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The Network Effect: How Online Organizing Just Got A Little Easier

‘Better together’ was the motto of the 2012 Salsa Community Conference, held in DC early this fall.  Centered on the idea that there is greater potential for social change with collaboration, the slogan “There’s Strength in the Network” was repeated throughout the two-day event. 

When it comes to the nonprofits, small centers, political campaigns and advocacy organizations that make up the 40,000 Salsa users across the US and Europe, I quickly discovered that this catchy cliché rings true in more ways than one. 

Yes, this was a technology conference, with all the geeking out one could hope for, but it was also a time for users of this dynamic software to be ensured that they were part of a community that would provide every resource needed for them to change the world, or at least their little corner.  After the two-day conference, I was a believer.   

Salsa, the sleek, user-friendly, web and data base support system, provides users with everything they need to manage events, promote campaigns, reach out to supporters and gain a wider audience for their cause.  Salsa provides all these services in a format even the most tech-intimidated of us can handle.  They support organizations with five or less staff, all the way up to running the wildly successful SOPA campaign that “saved the internet” this past year with website blackouts supported by the likes of Google and Wikipedia in response to the Congressional debate over the anti-piracy legislation. 

In the keynote address we were told that Salsa was built knowing it would be most effective if it utilized the network effect; strength in the community to empower one another, coalitions that provide a larger impact, and innovate, cutting edge technology which would always set them apart.  These goals have defined Salsa from day one and are a clearly reflected in their long-term strategy.   The Conference highlighted this three-pronged mission through full days of panels, one-on-one consulting, opportunities to meet with Salsa partners, and highly informative tech workshops.  There were also “chill out lounges” and fantastic networking opportunities in which I was able to both share what we do at the Center as well as connect with others who have similar missions.

One of the biggest take-aways from the Conference was that at the end of the day, we can’t be defined by the technology that exists.  The next big thing hasn’t been done yet and it’s only a right around the corner.   When the laptops are closed and the PowerPoints turned off, it is important to remember that we are not dependent on the technology to be innovative. Thinking outside the box of messy HTML codes, confusing PHP or stubborn bugs leads to incredible new ideas because, as Salsa reminded us over and over, real change happens off line.

If you can't wait until the next Community Conference to learn more, that's not a problem! Salsa offers fantastic online webinars and blog posts as well as events on Thursdays in Washington DC.  Find at more at SalsaLabs.Com