Social software and web presence
I've been doing some pro bono work lately for (what I'm going to call for the sake of their stealth) a campaigning/advocacy organization which is trying to get off the ground and giving them some advice as to how to set up IT systems to make sure they can leverage their rather sparse human resources. It's been interesting. Some choices have already been made at other levels as to what things should and shouldn't be used and I have to admit that I'm not always in agreement that the best of breed things are being used.
One of the most interesting things I'm finding is that the question of web presence is something of unbelievable importance to most organizations that is really, very sadly neglected.
Whereas, as the Dean campaign showed us in the states, the need is for the web to be used as a force for recruiting, information, and calling to action users in the real world, a lot of strategists are still seeing it as a simple billboard for information, rather than as a type of social software to connect together disparate constituents. And it is not merely simply to help drive another fundraising channel.
Social software exists to drive real world actions, not some form of armchair cyberactivism. The other things come from engagement and continued involvement and people getting out and fueling these things themselves. It is not centralized but driven by the edges of the far-flung network. The technology simply acts as an enabler to get people out there doing the things they need to be doing as soon as they build a network.
That's why a simple CMS doesn't really work for the web presence of these organizations. Content management is not what these sites need. They need community management for all those individuals who need to create micro-communities in order to aggregate grassroots effects up.
Anyhow, on that note, CivicSpace Labs just released the 0.8 version of CivicSpace which is the spin off software of the stuff that ran the Dean campaign in the States. I'll be playing with over the weekend to see if it's a better solution than the CMS that we've been told is the de facto standard.