Visionary Design and Non-Violent Civil Protest #2

Organized by Nsumi Collective and School of the Future
Presented by Trade School, NYC



Occupy's Perfect Storm
Why do we have a general feeling of powerlessness?
Simon Critchley, April 2012

Making our arrests count
by Yotam Marom, April 18, 2012

Select one of the following prompts:

1. Partnerships/Movement Building
Official and informal partnerships between Occupy and other groups. How could this work?
Occupy can establish loose partnerships coupled with coordinated "calls to action” to increase the number of boots on the ground during marches and protests. Occupy can learn FROM such communities and their pre-established initiatives prompting inward as well as external growth. Such partnerships could not only involve other activist groups and movements but also rural communities, online communities, and members of sub-cultures who share Occupy’s values.  

2. The Disgruntled Masses
How can “the 99%” go from being an operative concept, to being a systemic reality?

Mass media portrayals of Occupy frequently focus on reductive black and white narratives—protestors vs. cops, Occupiers as dirty, lazy hippies—but the reality is that a growing majority of Americans know the system is working against them. How can Occupy successfully outreach to the disaffected masses in a disciplined, sustainable way, without loosing its radical character? General Assemblies fueled the movement in the fall of 2011, so what is preventing the growth of General Assemblies today?

3. Student Action
Activating and coordinating with collage students and graduate students.

Including students at community collages, art and design students, and students most impacted by debt and the faltering economy. What is the best way to partner with schools and with students? Why are so few students working with occupy at the moment? How could the kinds of experiences and challenges provided by working with Occupy complement traditional schooling? 

4. Outreach During Actions
Build outreach functions into marches & rallies such as “protest skins” & signaling techniques
Protests, rallies and marches are social phenomena. Marches present golden opportunities for activists to meet and communicate, and for marchers to interact with passersby. With this in mind, techniques such as protest “skins” could include teams of outreach workers who "envelop" marches, providing context via support materials and opportunities for dialoging with locals. While this is already a current practice, it is usually done in an ad-hoc way. Instead, we could learn to rigorously observe the behavior and character of our own marches, and develop a library of methods for interfacing with local communities. Likewise, signaling functions could include any form of communications coming from within a protest, such as music, singing, chanting, preying, ceremonies, swarming techniques, etc., that could help a protest to swell and evolve by activating people within ear and eye-shot of the event. What other outreach techniques could be invented along these lines?

5. Intentional Networks
Cultivating intentional networks for specific functions.
Occupy could tap social network theory and analysis to cultivate networks such as: respite networks (for recovery from police or other abuses, activist burn out, or self-care) housing and hospitality networks (“host-an-occupier”, Couchsurfing sub-groups), think-tanking networks (to harvest collective intelligence), and protest feeder networks.


How do we describe a well-designed outreach program or event?

 Actions that bring new people into the Occupy movement and that…
…are “on-message”, regarding Occupy agreements and declarations, history, customs and practices, and therefore accessible and meaningful to a wide variety of people…

… are locally focused, participatory, welcoming, and culturally sensitive…
… are orchestrated either physically, virtually, or both…
… and can be realistically sustained by Occupy participants over time.

Keeping in mind that outreach can come in many different forms, including those that are…
… fluid and spontaneous, one-to-one, autonomous, informal and personal…
… tethered to, or integrated within, activities such as public protests, marches, rallies, actions
… or that are structured as stand-alone events/experiences/campaigns.


Outreach can involve “coordinating” people and groups already within activist circles, as well as “activating” people and groups to join Occupy for the first time, or to start their own parallel movements. 

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Unofficial and Incomplete List of Campaigns Connected with Occupy
End Mass Incarceraton– Housing for All/Ending Home Foreclosures – Stop Stop-and-Frisk – Anti-Racism – Free Education for All/Ending Student Debt – End Corporate Rule/Money Out of Politics/Tax Reform – Single Payer Health Care – Economic Justice – Direct Democracy – Gender Equality Labor/Worker Justice – Sustainability/Ecological Movement – Immigrant Rights – Nonviolence/Peace Movement/Anti-War – Ending Empire/Global Justice – Food Justice/Ending Hunger – Anti-Censorship/Grass Roots Media – LGBTQ Rights – Women’s Rights – Anti-Authoritarianism – Anti-Corruption – and many others
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Selected Occupy Outreach Efforts

OWS Movement Building


OWS Outreach: Saturday Orientation Sessions, Project Listings, Etc.

A14 Spring Awakening & City-Wide Assembly
– event in central park, April 14th

Roving "Occupy Town Squares"
– “pop up occupations” every 2-weeks; different locations


Occupy the Youth – presentations & events for public high school students

Subway Canvassing – outreach in the subway



Occupy Seattle Outreach—meeting notes

Aspects of Successful Outreach Work
- A consistent set of messages and narratives, underpins good outreach.
- Establishing trust with those you hope to outreach to, is critical.

- People doing outreach need to be friendly and approachable.

- Outreach is more effective when it involves education and mentoring.

- Being honest, straightforward and impassioned is effective.

- Aesthetics, art, strong visuals and graphics are key.
- For the most part, data and information do not move people—stories and narratives do.

- First impressions are critical. Take advantage of this.
- Developing outreach materials relevant for different kinds of people with different perspectives, abilities, and language aptitudes: differentiation and translation

- The more we listen to people the better: “a listening meme

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Some Potentially Visionary Techniques and Concepts
- Integrating recursive feedback into the operations of events and actions.
- More critical, reflective analysis of our ideas, techniques and procedures.
- Strategic long-term planning to help inform short term planning and tactics.
- Swarm organizing and other organizational techniques derived from nature.

- Manifesting transformative experiences and catalytic events, as opposed to “activism as usual”.

- Designing memetic, viral, word of mouth outreach campaigns.
- Narrative design and game design
- Sophisticated wayfinding and orientation systems


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Challenges and Areas for Improvement for Occupy

- There is not enough outreach, overall.

- We do not (yet) have clear systems of coordination

- Overall, Occupy needs fewer, more highly concentrated and coordinated events; The number and scale of events should relate to the total population of available organizers and participants.
- There’s an inability to learn from mistakes; hence the need for formal feedbacking processes 

- We lack a sense of interconnectedness through ritual

- We seem to fear outside groups and systems of thought (e.g., the majority of the 99% are religious, yet our interfaith groups are marginalized within the movement.)

- We lack discipline, leading to an inability to eject serial disrupters, educate ourselves sufficiently, maximize our creative potential, and integrate technical and face-to-face communications.

- We are not yet able to capitalize on experience (i.e. to distinguish someone with relevant personal experience with someone who lacks experience.)

- Occupy lacks the ability to understand and deal with anger and sadness, at both the individual and collective level.

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 From an A14 Spring Awakening Outreach Worker (April 19th, 2012)

“My outreach was specific to the A14 Spring Awakening.  Our biggest successes…I think the phone calls are really important. I didn't have time to do this in bulk, but the few people I connected with on the phone, were more productive than the ones I emailed. The impediments to outreach are how many people are doing outreach, making sure the outreach is consistent from different people doing it, and tracking it so everyone knows who did what. Also, with OWS, a lot of groups won't respond to outreach but they will show up, so tough to figure out unless you are directly talking to someone in the group. Emails are quick and easy but don’t work as well as face to face, going to meetings, etc.”

Swirls@Nsumi.net (Nsumi Collective)

This page is dynamic and subject to change.
Thank you Jodi Dean for help in preparing the initial event text.