Digital advocacy organizations are distinct from many traditional NGOs, such as Oxfam or Greenpeace. Most NGOs engage in advocacy campaigns based on long-term commitment to a cause, and where expert staff drive campaigns. Meanwhile, digital advocacy organizations use digital analytics to identify the most salient issues of the day and rapidly mobilize large memberships to put pressure on politicians. Digital advocacy organizations seek to harness “networked power” and can rapidly start campaigns on new issues while dropping old campaigns which gain less support. Digital advocacy organizations operate in a globalized world and frequently tackle transnational problems, however, they do so by focusing on national targets. This new generation of activists has formed a strong transnational network, yet still, sees the state as the locus of power.

The excerpt below from my recently published book introduces readers to digital advocacy organizations including groups such as (United States), GetUp! (Australia), and Campact (Germany). All these organizations use email, online petitions, and social media to rapidly mobilize supporters, and are having an impact on local, national, and international decision making. While scholars, such as David Karpf, have documented the impact of individual organizations in their national context, none have traced how activists around the world have adopted and adapted this distinctive model of digital organizing. Digital advocacy organizations now operate in more than 20 countries—from South Africa to Sweden; Poland to New Zealand—and claim more than 20 million members worldwide. The book draws on: participant observation of digital advocacy organizations in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; descriptive statistics of their campaigns; and more than 100 interviews with digital activists.

Digital advocacy organizations would seem an obvious case for transnational campaigning. The organizations in this book share common progressive values and operate in a highly connected, globalized world, where issues spill over borders. They can easily communicate across borders and share campaign material, thanks to email and social media. In addition, they are all part of a transnational network, the Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN). Through this network, digital activists meet frequently in person, and exchange online, to share new technologies, skills, and tactics. They have developed deep relationships through regular summits, staff secondments, and the sharing of campaign failures and successes. In this book, I examine how, when, and why they campaign collectively on transnational issues.

Read the full article about digital advocacy by Nina Hall at Stanford Social Innovation Review.