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Text Messaging for Grassroots Community Organizingfubesj2eheh9npay1ad4xq1l9fqw10c6Text Messaging for Grassroots Community Organizing

(English → Italiano) View original
Translators:
Text messaging is more accessible than ever and can be a powerful tool in direct community organizing.5iyka0bl21ahpj9106pavxz2wbnbuo0q



Text messaging can have a huge impact on movements by enabling always-ready access to information

Is Text Messaging Right for Your Work?6obae5eszbie5m37b8a7et8v8ekxbag7

Short Message Service (SMS) can be an effective method for communicating and interacting with a relatively large audience of supporters in a direct and engaging way. Despite their reputation for being exclusively the domain of large-scale fundraising – or even Stupid, Pointless, and Annoying Messages (SPAM) – mass text messaging services have great potential to be used in grassroots community organizing in a way that can greatly benefit your mission (and your community) in the long run.01kd5urwbyozsmffa9gssmmfl1l5l9pb

Text messaging technology is old, simple, and cheap enough for it to have become by far the most widely adopted form of electronic communication, even in rural regions without internet connectivity. Even where coverage is too spotty for a phone call, a text message will always come through as soon as coverage becomes available. 6oqids0cjqfcl0pc6eon8t2fagqf27byBecause it requires only the most basic infrastructure, SMS is often the tool of choice for low-capacity and community-organized projects such as citizen reporting and journalism, connecting people with doctors and educators, allowing lending and payments over long distances, and providing farmers with agricultural price updates.zjz34hvgcumx8hj2mxcq4lxi5kpnu61j

Just a few use-cases:v80w4tswxl9u9rfzudqnp6z239d28ert

     Harassment reporting and mapji2st8ia1ay3ab95z6mwn91hpckzkolu

     FrontlineSMS Projects: Legal advice, mobile payments, educationzxj247iljbm00q3frf3bg8p6uhuj9u7y

     Mobile Clinic communicationskg6i0gnmq9srb4g9cfdk6enhr4xuu6o4

     Hurricane Sandy Relief: Occupy SMS connects aid with those in needozbfd7a4x7gi50tkxfotxlls5ahoei5s

     Text Messaging boosts farmer incomes in India9zgdrgf5mn39gdov0wg148j3jejzybmx



Why Text Messaging Is More Powerful Than You May Think2u7yinsrf9aulv0mhf45ijwnf11q8bu1

Text messages are great for communicating with people on a closer and more informal level than is possible through e-mail or even a phone call, and it is far easier to actually engage your audience. Unlike most other forms of communication, text messaging is:syjlgojyblfxi6dyv57p5wm2lpdcpso8
  1. Intimate/Directo53dyzgwwv2ujg8c34359gon1v0930wh

Unlike e-mail, where many people delete far more messages than they read, most people still read every text message they receive and keep the ones they need for later reference. Specifying distinct command words that your SMS service will recognize also makes it simple for recipients to reply as soon they receive a message (or later) if they are interested.h0ug77bi7hrf5g331naq49j7w00hvhm2

  1. Immediateupv9pi8fa9eco8gzr36n7t2rconxq6vb

At a maximum of 160 characters per message, messages are small enough to be received a few seconds after they are sent.g0an9863inyhg4927leyf1gz2pj5tsg0

  1. Always on, Everywheredcjpspo8iaw07smylja3iep09k6mfwxj

People who have a cell phone often carry it with them at all times, meaning they can be out and moving and still receive, read, and even respond to your message.o69fd4rd7z3ytacfmrx0jhplszrr1oig

  1. Accessibley4yjzwny4swnj255jot9iulaymkr0bcp

This applies both to the users/community members/constituents who subscribe to your messages, and to the experience of you and your organization. In the United States, 91% of adults carry a cell phone capable of text messaging. On top of that, it is cost effective to both send and receive text messages.p4w17wkq783jk5gx45jcua46jpxs4a9k




All services can be set up to use rule-based logic, where it checks to see if conditions are true or false, then determine an action based on that.

