Here in the United States, we don’t always hear about efforts abroad to utilize social media and develop new ways of organizing online, because we don’t give our neighbors in the world community much attention.
But we ought to, because progressives in other countries are trying to make use of the Internet to bring about change, too.
Some efforts begin spontaneously and develop into more mature communications channels out of frustration with cuts in essential public services, as in Portugal, and some are planned out for the long term, such as Sunny Hundal’s Liberal Conspiracy and its ally UK Uncut, which aims to deconstruct the Conservative government’s narrative about the economy.
Mr. Hundal, who played a critical part in organizing the first Netroots UK this year, emphasized during the panel the need for organizations and projects that do training (such as Wellstone Action, based here in Minnesota), which give activists the tools that they need to let their voices be heard.
John Aravosis, one of the moderators of the panel, highlighted a story mentioned by panelist Johann Ulvenlov, illustrating the importance of repetition in making narratives effective. The story goes that a relatively low-profile blogger in Sweden decided to write about her mother being kicked off of Swedish healthcare because of actions taken by the conservative government.
The experience she chronicled was amplified by the netroots community, and soon caught the attention of the national media, which covered both the story and the creative methods used to distribute it, such as a viral video which imagined a conversation between this blogger and the conservative prime minister.
Paula DeSilva, a panelist from Portugal, spoke about the use of the Internet as just another way to utilize word-of-mouth, with the focus on reaching the people. Her perspective provided valuable insight on the relational aspect of grassroots organizing, and the difficulty (at least in Portugal) of translating grassroots interest on the internet into lobbying efforts aimed at the officials who make the decisions.
The conversation then drifted towards examining how to organize a conference, which seemed to be very important topic to the international bloggers who are here on a State Department program (many from countries without an organized netroots community), and then came back to the need for international support for bloggers abroad, emphasized by a comment by a blogger from Kyrgyzstan, who explained the difficulty of language barriers and how, in countries who generally use regional languages, you either write in your native language and get no international support, or write in English and go completely over the head of citizens actually living in the country concerned.
This question wasn’t entirely resolved, with most of the panelists generally saying to merely double-post, one post in English and one post in the local language. Of course, only multilingual authors can do this.
The panel ended with intriguing conversation around the repression of civil and political rights in Bahrain.
It seems that there are many more international bloggers at the convention this year. There is an international blogger meet-and-greet later on during the convention, and we’ll try to compile a blogroll from the participants so you can see for yourself what progressives abroad are writing and doing.