Modern Advocacy in an Age of New Power

Jun 04, 2019
Chris Flanagan

We’ve been doing a lot of work over the past few years supporting postsecondary advocates looking to effect policy changes for today’s students. It’ll come as no surprise that many voice concerns about the lack of time, resources, and capability available to them. This got us thinking. Where are the modern approaches to advocacy? Have new approaches been developed to expand collective action and achieve economies of scale? Are there, as veteran online activist Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms write in their recent book New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You, “new power” models to employ?

“ Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.”

Turns out, everyday new power models are being developed and increasingly asserted in our daily lives:

If power is, as British philosopher Bertrand Russell states “the ability to produce intended effects,” learning how old and new power each create these effects in their own unique way and learning how to combine and balance them could create a significant advantage for social good organizations and their missions.

DRILL DOWN

The following have become integral pre-reads before all of Kinetic Seeds’ participatory workshops. After watching or reading, ask yourself, ‘what new power models might I utilize in my own organization or coalition?’

  • TED talk by Jeremy Heimans sharing what new power looks like in the modern age
  • Harvard Business Review article Understanding New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms

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