Text Messaging Services — The ‘Brains’ Behind the Operation61cb0dkj8a9yblt8wx1a6aad7uqutyvq

Clearly it’s not possible to text message every one of your contacts individually, let alone read and process all of the responses you receive, and group messages pose obvious privacy issues and require trust that no member is going to spam the rest of the participants (because you gave them their phone numbers).pclalg460geqft6ny4r26152ek634cij

So, what can you do, then?n9j1wfmzzh2n59jx7d8yh0ar16y3a0ln

There are countless tools that fall under the category of ‘SMS Services’. (Short Message Service Service — like ATM Machine, or PIN Number— is kind of redundant.) Each tool has the same set of core functions:519izin4r6oerywcq2xphr4f8dvtkvpf

  • Send/receive messages1qbthc3jufuuararhjcn2u607liry3yq
  • Manage contacts and groups of contactspm9hn7svbjyg0x6quzcriatu6t8to6g3
  • Set up rules for how the service reacts to keywords and messages7wzgpstil73p3n1nvn1ii14id0n1fj2d

The main differences between tools are that they vary heavily in:0cmtfg61r8pnxayokcdzw7lhospflcib

  • What is required to run it,oqjhkbudqubr5yc5xsv2un7tm0xfrxz5
  • Where it actually runs (both the service’s ‘thinking’—which can be a smartphone, a personal computer, or ‘cloud’ server— and its texting ability—which can be any phone [with cell service], a GSM modem, or ‘cloud’ server),60agnewi00g096qlgzltcwjzupco2smz
  • Cost of messages and the service itself,0qnaxns6yqpqpi01ou41qtbnt6t9zz5p
  • Set-up (time and energy), andqv0wdo2wc3vbmceell7nepll0d6xhiiy
  • Scale.958dgamj49z382rumafewgfa8k45rwnr

While we won’t be addressing any specific tools here, at the end of this post we’ve included the set of tools we have tested and used in projects.9fhu0do5eymuusnrnzlne7qzxr1dj9qj



Use Responsiblyfaw16qd0v29g2gj81xmad6wbx0axrdsx

While SMS is possibly the most effective way to reach out to people you are trying to support through your work, if used irresponsibly —which is easy to do without meaning to— you risk alienating your community and supporters (making them former supporters) and can breach into the realm of becoming illegal SPAM. We want to help you avoid doing that and also make sure your supporters feel comfortable participating by maintaining the following:bhgbokaxytwe3qe59dj7gqydd7fvn20p
  1. Consentts6brnckqi1oqht2t3qhyisl3fv4yhoi

In order to send multiple messages to a person, you must earn their consent to do so. If you have a list of participants for one of your events and their phone numbers, you are allowed to send out a blanket text message offering instructions TO consent if they choose. If they do not respond, you cannot send them any additional text messages. After consent is earned, it’s always good practice to respond to their consent with clear instructions to withdraw their consent at any time. x2kq7hj7p4ton2jtf9qhpf2279dnt68hThis way they won’t feel trapped!lg0wcvq168xad8xas7q3nwpe7i3p09rc

  1. Content, Tone, and Frequency48qvfysogfk2hhtquxyd6nkmxqjguoeo

Content: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who consent to receive a particular type of information (example: upcoming events) usually only want to receive that type of information. Messages should be as brief as possible to address the major topic of your message. Don’t make them read a whole paragraph! If you are communicating several types of information, you should also provide ways for your audience to opt in to each type.f3zg6nna9jrm4ynzsx4yjyf6acj6l54r

Tone: When you’re talking to humans about human things, it’s perfectly appropriate to talk like a human. If you want to ask people if they are planning on attending an upcoming event, ask them like you would normally, but ask for specific responses to communicate ‘yes’, ’no’, or ‘maybe’ so your service can read it and make it useful for you. People feel more comfortable responding to a message when they feel like it comes from a community member rather than a bank!qx81fc0dknf78y07qys0fq9pngiwumbb

Frequency: Messages should be consistently spaced and as infrequent as possible to communicate your goals. An even better practice would be to provide a way for your audience to change options for how often they receive your messages, so they know when to expect them.1rz4njuhd83sdfbx6zgkazl901z33kiu

  1. Privacy228lq4x4nfqjh57d8o6ctrggqrxcwg5o

There are two reasons for maintaining the privacy of your contacts: 1) To protect them by allowing them to respond (relatively) anonymously, and 2) So they do not feel that if they DO opt in, they are going to receive messages from third parties or other contacts.5lv1me14cvesbjk6t6y3jxwrmeiozbmu

In some cases, being found to be associated with your cause may put supporters at risk — for example: if your community consists of undocumented workers, you MAY not want their identities known. Additionally, participant-to-participant communication might actually be a legitimate short-term use, if personal information about participants is concealed by your service.0awc47yjfn1qtbg21mc1mhftkl5lv0cl

