A companion site could also highlight officers who demonstrate exemplary behavior in the face of potentially threatening or antagonistic crowds -- maybe even a citizens' Officer of the Year award or something in a similar vein to promote the best of what we experience from our police officers and officials.

  • Annual or Bi-Annual Regional Progressive Conference.   This has been discussed and suggested by numerous people but never made it to this list.  The general concept is inspired by the great turn-out of local progressive organizations for the Ralph Nader Democracy Rising event and would involve organizing a regular conference/party/rally for regional progressive organizations to maintain solidarity and develop more effective collaborative strategies.  Oh yeah, and to have some fun too.  It could be indoors or outdoors or both.  Maybe a day of conference sessions and confabs followed by an evening of music, poetry and dance.  20030602

  • Progressive Organizers Retreat.   BM & JW are enthusiastic about a retreat for regional progressive organizers, first suggested awhile ago by DK, to develop better common understandings and strategies, and to improve collaboration skills.  An outside facilitator could be used and a day away in a pleasant environment could be organized.  We suspect that a few local foundations might be willing to help with costs.  20030530

  • Regional Speakers Bureau.   JW suggests creating a regional speakers bureau for local experts/speakers on any of the topic areas related to war, injustice and progressive causes.  20030530

  • Shared On-Line Fund Raising and Polling.   JW suggests regional shared on-line facilities for on-line fund raising and polling.  This could/should be tightly coupled to low-volume newsletter activity noted elsewhere and an integral part of slacker politics initiatives.   20030514

  • Everyone Wins School Art, Drama, Literature and Music Contest and Festival.  JW suggests regional collaboratively organized and promoted school contests for art, drama, literature and music with peace, justice and sustainable living themes.  Such contests could culminate in a regional play-off festival where everyone wins.  Moms and dads get drawn-in and everyone has fun.  This could be an excellent way to start to address slacker politics (see below).  20030514

  • Shared Volunteer Operated Printing Press.  Sensitized to printing costs and our local dependence upon paper-based communication doing PR planning for the local Faces of Iraq exhibition, JW suggests investigating the acquisition, maintenance and operating costs of a used but serviceable offset press for flyer and poster  production.  The machine and supplies could be housed in a garage or one of our organizations' offices and could be maintained and operated by a volunteer team.  Does a press make sense in a digital press world?  It could turn out to be an economical solution that trades-off time investment against cost.  Required operator skill sets also need to be defined.  Needs research but concept should be investigated due to high dependence on and costs of printing.  20030514

  • Low-volume Regional Peace, Justice and Sustainable Living Email News .  Among those who are still silent and inactive but are sympathizers nonetheless, there appears to be a perennial need for answers to the questions "How do I find out what's going on?" and "How can I help?"  JW proposes (and is gathering names of folks interested in helping to create and sustain) a once or twice per week mailing of a simple headline & link list (patterned after TruthOut mailings) focused exclusively on local organizations and events.  We should be producing articles on local organizations and their activities, an easy to use calendar, guides to action for every level and flavor of interest, links to local directories and calendars, and so on.  The target audience is all those not yet ready to join one of our organizations but interested in some degree of greater involvement. 20030514

    • 20030624 Update: JW has been regularly distributing short text calendar summary emails as "Weekend Waging Peace Events."  Sometimes he also gets out a similar summary for the week ahead.  This may be a more realistic approach than one that attempts to collect written articles on local groups and activities -- particularly since there are already a number of local authors publishing material in a wide variety of outlets that they know and prefer.  If AM's work on a shared progressive calendar bears fruit, a short simple summary document for email distribution could be a by-product and could become the basis for a large regional email distribution list that helps build a progressive community.

