Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

PdF '11 Recap: Jeremy Heimans Says Collective Consumer Action Has to Go Beyond Groupon

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 7 2011

Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of Avaaz, and now of Purpose.com, poked a sharp stick at social consumerism sites like Groupon and Gilt Groupe in his time up on stage during PdF '11 this morning.

Sites like Groupon, said Heimans, do a clever job borrow from the "bag of tricks" of grassroots political organizing -- like selling people on the idea that their individual actions can matter in the aggregate, or exploiting a natural human inclination to respond to a sense of urgency. That's not exactly surprising, says Erica George over on Twitter. After all, Groupon grew out of The Point, an experiment in harnessing political and social actions structured around, to borrow a phrase, hitting a tipping point. The Point didn't work, but Groupon has; last week, of course, Groupon filed for its IPO, and there's talk of billions in the air. But there's something, perhaps, out of sync between the power of the tools being used and the end goals they're put to.

"You can be on Groupon," said Heimans, "and you can feel like it's the Arab Spring sometimes, right?"

And so, Heimans called for people to tap into what Groupon knows, and not to actually stray that far -- he's arguing that collective tools can be used for collective action to prompt corporations into changing how they do what they do. Governments might be inured to attempts by the public to change their behavior, said Heimans, but "corporations are actually incredibly porous targets for political organizing." Take, for example, the campaign to get 1-800-Flowers to offer and promote certified fair trade flowers.

Political organizers should take a page from the popularity of consumer deal sites, said Heimans. "We need new tools. We can't leave it to the Groupons and the Gilt Groupes to do all the innovation in this space." Give it a watch.

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Overreaching

Why the FCC balked at the Comcast-TimeWarner deal; Sheryl Sandberg wants Hillary Clinton to lean into the White House; the UK's Democracy Club brings a lot more information to election season; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Ownership

"Tell us more about your bog"; the shrinking role of public participation on campaign websites; "Aaron's Law" has been reintroduced in Congress; is the Comcast-TimeWarner merger on its last legs?; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Bush League

Presidential candidates hiding behind Super PACs; what this means for American democracy; demos at the White House; a demand for Facebook to be more open about news in the newsfeed; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Glass Half Full

A new Pew study on open government data in the US; the FOIA exemption ruffling transparency advocates' feathers; social media bot farms; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Zucked Up

Mark Zuckerberg responds to criticism of "zero rating" Facebook access in India; turning TVs into computers; how Facebook is changing the way UK users see the upcoming General Election; BuzzFeed's split priorities; a new website for "right-of-center women"; and much, much more. GO

More