Getting Startedoncirk5wwqou1zuje2dmky252tv5k3dz

Questions to consider when choosing a service:z4zchqixkrssdm92l973ym1mc3w1pdaf
  • Who is my audience? How large?nzeim3691vedks4jyo7odk5ytb4jwga9
  • How do I collect contact information from participants?gxjcb80a6d0bewj2muim88lekk4wz765
  • What do I need the service to do?6jwhs9a0kq6xt8exjkm7wluur8h1zq1w
  • What do different services require or cost?mhcq3qsck9ct1nqoabl4pkz0vdrjnvm0
  • How do I maintain the privacy of participants?screq4z6jcgf9b5n69l85jmcv30ldgnv
  • Do I need to be able to change the service in real-time?b4idbpjabj3pdj0l7gbhnag1kbft5u96

Here is my rough guide to help decide which service might be appropriate for your specific use [PDF]

6bj6big8wb8mebezfxpxquil0hkr110x

Resources74a5e40voideikaxhnxprmus981icg59

Below are the tools I have tried, and my assessments of many of them here [PDF]a4xl9vnvdf15cx48247yhaslnv3cxs4x

For further reading check out Tactical Tech’s Mobiles-in-a-Box: Tools and Tactics for Mobile Advocacynbyea62aypokc7ims3ld2cu63j8rshc6


Creative Commons Attributions: Arrows designed by Tobias Klepp, Share designed by Anand A Nair, Protest designed by Gilad Fried, Cell Phone designed by Alex Hartmann, Cloud Settings designed by Agus Purwanto, Laptop designed by Olivier Guin, Light Bulb designed by Ema Dimitrova, Settings designed by Joe Mortell, Tips designed by Lemon Liu, Thought Bubble designed by Irene Hoffman, Radio Tower designed by Jon Anderson, NFC Phone designed by Andrew Forrester, Comment designed by Icomatic, Iphone designed by Hedie Assadi Joulaee, Signal designed by Alex Fuller.


All other glyphs fall under Public Domain from the Noun Project.
yewqxyzu1j5cbc321ky49v63t0f9j0a7

(original) View Italiano translation
Text messaging is more accessible than ever and can be a powerful tool in direct community organizing.



Text messaging can have a huge impact on movements by enabling always-ready access to information

Is Text Messaging Right for Your Work?

Short Message Service (SMS) can be an effective method for communicating and interacting with a relatively large audience of supporters in a direct and engaging way. Despite their reputation for being exclusively the domain of large-scale fundraising – or even Stupid, Pointless, and Annoying Messages (SPAM) – mass text messaging services have great potential to be used in grassroots community organizing in a way that can greatly benefit your mission (and your community) in the long run.

Text messaging technology is old, simple, and cheap enough for it to have become by far the most widely adopted form of electronic communication, even in rural regions without internet connectivity. Even where coverage is too spotty for a phone call, a text message will always come through as soon as coverage becomes available. Because it requires only the most basic infrastructure, SMS is often the tool of choice for low-capacity and community-organized projects such as citizen reporting and journalism, connecting people with doctors and educators, allowing lending and payments over long distances, and providing farmers with agricultural price updates.

Just a few use-cases:

     Harassment reporting and map

     FrontlineSMS Projects: Legal advice, mobile payments, education

     Mobile Clinic communications

     Hurricane Sandy Relief: Occupy SMS connects aid with those in need

     Text Messaging boosts farmer incomes in India



Why Text Messaging Is More Powerful Than You May Think

Text messages are great for communicating with people on a closer and more informal level than is possible through e-mail or even a phone call, and it is far easier to actually engage your audience. Unlike most other forms of communication, text messaging is:
  1. Intimate/Direct

Unlike e-mail, where many people delete far more messages than they read, most people still read every text message they receive and keep the ones they need for later reference. Specifying distinct command words that your SMS service will recognize also makes it simple for recipients to reply as soon they receive a message (or later) if they are interested.

  1. Immediate

At a maximum of 160 characters per message, messages are small enough to be received a few seconds after they are sent.

  1. Always on, Everywhere

People who have a cell phone often carry it with them at all times, meaning they can be out and moving and still receive, read, and even respond to your message.

  1. Accessible

This applies both to the users/community members/constituents who subscribe to your messages, and to the experience of you and your organization. In the United States, 91% of adults carry a cell phone capable of text messaging. On top of that, it is cost effective to both send and receive text messages.




