What Komen has taught us about Power

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Ideas, organization, and effort bring power!
Ideas, organization, and effort bring power!

What a very interesting week!

I will now summarize an article, with a mix of commentary, by Pam Belluck, Jennifer Preston, and Gardner Harris on Page 1 of the NYTimes, Saturday Feb 4, 2012, because it marks yet another victory of average folks with Social Media over traditional powers:

Last Tuesday, Komen first made public its plan to stop must of its funding of for Planned Parenthood.  Komen has faced fierce opposition and intimidation for some time now from Anti-Abortion groups, and it decided this issue was no longer worth all the trouble and lost support & donations.  Having made this decision last December, the group had told Planned Parenthood but otherwise keep the move secret very much wished this change to be quiet and noticed as little as possible.  As an example, Komen had employees like Mollie William, who resigned over the issue, sign confidentiality agreements.  Ms. Williams had said no more publicly than an e-mail: ” I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission.”

When the move become public last Tuesday, “Nancy G. Brinker, the polished Republican donor who founded Komen after her sister died of breast cancer, and other leaders were completely caught off guard by the deluge of outrage online…  The groups’ leaders first sought to hold their ground.  On Thursday, they tried to communicate their message  directly to supporters with a video from Ms. Brinker on You-Tube, with posts on Facebook and with Twitter messages and interviews with supporters.  But longtime supporters, corporate sponsors, and scientific and medical professionals were growing increasingly concerned.  The online drumbeat became impossible to ignore… By the end of the week, Twitter users had sent more than 1.3 million [relevant] posts… On Thursday alone, there were more than 460,000 Tweets… As late as Thursday night Ms. Brinker had been scrambling to defuse a crisis that gravely threatened the reputation of an organization she has spent three decade building into a fund-raising juggernaut…”

After three days of struggle, Komen caved again, reversing course publicly, promising interested U.S. Senators that the funds would be restored: ” ‘We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt on our mission of saving women’s lives,’ Ms. Brinker said in a statement.”

In three short days, with no formal organization, no plan, and no budget, concerned people had helped recruit NYC Mayor Bloomberg, many Senators and others to make a public stand far more quickly and decisively than usual, especially against such a well-connected and powerful organization as Komen.  Komen responded with all its might to resist a reversal, arranging TV interviews, producing a You-Tube video and Twitter and Facebook campaigns, and certainly putting to use all the connections available to any wealthy and prominent Republican donor, and to any “juggernaut” of fund-raising. Nevertheless, Komen was very publicly and decisively defeated, reversing itself completely in humiliation on Friday, a few mere days after this hardly organized campaign began.

Also consider that by reversing, Komen put themselves squarely in the sights of those powerful and ruthless Anti-Abortion groups, whose repeated threats have left Komen officials “… really afraid, because these people who are opposed to Planned Parenthood were threatening to disrupt our races and sponsors to our races…”  Having cut funding to diffuse this threat after months of careful planning, Social Media use persuaded them to recant in only four days, despite all the fears that led to the funding decision in the first place.  A Komen board member: “And now we’re going to make the right-to life crowd mad all over again.”  A spontaneous Social Media uprising, that required very little of most participants, overwhelmed a wealthy & connect Republican donor, a wealthy & powerful foundation, and a Right to Life movement that nearly completely cows one of out two major political parties.

That’s power.

Of course this struggle will continue: every organization constantly weighs its interests, and Komen will struggle to find a path between theses opposing threats.  But it illustrates what we can do, in real world terms, with Social Media.  Numbers, focus, and intelligent planning increase the potential influence even further.

Nurses can have this kind of power, but it’s not easy: for every such campaign that succeeds, many fail.  Motivation, recruiting and a good plan greatly improve the odds of success.

Interested?  Check out another ongoing Social Media advocacy campaign for Nurse Amanda Trujillo, and of Nurses everywhere abused by employers, managers, physicians, anyone.

In any case, find your cause(s)!  Get involved!  The time when average folks can’t make a difference is in past – we can, but we have to try.

One comment

  1. Greg, This is a very powerful story of how social media has turned the tables. First time in history the “commoners” have the opportunity to rally together and be heard. You have done a beautiful job of putting together all the pieces of this story.


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