  • Shared Media Libraries.  We bounced this around late last year while scrambling to find appropriate media for screening/discussions but it never got to this list.  Collectively, within this  region, we probably own an enormous collection of videos and DVD's that could be far better used if we knew who had what.  The proposal is imply to catalog holdings along with contact information for loans.  Books could be included in the catalog but given poor success with loaned book returns, including books may not be a good extension.  20030514

  • A Progressive SimWorld for Adults & Kids  JW proposes developing an open-source modular SimWorld with alternative political and economic models for simulation and fun.  Given what little we know of the Sim-series designer/developer, there a non-zero chance he'd be interested in developing the core engine and preliminary operating modules.  20030427

    • 20030624 Update: JW has been trying to do some homework on IMF/WB issues and history and in the process has been struck by the complexity of the issues (particularly with regard to economics, banking, finance, market intervention and related topics) and the apparent lack of anything approaching scientific understanding, even among the experts.  On surface, the activist community appears to limit its focus to what's wrong or oppressive but spends little time on what these institutions may be attempting to do, or at least were chartered to do, that's of value.  Notwithstanding the arguments that market/capitalist economies are inherently bad for peace, justice and sustainable living, as long as much of the world operates within their frameworks it behooves us to better understand the language and theories behind efforts to maintain stability and general benefit within them.  A SimCity-like simulation environment would be a marvelous educational tool that could turn an otherwise daunting learning process into a fun and entertaining experience.  We could do a lot worse that to channel some of the energy and resources we direct at simple opposition to IMF/WB/WTO/... policies into promoting the development of an educational tool that could help people develop a more complete and balanced understanding of the issues.  So what can we do right now?  We might start by researching and cataloging available economic simulation tools that can be run on contemporary desktop computer platforms.  Once the available simulations are known, we'd be in a better position to approach developers with informed suggestions and/or to recommend existing models and ways to integrate them in more realistic and comprehensive ways.  By way of a specific example, here's a site from a quick Google search on <Global Economic Simulation> that describes a VAX/VMS based multi-user simulation intended to teach principles of banking and finance: http://ecedweb.unomaha.edu/ecosim.htm  Here are a few more from a search on <"Economic Simulation">:  http://facweb.furman.edu/~dstanford/simmods/siminst.htm -- http://facweb.furman.edu/~dstanford/simmods/simmods.htm --  http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/4041/86957 --  http://www.bionomics.org/text/cbr/tradebot/explain.html  http://www.s-line.de/homepages/simutrans/en/simu.html -- http://www.progress.org/archive/revwgam.htm -- http://www.lokigames.com/products/sc3k/  Not many satisfying finds but a few leads to follow-up.

  • A Slacker's Guide To Political Action.  (Stolen from Michael Moore by JW)  The vast majority (and a huge number) of people we talk with who lean slightly in our direction have absolutely no desire to stand out in the rain every weekend holding a placard or to sit at a table for hours passing out literature, or, heaven help them, to march from door to door repeating the same old thing and trying to collect a few signatures or dollars.  That's for demented souls like us.  But they do want to help, as long as it doesn't involve much investment on their part.  Just like all those folks who write a small check once a year to the Republican Party and don't even bother to vote -- hey, they've got the numbers and the winning combination, friends.  They might, for instance, be willing to switch to a new brand of beer if it was just as good as they're used to and helped us out to boot.  Or they might add a buck to the price of that concert ticket for similar reasons.  I haven't heard many great ideas yet but it's problem we clearly have to solve.  And now, with lots of anti-war attention starting to fade, is a terrific time to start thinking hard and maybe even trying a few outlandish ideas.  How about it?  Contribute a few of your own.  How about a progressive dating service?  Or a progressive carnival -- yeah, that's right, with rides for kids and all.  Or maybe a kite making contest with a huge party competition where everyone meets chicks or cool dudes and wins.  C'mon folks, let's get going and get the numbers we need.  20030415

  • How Do I Find Out What's Going On?  That's the most frequently asked question that all of us hear.  JW suggests another collaborative project to develop an on-line calendar that addresses known deficiencies with all local calendars and that supports a user-controlled email distribution filter for new events and modifications to existing event notices.  He promises to elaborate to anyone interested and says he intends to start a regional techies list for those interested in exploring possible solutions; even says he has a few possible solution frameworks in mind.  Get in touch with him directly if you're interested in discussing this further.  20030415