All services can be set up to use rule-based logic, where it checks to see if conditions are true or false, then determine an action based on that.

Text Messaging Services — The ‘Brains’ Behind the Operation

Clearly it’s not possible to text message every one of your contacts individually, let alone read and process all of the responses you receive, and group messages pose obvious privacy issues and require trust that no member is going to spam the rest of the participants (because you gave them their phone numbers).

So, what can you do, then?

There are countless tools that fall under the category of ‘SMS Services’. (Short Message Service Service — like ATM Machine, or PIN Number— is kind of redundant.) Each tool has the same set of core functions:

  • Send/receive messages
  • Manage contacts and groups of contacts
  • Set up rules for how the service reacts to keywords and messages

The main differences between tools are that they vary heavily in:

  • What is required to run it,
  • Where it actually runs (both the service’s ‘thinking’—which can be a smartphone, a personal computer, or ‘cloud’ server— and its texting ability—which can be any phone [with cell service], a GSM modem, or ‘cloud’ server),
  • Cost of messages and the service itself,
  • Set-up (time and energy), and
  • Scale.

While we won’t be addressing any specific tools here, at the end of this post we’ve included the set of tools we have tested and used in projects.



Use Responsibly

While SMS is possibly the most effective way to reach out to people you are trying to support through your work, if used irresponsibly —which is easy to do without meaning to— you risk alienating your community and supporters (making them former supporters) and can breach into the realm of becoming illegal SPAM. We want to help you avoid doing that and also make sure your supporters feel comfortable participating by maintaining the following:
  1. Consent

In order to send multiple messages to a person, you must earn their consent to do so. If you have a list of participants for one of your events and their phone numbers, you are allowed to send out a blanket text message offering instructions TO consent if they choose. If they do not respond, you cannot send them any additional text messages. After consent is earned, it’s always good practice to respond to their consent with clear instructions to withdraw their consent at any time. This way they won’t feel trapped!

  1. Content, Tone, and Frequency

Content: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who consent to receive a particular type of information (example: upcoming events) usually only want to receive that type of information. Messages should be as brief as possible to address the major topic of your message. Don’t make them read a whole paragraph! If you are communicating several types of information, you should also provide ways for your audience to opt in to each type.

Tone: When you’re talking to humans about human things, it’s perfectly appropriate to talk like a human. If you want to ask people if they are planning on attending an upcoming event, ask them like you would normally, but ask for specific responses to communicate ‘yes’, ’no’, or ‘maybe’ so your service can read it and make it useful for you. People feel more comfortable responding to a message when they feel like it comes from a community member rather than a bank!

Frequency: Messages should be consistently spaced and as infrequent as possible to communicate your goals. An even better practice would be to provide a way for your audience to change options for how often they receive your messages, so they know when to expect them.

  1. Privacy

There are two reasons for maintaining the privacy of your contacts: 1) To protect them by allowing them to respond (relatively) anonymously, and 2) So they do not feel that if they DO opt in, they are going to receive messages from third parties or other contacts.

In some cases, being found to be associated with your cause may put supporters at risk — for example: if your community consists of undocumented workers, you MAY not want their identities known. Additionally, participant-to-participant communication might actually be a legitimate short-term use, if personal information about participants is concealed by your service.

Getting Started

Questions to consider when choosing a service:
  • Who is my audience? How large?
  • How do I collect contact information from participants?
  • What do I need the service to do?
  • What do different services require or cost?
  • How do I maintain the privacy of participants?
  • Do I need to be able to change the service in real-time?

Here is my rough guide to help decide which service might be appropriate for your specific use [PDF]

Resources

Below are the tools I have tried, and my assessments of many of them here [PDF]

For further reading check out Tactical Tech’s Mobiles-in-a-Box: Tools and Tactics for Mobile Advocacy


Creative Commons Attributions: Arrows designed by Tobias Klepp, Share designed by Anand A Nair, Protest designed by Gilad Fried, Cell Phone designed by Alex Hartmann, Cloud Settings designed by Agus Purwanto, Laptop designed by Olivier Guin, Light Bulb designed by Ema Dimitrova, Settings designed by Joe Mortell, Tips designed by Lemon Liu, Thought Bubble designed by Irene Hoffman, Radio Tower designed by Jon Anderson, NFC Phone designed by Andrew Forrester, Comment designed by Icomatic, Iphone designed by Hedie Assadi Joulaee, Signal designed by Alex Fuller.


All other glyphs fall under Public Domain from the Noun Project.



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