Action Alerts for the Masses

If you are an activist who uses email, you are probably overloaded with Action Alerts.

You know you should be calling and writing Congress, but you also have a sneaking doubt that it just isn't worth your time.

I think you are right. I think national action alerts are rapidly losing their effectiveness as people are bombarded by 101 appeals, and email and email petitions are practically useless.

Fortunately, I believe we can resurrect Action Alerts by creating a grassroots system that focuses on local targets. By targeting people who are not used to being targeted, a small number of emails or calls can make a substantial difference in a local campaign.

The Solution
Technically, I have two ideas. Firstly we could have a system where you get one point every time you do an action alert. This could be counted by requiring that you visit a website to send an email. Your points are then allotted to the group (or groups) that you belong to. The group can use these points to "buy" Action Alerts. The amount of points that the group spends on the action alert would establish its level of priority. Each group might start off with 10 or so points (note: there is a problem with allocating the same number of points to groups that vary in number of their members and in the level of their activism - alternatively, you could give a group 1 point for each person that connects to it).

Users could choose to only receive Action Alerts worth 5 points, 10 points, 100 points (etc) or zero points (if they wanted to receive all action alerts). This would allow people to choose how much they wanted to participate in the system and this will reduce the likelihood of Action Alert Burn-Out.

The advantage of this system is that each time you fulfill the requirements of someone else's Action Alert, you are helping your local group by giving them points to put out your own Action Alerts! For each time you send an email for another group, you are likely to get an email sent for you in exchange. This shows how solidarity can work.

The second system would not use points. Instead each group would get a fixed number of high priority, medium priority, and low priority action alerts that they could send out each year. These numbers could depend on how many people are affiliated with the group. This would be simpler, but it doesn't promote filling out action alerts for other groups.

Who Gets the Action Alerts
This is a big issue. Tentatively my first idea is that the default would be for people who signed up to this system to get action alerts relating to issues, campaigns, and networks that they have connected themselves to. In addition they would receive action alerts for their state, or if they live in a small to medium populated state (eg not NY or CA), for surrounding states too.

Of course people could customize what action alerts they receive.

The other level of customization would be that users could choose to receive only Action Alerts of a certain level of priority. For instance, with the second system they could choose to only receive "high priority" action alerts, or using the first system action alerts that cost 50 points.

I think implementing this sytem on makes sense. You need to store contact information for people at many campuses (and communities) in the same database. We already have people, groups, campaigns, issues, and network setup. Getting this Action Alert system to work would take significant time, but it might be worth it.

Do you think people will use this?

What is the best way to implement it? Do you like the points system, the high/medium/low priority system, or do you have a better idea?

I could have an online action

I could have an online action alert system where you go to a website to do it, and afterwards it would ask you to confirm your address.

This would help keep the information on this website current.

I could also collect statistics on which action alerts people did. Action Alert writers could be awarded for writing high quality action alerts (eg ones that get the highest response rate) by having these action alerts require a lower threshold (of points) for them to be sent to people. Whereas lower quality alert writers would need to spend more points to get their alert out.