New Orleans I had a fascinating and encouraging conversation recently with Jamie Biggar, the Vancouver-based executive director of what could be an exciting new political force for progressive issues and change in Canada: LeadNow or probably more accurately www.leadnow.ca since the internet is going to be the main membership access to this weapon d’ jour. Part of the excitement of the conversation that morning was the fact that LeadNow website was just debuting on line, almost as we talked, so my biggest challenge was paying close attention to Jamie on the while becoming the #4 follower on their Twitter account, the 300th and something Facebook fan, and recognizing some Canadian friends on the early scrolling comments. Talk about ground floor!
LeadNow hopes to cover the ground originally broken in the USA by MoveOn, who invented the basic internet campaigning form when they “caught lightening in a bottle,” as ACORN Canada’s Josh Stuart accurately calls it, while Avaaz.org internationally and other formations in Australia and elsewhere have built from the ground up. Jamie argued that LeadNow in Canada would be different in some fundamental ways if everything worked as they hoped importantly by linking the “air war” of internet campaigning more closely with the “ground war” by forging close working relationships with organizations and possibly creating “chapters” on the local level. LeadNow is also trying to figure out how they might help build bridges on campaigns to create change past the partisan deadlocks of the multi-party parliamentary system. Good luck with that! The third defining objective they hope will be a more robust “voting” or membership input and direction system, which is more my bet, but they are right that this is an important evolutionary step forward for these kinds of organizations.
All of that is in the future as LeadNow pilots what works and where they can find traction and build their base moving forward. Putting projects like LeadNow on the runway and getting them up in the air where they can pick up speed and support is a huge undertaking in itself. I think one of the reasons these kinds of new social change formations are so very important is because they are self-sustaining organizations, relying on the members to fuel the tanks with their donations and therefore not accountable to donors or outside interests.
Jamie and his partners have a good track record with other efforts in the past with environmental issues, students, and others. Getting ready to brave the frozen north in a couple of days as I prepare for another visit with organizers and others in Canada, I can’t describe how important it is for LeadNow to succeed.
My vote: support now, LeadNow!