  • What Can I Do To Help?  That's another question we hear a lot; second in frequency only to "How do I find out what's happening?"  JW suggests another collaborative project to develop a well organized ever-growing collection of specific suggestions, a What2Do or Action Web.  It needs to cover interests that span the entire gamut of inter-related issues from war and violence to globalization to preservation of our environment.  It also needs to cover dimensions that range from constructive reaction to untoward events through proactive long-haul efforts on to laying strategic foundations for work not even possible in the present context.  And it needs to  address personal investment levels ranging from 5-minutes per month on up as well as things that most of us would consider fun to do -- with a family in tow.  A Web like that would take us years to build but could be designed to require modest maintenance.  It could become the place to go for newcomers or those just browsing to see if they might be interested.  A dispassionate guide that accommodates those who seek activities and organizations embracing their particular avocational interests and ethical, moral, political or religious persuasions.  The ultimate guide to the universe of progressive activism.  Let's stop trying to snag the newcomers for our favorite causes or organizations and give them what they want instead.  We'll all win in the process.  Guaranteed.  --  20030415

  • Collaboratively Developed Master Link Collection & Directory:  URL links and information sources abound.  Collections are scattered and often poorly organized.  Information overload on the one hand, inability to find what we want on the other.  JW suggests a collaborative project, using a tool like WIKI, to gather and organize all the worthy URL's we can find so folks can find what they want with greater ease.  WIKI seems to be a flawless tool for a task like this.  It could also be a good WIKI trial and demonstration project.  20030402

  • Telephone Conference Bridge for Event/Action Planning: Faced with the difficulties of trying to support collaborative event planning using email lists, JW suggests identifying a telephone conference bridge or bridging services that could be used by regional activists for coordination and planning purposes.  Off-contract street pricing for Verizon bridging services ($.18 to $.25 per minute per port) are high enough to discourage use of an easy-to-use common-denominator planning and coordination tool.  20030330

  • Musicians' Anti-War Song and Music Swap-Fest:  JB suggests that any interested musicians meet to trade and perform each other's antiwar songs.  This would be something like a Christmastime cookie event, where everyone contributes his/her creation.  It may turn out that there are a number of undiscovered songs out there.  JW would like to incorporate this into regular anti-war rally and town-square speak-out events on Saturday afternoons at Bidwell/Elmwood.  20030326

  • Spotlight on Civil Liberties Erosions:  JW suggests organizing empathetic Indie bookstore owners, Librarians, and Lawyers to create and promote presentations, discussions and other more creative events that might help put a public spotlight on civil liberties erosions now enacted and those planned under Patriot II.  The erosions are particularly insidious, in part, because they are masked by our preoccupation with war issues.  JW has a background task now active and a slowly growing list of people in the region who would actively like to help.  20030326

    • 20030514 Update: The UBFSP planning group has independently expressed interest in planning discussions for the fall centered on civil liberties erosions.  This could be built into a collaborative regional week of discussions, film showings, and related activities.

    • 20030602 Update: The situation has gotten a bit more pressing with the introduction of NYS S.2996 and A.4883.  I've started to assemble some reference material and will try to get a few pages with possible actions plans posted soon.

    • 20030624 Update: At a meeting yesterday of the UB Faculty and Staff for Peace planning group, the group decided to invite known interested parties to our next meeting (or a meeting anywhere) for a discussion.  We have contacts with indie bookstore owners, librarians, the NYCLU, and a few international lawyers and might have critical mass necessary to organize informative programs and/or develop useful reference Web sites.

  • Faces of Iraq Photography Exhibit:  JW suggests bringing this (see http://facesofiraq.org/faces/index_flash_new.htm) to Buffalo, possibly at the Albright-Knox.  20030324

  • Peace Kites: RA suggested starting to make Peace Kites during an informal chat after a recent vigil.  Great idea!  Maybe even a fund-raising opportunity to help support the local activist community.  And what fun! 20030313

  • Automated On-Line Systems for Emailing, Letter Writing and Faxing Officials: JW suggests that we need a local shared system along the lines of an excellent one that the ACLU has put on-line at http://www.aclu.org/TakeAction/TakeActionList.cfm?c=242.  Theirs resolves ZIP codes into districts, identifies representatives, allows both fixed and editable sections of the message to be sent and appears to support email, FAX and actual snail-mail letters.  20030309

    • 20030701 Update: UCC also maintains an excellent site at:  http://www.ucctakeaction.org/action/  We should collect examples for review and possible shared implementation.  The UCC site employs a login while the ACLU site does not. 

    • 20030701 Update: A better idea might be to simply catalog the various easy-action sites we find (rather than implement another one).  Possibly a combination National site catalog and a site for action on local issues.

