Using Technology for Human Rights

Sarah J. Jackson

Guest Blogger

Reporting from Netroots Nation in Providence, RI

“Safeguarding Democracy: Innovations in Technology and Human Rights” was one of the most inspiring panels I attended at Netroots Nation this year. The panelists, who represent a range of human rights organizations addressing human rights issues from Mexico to the Congo, and from Syria to right here in the U.S., shared practical ways technology, like crowd mapping, witness video, text, and other digital technology can be used to empower people who might otherwise be voiceless. Much of the technological innovations being used by these organizations can be used by any group or movement seeking to tell people’s first hand stories and create effective and persuasive communication.

Check out the video on sexual violence in Haiti produced by Digital Democracy, one of the groups represented on the panel, below. If you’re interested in creating photo and video for human rights you can request a free copy of  their Project Einstein Curriculum here.

Being a Media Star: Tips for Media Appearance Success

Sarah J. Jackson

Guest Blogger

Reporting from Netroots Nation 2012, Providence, RI



Media strategist/trainer Joel Silberman gave a great training at Netroots today titled “Presence and Authenticity: The Key to Being a Media Star.” Below are Silberman’s tips on embodying the charisma required for successful media interviews:

Having charisma onscreen:

  • Visualize being rooted into the ground like a tree, this will help you appear grounded onscreen.
  • Your energy should be big; your aura does not end with your body; visualize radiating your energy and points out into the room around you as you speak, or what Silberman calls, “an energy shower.”
  • Make sure you know where the camera is!
  • Don’t cross your arms across your chest or groin when you speak, this looks defensive and will collapse your posture. Find a neutral position for your hands by your sides and only gesture within the “strike zone” (between your shoulders and waist).
  • Focus your eyes on the person who is interviewing you, or if talking directly to a camera focus your eyes on the lens. Silberman says, “The camera has to be the person you want to sleep with. Right now.”
  • Only project your voice as far as necessary to reach the camera, otherwise you will sound loud (which translates to angry on TV).
  • Follow the three S’s: SMILE; keep it SIMPLE; and hold STILL.
  • There is no such thing as being too polished but you should be careful not to seem slick; if you find yourself simply rehearsing answers you will come across as disingenuous.

Other handy tips:

  • Do yoga! That’s right, the posture, alignment and presence that is taught is yoga are the same as those you need to maintain an impressive onscreen presence.
  • You never have to answer a question you are asked if you don’t feel you can produce a good answer, or if it is off topic. Feel free to use the line, “I really appreciate you saying that, but what we really need to focus on is…”
  • Don’t apologize for what you are saying. Be aware of being so “nice” that you sound as if you are apologizing for your statements. Never begin a sentence with “I’m sorry but…” Coming across stern is better than coming across as if you are unsure of the truth of what you are saying.

Organizing and Messaging Tips From Communities of Color

 Sarah J. Jackson

 Guest Blogger

 Reporting from Netroots Nation, Providence, RI

One of the amazing things about Netroots Nation is that it brings together folks from a large range of causes and identities to share their secrets to successful organizing. Panelists at “Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue: Connecting to the Different Beats of the Latino Electorate” and “Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere,” had some great ideas on not only creating inclusive messaging but messaging that is effective across various communities.

1. Meet the People Where They Are

Tomás Garduño from New Mexico New Majority (NMNM) discussed the fact that while many Latinos don’t identify with the term “environmentalist,” their relationship to agriculture as a result of their labor position in the U.S. has led immigrants in New Mexico to feel a deep connection to the land. As a result organizations like NMNM have had great success in organizing Latino voters on issues of environmental health and safety by linking them to issues of labor and food justice.

The Lesson: We shouldn’t discount the possibility of effective organizing with groups who don’t align with our definitions. Our messages and organizing must be sensitive to the specific needs and experiences of the communities we hope to reach.

2. Be Issue Intersectional

According to Mobilize the Immigrant Vote California, the state’s first statewide, multiracial coalition using community organizing to empower immigrant voters from both the Asian and Latino communities, organizers should “promote constructive dialogue on potentially divisive issues, and support solidarity among marginalized groups.” Weather mobilizing for LGBT rights, immigrant rights, or women’s rights, community messaging must acknowledge the intersections of these issues. Check out the educational tools MIV uses to address LGBT and reproductive rights issues with their target community.

The Lesson: Issues don’t exist in a vacuum, for organizing and messaging to be effective we have to take into consideration the ways multiple issues effect our communities.

3. Ask the Question: “Who Did We Invite?”

According to David Reid, founder of the Black Kos, all organizations must ask themselves the question; “Who did we invite?” both online and off in order to be as inclusive as possible. Many organizations miss out on including diverse voices, and thus reaching a diverse electorate, because they don’t make an effort to reach out to historically marginalized groups. Reid says, “If your organization doesn’t  look like the demographics of America, you’re missing something.”

The Lesson: Well? Who did your organization invite? Who do you target your messaging to?

4. Invest in Youth

According to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, “when youth have the knowledge, inspiration, and solutions they need to address the challenges they face, they can make a difference.” Youth bring fresh perspectives, technological know how, and generally don’t carry with them the cynicism that older organizers do. No matter the cause or movement, youth should be encouraged and trained to be future leaders. Check out some of the ways the Ella Baker Center is engaging youth.

The Lesson: They’ll still be around when we’re gone, let’s make all our spaces and tools youth friendly!

Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation; “Follow the LGBT Community.”

Sarah J. Jackson

Guest Blogger

Reporting from Netroots Nation in Providence, RI

At Thursday night’s opening keynote which featured Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and Providence Mayor Angel Tovares among others, Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation told a lively audience, “We all need to be looking to the LGBT community; they are succeeding.” In particular, Brooks noted the successes of the LGBT community in the last year, including the overturn of DADT, the overturn of Prop 8 at the state level in California, and President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. Brooks also acknowledged that after the 2008 election, while “many progressives stopped to celebrate the election of Barack Obama,” the LGBT community kept up the pressure on both government officials and the media and as a result succeeded in changing the national political conversation.