NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 9 December 5, 1996
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Resources for Virtual Activists
How to Help NetAction

Resources for Virtual Activists

There are many useful resources available for Virtual Activists, and the number and variety of these resources is growing constantly. This issue of NetAction Notes focuses on some that I consider particularly useful. I welcome feedback from readers about other online resources for political activism, and will pass along information about your favorites in future issues of NetAction Notes. There is also an extensive listing of activist resources on the NetAction Web site at:

This sampler includes a Web site for contacting Congress, a few good books on the subject of Internet and grassroots activism, upcoming conferences on the role of the Internet in politics and the potential for fundraising online, and an innovative online training in civil disobedience.

Since all of these resources are aimed primarily at activists in the U.S., I hope that readers outside the U.S. will share information about similar online resources elsewhere.

Congress Online ==========

Two consulting firms recently announced a new interactive information service that makes it possible for organizations to more easily mobilize grassroots political activism. One of the services is available without cost on the Internet, and is an excellent tool for activists to bookmark and non-profit organizations with Web sites to link to. The Web site provides contact information and background on members of Congress.

The Web site is called There is also a fee-based service, aimed at corporations and trade associations, that customizes the information for the customer's own Web sites for their members and other users. Volunteers with technical skills might want to consider helping non-profit groups in their community develop similar resources, since grassroots groups are seldom able to pay for these services.

The Web site includes a comprehensive database of Representatives and Senators, their committee assignments, and a list of key people on their staffs. The information has been updated for the new 105th Congress, which will convene on Jan. 7, 1997. The site also includes a feature that enables visitors to find their own members of Congress by typing in the nine-digit ZIP code. The developers say this is a more accurate system than Web sites that use the five-digit ZIP code. The individual listings have a wealth of background information, and the site includes a primer on the legislative process, and tips on lobbying.

The site is a joint project of Issue Dynamics Inc. (IDI) and Capitol Advantage (CA)

A Few Good Books ==========

The Activist's Handbook by Randy Shaw, and NetActivism: How Citizens Use the Internet, by Ed Schwartz, are two great resources for longtime activists and those who are just getting started. And to help pay the bills, Fundraising on the Internet, by Nick Allen, Mal Warwick, and Michael Stein, provides practical information on how non-profit organizations can use the Internet to communicate with members and raise funds to support activist work.

Randy Shaw is Director and Supervising Attorney for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco, and a longtime activist on urban issues. A primer on effective organizing strategies, The Activist's Handbook explains how to inspire "fear and loathing" in politicians, how to build diverse coalitions, and how to harness the media, the courts, and the electoral process to achieve one's goals. The pro-active strategies discussed in the book are useful whether the goal is to improve housing for the urban poor, preserve a natural resource, or expose a corporate abuse.

The Activist's Handbook Web site also has links to The Activist's Angle: Analysis, Advice, and Strategy, which is a monthly column that elaborates on the strategies and tactics described in The Activist's Handbook. The column is currently available on the Web, but when I spoke with Randy earlier this week he indicated that he may soon be distributing it via E-mail.

Information on how to purchase The Activist's Handbook by mail-order or fax is available on the Web at

Ed Schwartz is a longtime activist and political leader in Philadelphia and heads the Institute for the Study of Civic Values, dcivic/iscvhome.html. He was one of the first activists to recognize the potential of the Internet as a tool for grassroots political organizing. NetActivism is an excellent non-partisan primer on using the Internet for organizing, outreach, and coalition-building around political issues. The book is useful both to longtime activists who are new to the Internet and longtime computer users who are new to activism.

On a more personal note, I had the honor of meeting Ed earlier this fall when he agreed to make a brief detour to San Francisco to meet with Bay Area Internet activists while on the West Coast to speak in Portland, OR. As a result of the seeds he planted during that visit, one of the individuals who attended his talk is now volunteering technical support to set up a community network in San Francisco's Sunset District. Information on the neighborhood network that Ed helped establish in Philadelphia is available at

NetActivism may be purchased directly via the Web at O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., has agreed to donate a portion of each sale made via NetAction's Web page to NetAction.

Fundraising on the Internet explains how non-profit organizations are beginning to use E-mail and the Web to communicate with existing members, attract new members, and raise funds to support their mission. Nick Allen and Mal Warwick are consultants at Mal Warwick & Associates, a direct mail fundraising and marketing consulting firm that assists non-profits with membership-building and fundraising. Michael Stein is the outreach and special projects manager at the Institute for Global Communication (IGC).

Fundraising on the Internet includes a chapter I wrote about incorporating E-mail outreach into the organizing of a special event, as well as numerous examples of innovative and successful Internet fundraising strategies. The book also explains how traditional direct mail strategies can be transferred to the Internet.

This book is available by calling a toll-free number, 1-800-217-7377. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I do not receive royalties for the chapter I contributed, which was based on my experience in organizing a successful fundraising dinner for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR).

Activist Conferences ==========

For activists in the San Francisco Bay Area -- or those who'd like a good excuse to visit -- two upcoming conferences are of interest. I have a limited number of discount registration forms for those might be interested.

The all-day Politics Online Conference will take place Thursday, Dec. 12, in the South San Francisco. Organizers planned this event for political, public affairs, public relations, media and technology professionals interested in learning in a non-partisan environment how best to deploy online communication technologies. Topics include pioneering online efforts of the '96 campaigns, and examples of Internet activism.

Information is available by E-mail at , or on the Web at The first Politics Online Conference was first held in April in Washington, D.C., and transcripts from that event are at

A second conference scheduled for Friday, January 17, 1997, in San Francisco, will focus on Fundraising on the Internet. I attended the first of these events last July, and found it to be a very useful introduction to how non-profit organizations can use the Internet to communicate with and motivate their members and use the Web and E-mail as fundraising tools.

For registration information, send E-mail to , or phone Mwosi Swenson at 510-843-8888. Participants will also receive a copy of Fundraising on the Internet.

Civil Disobedience Online ==========

ACT UP/NY (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Free Speech TV, and DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activists) recently teamed up to produce a 30-minute civil disobedience training over the Internet. This innovative effort was one of the first attempts to use the Internet's video and audio capabilities to train political activists.

Video and audio versions of this training are available on the Web sites of Free Speech TV at and ACT UP at You will need a sound card, and the RealAudio player (available for free at or the VDOLive player (available for free at, NOTE: this URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001) to access the site.

ACT UP, which is well known for AIDS awareness campaigns directed at government inaction and drug company profiteering AIDS, is generally credited with reviving disobedience tactics in the U.S. after a period in which the tactic was not widely used by progressive activists. The 30-minute online training is distilled from the five-hour sessions that ACT UP regularly hosts. It explains how and why activists use civil disobedience and describes the steps that need to be taken to ensure that a civil disobedience campaign is both safe and successful.

How to Help NetAction

Membership in NetAction supports continued publication of NetAction Notes, as well as a wide range of organizing and training activities. NetAction projects include helping grassroots organizations harness the power of the Internet as a tool for outreach and advocacy; helping activists who are already using the Internet do a more effective job of building a base of grassroots support for technology-based social and political issues; and promoting more widespread access to information technology by organizing hands-on demonstrations of the Internet.

Please join NetAction today by sending a check payable to NetAction/Tides Center to: NetAction, 601 Van Ness Ave. #631, San Francisco, CA 94102.

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Copyright 1996 by NetAction/The Tides Center. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source.

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