ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Case Study

This week we’re thinking about how perceived #slacktivist movements go viral, get thousands of people involved, and then get criticised.

I’m sure you’re all aware of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.  If not, you literally must have been on a digital cleanse or under a rock for like a year.  For those that need a refresher, the viral movement was all about raising awareness and gathering donations from those who participated.  Think #WorldsGreatestShave where people get sponsorship for performing an act like shaving their head or getting a bucket of ice thrown over their head, videoing it and uploading it to their social media platforms in this case.

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Kim Kardashian gets soaked by Ellen Degeneres, by Elena Duggan.

If you look this movement up, you’re not only going to get a lot of YouTube videos of the world’s most famous celebrities getting dunked in their most creative ways possible, but you’re also going to see hundred of articles from pop journalists and academics alike heavily criticising those that participated.

They have their reasons.  They state that many of those that participated either never donated and participated only to be seen engaging, or ended up spending more on the buckets of ice or expending time and effort on the action rather than research on the issue.  This is real.  I see their points, and I agree with them that this is endlessly frustrating, especially for those that suffer with motor neurone disease who at points during this campaign’s virality it could have seemed unhelpful.

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Rita Ora contributing to #IceBucketChallenge, by Elena Duggan.

But the coolest thing about this is, that despite all the negative criticism and the negative world-view type of reporting we’ve seen on this, news came out in the last couple months that all the proceeds of the #IceBucketChallenge actually contributed to the funding of a new scientific breakthrough.

The money from donations helped fund the biggest and most widespread study of samples previously collected, that allowed the discovery of a common gene found among ALS sufferers.

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Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Rob RiggleHoratio SanzSteve Higgins soak themselves on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, by Elena Duggan.

A relatively short case study, because there’s really not much else we need to say.  This is proof that movements that start online can contribute in multiple ways to offline change.

Takeaways:

  1. You need a phenomenal strategy.
  2. Your strategy needs to be accessible.
  3. Know your objectives.  If donation is one of those, it needs to play a big role in your strategy.
  4. Make engagement fun.  You only get people interested if their role is fun!
  5. Once your campaign has created change, you need to publish and emphasise what your contributors helped with!  Follow up is key.

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ALS Ice Bucket ready for dunking, by Elena Duggan.

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Tips and Tricks #2

For this tips and tricks, our activated almonds in their slacktivewear (yes I’m still trying to make this happen, like ‘fetch’ only cooler) are going to run you through some of the wonderful activist work you can actually complete from the comfort of your couch whilst wearing your fluffiest robe and patting your dog!

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Luckily for us, the internet has already come up with so many ways we can contribute to activist causes online.  There are even sites dedicated to helping with not only their chosen causes but to any and all causes its members suggest, or they want to bring to our attention.  See Indiegogo, Change.org, Upworthy, and Take Part.

One of the most successful sites for activism is called Avaaz.  Avaaz has managed to connect more than 10 million people to 46 million causes online.  How?  It’s EASY.  If you log on, you have access to thousands of actions and causes already in progress and you can sign their petitions, contribute to letter-writing campaigns, and be a part of the facilitation of group organisation.  You can even start your own campaign.  In fact most of the causes Avaaz takes up have been members’ suggestions.  And even cooler on their part is that their funding and donations comes wholly from these members.  More than $20 million has already been collected, with each donation having a cap of $5000.

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Activism from where you’d rather be, photo by Nick Turner.

If you aren’t sure you want to start something on your own, we know the task can be daunting, you can use any of these already well-established hubs to join movements, suggest movements and grab info on movements that interest you.

If you are super keen, study what these sites do.  And then replicate it!  All you need is an internet connection, an issue that’s ignited your passion, and a few minutes out of the time you’ve already mentally designated to chillin’ online.

 

 

Tips and Tricks #1

Before we get into the tips and tricks today, I want to introduce you to a couple of health nuts.  Yes, it’s a terrible pun, but if you know anything about me wordplay keeps me going!

Introducing your slacktivated almonds!  These guys will appear at random through my posts.  Mostly for my benefit, no lie.  I love them.  Plus they’re all in slacktivewear!

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Ok so… Tips and Tricks!

Identify the cause.

