Monday, March 9, 2015

News Worth Spreading: "There IS An Alternative to War!"

"There is an alternative to war."
Published March 2015:
A Global Security System
website * paperback * audio book * PDF * teach-in

I'm excited to be associated with an initiative called World Beyond War, and to be sharing a new resource it has created: A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.

Alternative to War weaves together the learnings of major peace efforts of recent times, and lays the foundation for a massive push for education and action.

What I'm feeling particularly energized about is the potential for the thousands of people who have already signed on as supporters of World Beyond War -- as well as millions more who are expected to do so soon -- to become active participants in spreading this good news. Good news has always relied on a community to spread it; today, more than ever before, we all have powerful tools in our hands to be active spreaders.

(1) Spreadability

If an idea is really good, it's worth spreading, and that's especially true for Alternative to War.

In fact, in the areas of publishing, entrepreneurship, business, and leadership, "spreadability" has become a very important focus.

Dandelion seeds: a light touch, by oh-so-spreadable!
One of the questions we've been asking ourselves is, "How can we make this material more spreadable?"

Sometimes, the attributes that make something highly spreadable are different from what we tend to think of as the most desirable.

Our online version of Alternative to War incorporates some features we hope will make it highly spreadable. That's why we emphasized the individual sections. And tried to use stimulating imagery and typography. And included lots of links. And added lots of reminders to share the material on social media. And made a very explicit request that readers think about, comment on, and engage others about the material.

And, most important, we're attuned to watching whether it spreads successfully, and trying to understand why or why not, and making improvements to make Alternative to War really, really spreadable.

(2) Communities of Interest 

Interpenetrating bubbles
One of the great things about Alternative to War is that people can engage with parts of it that are of specific interest to them. For example, I am particularly interested in the sections "End the Use of Militarized Drones" and "Phase Out Weapons Of Mass Destruction," and I am engaged with communities of people who will be, as well.

Other individuals and other communities will find it particularly attractive to begin by engaging with the section on "Spreading and Funding Peace Education and Peace Research" . . . or "Nonviolence: The Foundation of Peace" . . . or "Phase Out Foreign Military Bases" . . . or . . . .

(A conversation begins in the place where there is openness . . . . )

People can start at any point within Alternative to War and explore their way through it.

Ultimately, we will come to realize that our overall "community of interest" for Alternative to War actually consists of interpenetrating, overlapping, evolving communities for all of its parts!

(3) Network Theory

Since World Beyond War was formed about a year ago, we've learned two very important things.

How do ideas become ubiquitous?
First, there is already a huge community of people committed to working to end war. (We've seen this from the thousands of sign-ups on the World Beyond War pledge.)

Second, we've realized that we are going to need many more people to commit to this initiative in order for it to prevail.  The choir's already pretty big . . . but we need to get beyond the choir . . . !

So World Beyond War activists are learning to think creatively about how information spreads, and particularly about the role of interconnecting networks in spreading information. (Networks are related to communities of interest, but go beyond that concept. "Thinking about networks" is like "thinking about communities" on steroids.)

For the curious, Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-laszlo Barabasi is a great resource.

The Cliff Notes version? "The quickest path to ubiquity is found by traversing diverse networks."

(4) Ways of Sharing 

from @scarry:
#Nonviolence: Foundation of #Peace -- see
new @worldbeyondwar resource!
@CampaignNV @waginingnv
After many, many campaigns, I've put together a short list of "to-do's" for people who want to help share material:

* Email: share specific links with people you know personally. Explain to them why the material you have shared is important to you. Ask them for their feedback. Ask them if they can think of others who would be interested in the material. Thank them in advance for taking the time to look at the material.

* Twitter: share specific links, and add the handle of one or two Twitter accounts that you think may be particularly interested. Experiment with relevant hashtags. Ideally, include an image (or, ideally, a "meme" i.e. an image + relevant text.)

* Facebook: Combine the tips above. For extra oomph! share a relevant link with a related Facebook group, and/or on an event page for a relevant event. (Those are ready-made "communities of interest.")

Other possibilities include:

* Write a review on Amazon.

The most important concept: Don't just lob material out into the ether -- start a conversation!

(5) The Coin of the Realm: Comments!

In the near term, the most valuable thing for the effort to spread Alternative to Warwould be a large number of comments in response to the individual posts on the World Beyond War website.

Comments help us turn the corner from talking at people to talking with people.

It's about conversation.
Not incidentally, growing threads of comments cue the search engines in to the fact that these posts are robust and relevant, and worthy of being a place to send more and more searchers.

Comments give life to Alternative to War. Comments tell us what's working, and what's not. Comments expose new possibilities. Comments show us what education and action really look like. Comments can form the base of Alternative to War (Rev 2.0).

That's why the biggest way for World Beyond War supporters to support the initiative -- besides sharing Alternative to War posts -- is by commenting on Alternative to War posts, and by commenting on comments!

Ultimately, it's about conversation.

Can we build a conversation -- one that ultimately gets very large -- about what a world without war would look like, and what we are willing to do to bring it about?

Related posts

In "USA Today Goes Viral" (New York Times, July 14, 2014), we learn that the paper with one of the largest daily circulations in the country has seen the handwriting on the wall and is requiring all its journalists to learn to drive readership via social media.

(See Social Media: If It's Good Enough for USA Today, It's Good Enough for Me)

There is an eerie similarity between events in the book Paul Revere's Ride and events in our world today. I'm thinking particularly of how a network of mass resistance springs into action.

(See New World Counterinsurgency: Deja Vu All Over Again)

The biggest single eye-opener for me came this morning when I was trading emails with Washington Post reporter Peter Slevin. I expressed amazement at the 286 comments that people had appended to his piece on the use of the Thomson Correctional Center to house Guantanamo detainees. (That's a lotta comments!) Peter said, "Yeah, well, that one got picked up by the Huff Post . . . ." (See The World Turned Upside Down - Huff Post, Wash Post, and Twitter )

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