PugetSoundOff.org Makes Social Activism Easier than Ever Before

Tyler Goulet updates us on the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement’s latest initiative: PugetSoundOff.org

According to John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in Born Digital, “the ability of networked activist to transform politics in some countries could prove to be the single most important trend in the global Internet culture… If these early signs turn into a bigger movement, politics as we know it is in for big changes.”

We at the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement believe these big changes are right around the corner and we’re trying to make them happen.

So far, things that happen on the internet, and stay on the internet, are not helping social movements grow as much as some hoped. An example of this is when users on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook join causes or groups that are dedicated to raising awareness about a social movement. This is often seen as the equivalent of putting a “support your cause” bumper sticker on your car.

However, social networking sites are making it much easier for anyone to connect, communicate, and organize with people in their local area as well as around the globe. The internet has made creating and executing social movements much easier than ever before.
This is great and all, except the most popular social networking sites focus more on gossip within your social network than on creating positive change in your community.

The solution to this is to create a social networking site that focuses on the goal of creating positive change in your community.

PugetSoundOff.org is a revolutionary site that does just that. The focus is to connect teens in the Puget Sound area that care about the same social issues so that they can create positive change in their communities.

Here’s how it works.

Sean, a junior at Bellevue High, loves art. He respects the street art culture, but also knows it creates problems within a community. When an artist paints on the sidewalk or the side of a building, people become upset and damage is done.

To solve this problem, he’d like to have the city install an Art Wall, where street artist can go and display their art legally. However, he can’t do it alone and doesn’t know any of his friends who would be interested in helping him get the Art Wall installed.

Sean decides he’ll hop onto PugetSoundOff.org and write a blog about the problem he sees, what he wants to do about it, and if anyone else wants to help.

A few days later he sees he has 3 comments from people saying they would like to work with him to make this happen. He organizes a meeting with them so that they can do more research on the problem and solution so that they can create an action plan to make it happen.

Now, Sean is in a group of 4 people who really want to make this happen. However, they’ll need more support to really make this happen.

They decide to make a group on PugetSoundOff.org so that they can invite their friends to join the cause.

The group features an information section which teaches people about the problem and solution. It lets people know when they are getting together to talk about and implement the plan. It also has a few documents promoting the cause that people can download, print out, and distribute to their friends.

After a few weeks of hard work and determination the group has grown to 200 people who support the cause.

Now that they have the support they can really start to make an impact in their community.

And so the story goes Sean and his group follow their action plan and get the Art Wall to be installed so that everyone can enjoy the street art culture legally without any problems.

By using the site, Sean was able to connect with other teens that cared about the same problem as him. They worked together to create an action plan and gain enough support to implement the plan so that they could solve the problem they care about.

It’s a beautiful thing. However, PugetSoundOff.org, as a new initiative, is still working out all the kinks.

Check out the site and let us know what you think. What works, what doesn’t? What would make the site easier and better to use? Through comments and suggestions from you we can really make these types of sites powerful political tools.

Tyler Goulet is a Junior at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is currently triple majoring in Communication, Political Science, and Community Environment and Planning. He has been a Research Assistant for the CCCE for nearly a year. For more information on Tyler Goulet check out www.tylergoulet.com.