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 >

NYC Politicians and Advocacy Groups Say Airbnb Misrepresents Sharing Economy

A coalition of New York election officials and affordable housing groups have launched an advocacy effort targeting Airbnb called "Share Better" that includes an ad campaign, a web platform, and social media outreach. GO

First POST: Data Dumps

The Internet Slowdown's impact on the FCC; Uber drivers try to go on strike; four kinds of civic tech; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Positive Sums

How Teachout won some wealthy districts while Cuomo won some poor ones; DailyKos's explosive traffic growth; using Facebook for voter targeting; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Emergence

Evaluating the Teachout-Wu challenge; net neutrality defenders invoke an "internet slowdown"; NYC's first CTO; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

De Blasio Names Minerva Tantoco First New York City CTO

Mayor Bill de Blasio named Minerva Tantoco as first New York City CTO Tuesday night in an announcement that was greeted with applause and cheers at the September meeting of the New York Tech Meet-Up. In his remarks, De Blasio said her task would be to develop a coordinated strategy for technology and innovation as it affects the city as a whole and the role of technology in all aspects of civic life from the economy and schools to civic participation, leading to a "redemocratization of society." He called Tantoco the perfect fit for the position as a somebody who is "great with technology, has a lot of experience, abiltiy and energy and ability to create from scratch and is a true New Yorker." GO

First POST: Fusion Politics

The Teachout-Wu Cuomo-Hochul race as it comes to a close; more criticism for Reddit as it prepares a major new round of funding; First Lady Michelle Obama as an Upworthy curator; and much, much more. GO

monday >

In Czech Republic, NGOs Launch Anti-Corruption Campaign

“We have a plan to end corruption. And we need your help to make it happen” This is the message launched by Czech NGOs to citizens in an effort to rebuild trust and credibility towards the institutions, a even more urging need, after a huge corruption scandal disrupted the political scene a little more than a year ago. The NGOs agenda is made of 9 laws and is the core of a project called Rekonstrukce Státu (Reconstruction of State), a joint effort of more than 20 civil society organizations. GO

More