Our Exciting “New Normal”

As you know I am not a fan of faddish glib phrases like “new normal” but as we wrote newswires over the past few days, I realized how exciting some of them were—how filled with the promise of vast potential for “citizen” action. (BTW, whenever I say “citizen,” I mean of the world.)

One of the newswires NPQ published today talks about a new book, The MoveOn Effect:The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy, by David Karpf, which documents the disruptiveness of Internet organizing—not just where politics are concerned but also with respect to the ways in which we can be influential, and the necessary resources for that. He makes the point that while national nonprofit advocacy groups often used to be more or less directed by checkbook members, were too often divorced from the grassroots level, and were expensive to run because they were dependent on professional advocates and direct mail, they can now have what he terms “absurdly small” budgets, and they depend upon numbers in their grassroots adherents—live off their own responsiveness to them.

I love this observation. It is perhaps obvious that this shift is happening, albeit with plenty of room for more traditional players, but it is an essential and profound shift in form that speaks to a greater level of influence for groups that are not necessarily dependent on big money but on lots of voice.

Also, this morning, we had a newswire about how small organizations that have often been deeply affected, financially and otherwise, by larger groups with strong national and international brands that make use of their stories, are beginning to craft their own brands and place them on common sites. Yesterday we had a newswire about how the Komen and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kentucky were faring after the national set-to at the beginning of the year.

It is all fascinating—at least to me. Such a different level of reflectiveness and change. If this is the “new normal”—even if we are poorer—I’m for it, because I think it will end in greater effectiveness. I feel like we are beginning to wake up a bit.

Am I wrong?

Just one more newswire to look at—the piece on what nonprofits are doing about food deserts. Is this a niche we should be looking at more closely? How does it speak to our role in economic redevelopment overall? Tell us your stories.

Tell us what in the so-called “new normal” jazzes you?