The rise of social media has been blamed for many ills, but it can also be a powerful force for change, according to panelists at the 2018 Dreamforce session “When Your Cause Sparks a Movement." Moderated by Ravi Moorthy, managing director of the communications agency Zeno Group, the panel featured Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood; Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); and Jennifer Dulski, head of Facebook Groups and Community and author of the book Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter? The group addressed the question: How should people think about taking their passion points and using them to effect change?
“People are looking for things that are conversational, organizational and impactful," said Laguens. The current political climate has brought Planned Parenthood an influx of supporters, a quarter of whom are less than 25 years old. The organization is trying to be the home for not only health care but also community. “We want to be as easy, exciting, and community-based as we can," said Laguens.
Greenblatt stated that hate is a growth market right now, and that the ADL is asking, “How can we use technology and innovation in pursuit of our goals?" to promote justice everywhere.
Dulski spoke of the way technology helps magnify the effects of individual stories. “Individual people have more power to start things that become movements," she said. Today, we see actions that affect lives in a way we didn't before, she continued.
There's no doubt in my mind that we can use technology and innovation to get hate out of the public conversation.
—Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, The Anti-Defamation League
Asked what success in their movement would look like, Laguens said she didn't look for success in the short run, though she hoped we could imagine it. “How do you collectivize all these individuals into a long-term approach?" she asked. “Let a thousand flowers bloom—but you also want to see a field of flowers."
“There's no doubt in my mind that we can use technology and innovation to get hate out of the public conversation," said Greenblatt. For example, the ADL is now using artificial intelligence to help construct an online hate index of hate speech on the internet. Moorthy pointed out that technology can be a double-edged sword and asked what he saw as the responsibility of technology purveyors to address the issue. She pointed to groups building community based on issues that make people feel different or that are problems. “Bad actors can use these tools too, of course," she acknowledged.
Greenblatt agreed, saying that it's not that the hate hasn't always been there, but technology increases its “velocity and reach." And Laguens said she expected to see the further “weaponization" of technology.
Dulski offered three solutions that could help counteract that:
- Give tools to group members to help social media platforms find negative material.
- Give tools to community leaders so they can moderate the group.
- Implement proactive detection of transgressions and enforcement of guidelines.
"Technology also empowers individuals and can turn them into a movement," said Laguens. “We don't often ask people to do as much as they want to be asked to do," she said. Technology makes it possible to ask for help and “deliver opportunities to show up."
Similarly, Dulski said that the power to effect change will come from and shift to regular people. “Every movement on these platforms starts with small actions," she said. “Each one inspires others."
Greenblatt agreed: “It starts with individual actions and drives toward system change," he said.
Customers and employees are demanding that companies take a stand, too, said Laguens. Using CRM tools to find out what customers want your company to stand for is “a part of the movement that's about to explode," she said.
Dulski cautioned that taking a stand has to feel authentic, though. “Companies should take a stand about what they stand for," she said. “Don't embrace every cause on earth."
Moorthy brought the session to a close by asking the panel to sum up their thinking on how to create change. Laguens advised, “Don't wait for instructions." The speed of the tools available for organizing lets you jump in as soon as you have an idea.
Greenblatt concurred, saying, “Just get started—there's no manual."
And Dulski's advice was twofold: “get going" and “ask for help."
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