Once you know the issue you want to tackle, you then need to really get down to the core of it.  If you’re not sure you want to start something on your own, this is the part where you need to do a little research.  Literally I mean a little.  There are so many fantastically inspiring and wonderful do-gooders out there that you could type in some keywords on google and find a hundred pages and people trying to fix the same problem as you. I google searched domestic violence Australia and instantly found 1800Respect and Domestic Violence NSW.

I’d recommend this exercise just as one to restore your faith in humanity.  People want things to be better.  It’s as simple as that.

If you want to start your own movement, your ideas need to be concrete.  Specify, note, research, break apart, expand, drill down.  What are the symptoms of the problem?  Is it systemic?  Know it inside and out.  You can be thinking about this wherever you are.  We all have boring board meetings to attend to, bus and train rides to take, long chats on the phone with that friend who can’t seem to get her love life sorted no matter how good your advice is… There’s a MILLION moments in every day for you to be doing deep or surface level thinking.

 

Nail your objectives to the wall.  (LITERALLY… nails. I want nails.)

What is it that you’re setting out to do?  Do you want to change an attitude?  Do you want to change a behaviour?  Or are your goals more motivational?

It can be all three, it can be more.  But know what your aims are, and know how to talk about them.

 

Read this!

This above is a gold mine for the beginning innovator!  It is an easy read even though it’s academic!  Get used to using Your Slacktivity Feed for these sorts of articles!

 

Finally, research as much as possible.

I don’t mean plumb the depths of the academic archives of your local library, nor even stealing some uni-going friend’s login details for their institution’s online catalogue.  I mean that if you plan on being an activist online, all the stuff you need is all there.  In the ether, in front of you and surrounding you.  You’ll see this stuff in your news feed.  You’ll see this stuff in your conversations.  Because it is IMPORTANT, and it gets a lot of attention.  Research here means, where possible dive as deeply as you can, but where not as easy simply listen.  Listen online to the people you already know.  Listen online to the news media outlets you trust (question these often just by the way, they always have agendas).

Once you’ve listened, you’ll know the path of activism you want to take.

Academic, Schmacademic!

Before we kick off some of the ‘cooler’, more interesting posts, I think it’s super important to deal with some of the academic theory around slacktivism.  Remember, to us here at Your Slacktivity Feed, slacktivism isn’t a dirty word.  But up until now, it’s definitely been treated as one.  Slacktivism to us simply means: the kind of activism that you can complete from the comfort of your own couch, desk, plane, train, automobile.  Cut yourself some slack(tivism).  We can’t always put a hold on all the many things we have going on in our lives to stage a sit in, join a protest march, or picket outside a government building… That’s not to say we shouldn’t make the time, but here we need to also be reasonable.

Our aim and job here is to give you ways to participate in social change in those fleeting moments between your work and home, your meeting and interview.

Why do people think this is bad?  Let’s kick off.

First issue, there are so many social movements that we come into contact with that it becomes so easy to only engage lightly with them.  While that’s true, there are bajillions of problems out there that we need to deal with, engaging lightly with any cause is not an issue.  You’re engaging with it right?  What happens when we engage with something?  We end up more educated than we were before.  And if that engagement has happened publicly before our personal followers, surely their engagement increases as well.

Second.  Engaging in online activism discourages people from a deeper offline engagement (Kingsley, 2011).  Well, this is pretty much just wrong.  I can understand where the worry comes from though, because the high that comes from giving yourself through time, effort or monetary donation is being had through the small tokens of likes and follows.  This would be scary, and something definitely worth some deeper investigation.

For some proof, we turn to some research released in 2012 by Georgetown University.  Their results found:

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Now that that’s over, let’s look at beginning of the more positive spin on slacktivism.  What is the function of online engagement with social causes?  The creation of the critical periphery. “Peripheral users are less active on a per capita basis, but their power lies in their numbers: their aggregate contribution to the spread of protest messages is comparable in magnitude to that of core participants,” (Barberá et al, 2015).  The critical periphery is made up of those people that make a protest, or a movement feel large, go viral and make an impact.  Expressions of solidarity like tagging #JeSuisCharlie or #BringBackOurGirls mean that massive numbers of people around the world can participate in a movement regardless of their physical capacity to be ‘there’, on the ground.

So please, don’t beat yourself up.  Take part in something bigger than yourself.  If you first reaction is to like, follow, share, retweet… Let’s just start there.  It’s ok to let this make you feel good.  People who feel good are more likely to do good.  (Disclaimer: I have no evidence of this last sentence, but it sounds like common sense to me!)