  • Insurance for Actions in Malls: CE suggests following up on use of AFSC (or other empathetic organizations') insurance for actions in locales  where insurance may be required and may be prohibitively expensive for small organizations.  See the complete text of the Tompkins County Green Party story about their recent success with this approach.  20030101 

  • Buffalo News Editorial Board Action:  WA suggests establishing contact as a group with the Buffalo News Editorial Board.  He offers to establish contact and help with coordination and facilitation.  Periodic meetings and/or releases should be considered.  20030101

  • Buffalo News - Rotating Letters to the Editor:  WA suggests that we all consider rotating responsibility for writing a letter to the Buffalo News Editor.  We could each volunteer to draft one on a weekly/monthly basis.  Letters could be shared for review and comment if desired or handled individually and directly.  20030101

  • Completed! ►  War Plans:  The clock on UN inspections expires 1/27 and many presume the US President will declare war on Iraq shortly thereafter if not before.  Several activists have suggested over the last few months that we should have plans in place for reacting to a declaration of or initiation of war.  There's room for collaboration here.  At least, we could publicize planning contacts and possibly a single number to call or Web site to visit for fast-breaking plans.   20030101  

  • Customer Research:  CE, GB and JW decided over coffee that our collective understanding of what the average un-involved person wants is not at all clear and that they would launch an informal research project to try to refine that understanding.  They agreed to each identify 10 new people with whom they had never before discussed war issues who appear to be opposed to any degree at all -- even visibly wobbling as long as they lean towards  the opposition side. They will then try to determine what specifically and precisely such people might like.  The latter could be a very simple statement to sign in opposition, convenient balanced debates, reading reference lists, better tools for sorting out the credibility of everything they hear, etc.  They agreed to try to complete their preliminary  assignments by 1/14 but we all think it's a great idea and will be very  patient.  20030101

  • After-Christmas Shopping Action:  BH suggests that the crowds in malls returning gifts the day after Christmas present an excellent opportunity for vigils and demonstrations.  Coupled with CE's suggestion for insurance coverage, this could be a winner.20030101

  • Buffalo Christmas Lights Action:  JW suggests regular vigils on the Christmas Lights path in Delaware Park.  Experience was very positive with a late startup in 2002.  Cars slow or stop, moms and dads have to look, and wide-eyed kids can be counted upon to ask lots of questions and not forget.  In 2002, the best starting time for a 60-90 minute vigil seemed to be 6:30-7:00 PM.  Expect to pay an entry fee <$10.  In 2002, they also passed out undated coupons that would permit one re-entry.  Cold temperatures, high winds and business dress limited JW's endurance to 90 minutes maximum but it was worth every minute of pain; those kids were just fabulous, the police were fine about it even with a called-in complaint, and we even got some rousing cheers and waves one night.  20030101

  • Buffalo Christmas Lights Action - Alternative Light Display:  MN passed along news of his rope light "No War" display in front of his house.  JW immediately camped-on to the idea with a Christmas Lights variation.  Next year, let's try to get an Alternative Light Display rigged in the same size/style as the rest but have it reflect a "No War" theme or phrase.  We should be able to use our quiet Rally gen-set or a battery/inverter for power and some cleverness to  make them flash.  Surely we can figure our an arrangement that violates no laws or park regulations if we try.  That would blow socks off.  I'll try to get some detailed and scaled photos of existing light structures for future reference.  20030101   

  • WNY Peace Rally Support Team:  CE, JW, MS and most of the others who worked hard as Peace Rally support staff for our premier collective event on 12/10, enjoyed fussing with and working out the logistic support aspects and assisting with management of the event.  It's clear that experience, practice, procedures, collected shared contacts, and a ready-to-roll collection of equipment could be a major asset for regional groups engaged in or collaborating on peace activism events.  The group intends to continue to work together informally with those objectives in mind.  Modest private funding has been identified and grants seem possible.  Logistic support items including first-aid kits, generator sets, sound equipment, radios for event staff coordination, and the like are being reviewed and collected.  20030101  

    • 20030421 Update: A rally support package and team are gradually developing.  Legal observer and peacekeeper teams are being assembled and trained.  Logistics support components have been secured to support rallies up to about 300-400 people. 


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

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