There is so much frustration within the feminist movement that, despite the existence of a broad base of women and men who believe in gender equality, and despite some significant cultural changes, we haven’t made more progress in terms of institutional and policy change. We continue to operate as a mostly reactive force, letting anti-feminists set the agenda.
The big, unanswered question until now has been, why?
We have a hypothesis. We believe that we haven’t yet devoted the resources necessary to strengthen the bond between our new, online tools and our tride-and-true on-the-ground actions. A fully realized, 21st century version of networked feminism would move us to proactive, strategic action that we believe would not just exact short-term costs for injustice, but produce long-term cultural, policy, and institutional change.
Our research and the important critique and conversation that have followed, have led us to focus on three major areas. We’re continually exploring these kinds of questions with regard to each of them:
Increased sustainability: what would online feminism be able to do were it supported with the kinds of resources that enable innovators to, well, really innovate? What kinds of structures could we create that would allow the widest range of people to access these resources? What form would these structures need to take in order to be truly responsive to the fast-paced, opportunistic nature of online organizing?
Extending momentum: how can we create an ecosystem in which online campaigns aren’t one-hit wonders, but paradigm shifters? How can we keep young activists climbing up the proverbial “ladder of engagement”? Where can we leverage online tools for true systematic change?
Strategic partnerships: how can we build structures and create moments where the many damaging fissures in the feminist movement are closed? Where and when can we have more in-person meetings with high-level strategy conversations? What is the best way to coordinate online and on-the-ground organizing?
Here are few of the projects we’re currently working on to test our hypothesis:
Community-building & restoration events: We hosted our first partnership with the Omega Women’s Leadership Center last fall, where we gave 21st century activists an opportunity to gather in person, reflect on their work, and build their resilience. Read more here.
Support for practitioners: We’re working with specialists in social entrepreneurship, organizational financial structure, philanthropy, and a range of other fields to figure out the most systematic ways to offer online activists the support they need. Potential future opportunities include a business skills bootcamp, original curriculum in the form of toolkits and/or online courses, and/or a dedicated fellowship.
Strategic meetings: We’ve been generously hosted by Jacki Zehner in New York and the Global Fund for Women in San Francisco to discuss next steps with a wide range of powerful people. Friends Brenda Bethman of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Anitra Cottledge of the University of Minnesota held a conversation at last year’s annual National Women’s Studies Association conference. We were part of a conversation at the #YTHLive conference this Spring about the future of online feminism. We hope to be a part of more of these discussions as we continue to harvest the best ideas on how to increase the resources available in the field and strengthen the broad impact it is happening.
If you have an interest in collaborating, please be in touch.
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