Power is Now in the Palms of Your Hands, Literally

It is no coincidence that the four largest marches in U.S. history have been in the past year and a half. Technology has drastically changed the organisation of these marches. The causes are largely the same: freedom, equality, change. But their organisation comes from completely different avenues. Tens of millions of people can be reached at the click of a few buttons, rallying mass marches in a matter of weeks.

Jeremy Heimans’ and Henry Timms’ book “New Power” analyzes this drastic shift. Heimans and Timms contrast forms of old power from the new. Old power can be thought of as formal, exclusive and long-term. Within old power there was far more separation between the private and public spheres. Experts were the only reputable sources for information, and the public relied upon the experts. But new power is a totally different beast. New power is informal, collaborative, self-governed, and often short-term. Social media profiles allow for a regular citizen to reach upwards of thousands of people instantly. Technology has given every citizen the capability to access new power: average citizens aren’t restricted to consuming and following. Suddenly, citizens have the ability to build and shape movements collaboratively.

New power is just that: power. We built Betterplace to help citizens wield new power. Heimans and Timms lay out five steps for building a “New Power Community.” Sure enough, this describes the very same process Betterplace has been following.

1 — Start with Connected Connectors

Every network, virtual or otherwise, has a few individuals with more sway than others. Heimans and Timms call these individuals “connected connectors.” The main focus in Betterplace is peer-to-peer civic action, or individual citizens mobilizing their peers. So, we began by identifying the individual citizens that are most active, and most successful in mobilizing others. Like Ellary Lockwood and Caroline Avery, the Spokane teenagers that got 5000 fellow citizens out for the March for Our Lives campaign.

2-Lower the Barrier, Flatten the Path

Betterplace makes it extremely easy to take action. Instantly, our users have the world at their fingertips in the form of campaigns catered to their interests. This is the flattening of the path. Betterplace brings our users step-by-step through the process of making an impact.

3-Move People up the Participation Scale

“The right recipe for building an effective group is making people feel like they are part of it and that they can stand out in it.” Regular citizens now have the capability for far larger social impact than the online petitions that dominate change.org, for example. Betterplace allows for regular citizens to take more impactful actions. Like operating a hotline to protect immigrants from abuse. Or learning how to respond if you witness harassment. Actions like these help citizens move up what Heimans and Timms call “the participation scale.” Joining the Betterplace community motivates people to become more deeply involved in social activism.


4-Harness the 3 Storms: Storm Creating, Storm Chasing, and Storm Embracing

New Power describes “storms,” a metaphor for a surge of movement that produces social change. Because it is designed for citizens with many different interests in mind, our app allows citizens to ride the storms of activism that arise. Betterplace rode the storm of activism on gun violence with the March for our Lives campaign, and now again on family separation.

5-Build a New Power Brand

In New Power communities, it’s not the voice of the company or software provider that matters, it’s the community that counts. And indeed, Betterplace provides a platform for the community to be center stage on. The direction of Betterplace is guided by the ideas from our users. The voices that count are yours, the public.

In this world dominated by new power, Betterplace is on the forefront of the rapidly changing social activism environment. If you would like to transition from consuming to shaping your world, we urge you to join us at Betterplace!

Ben Rowswell