TON Newsletter - Oct 27, 2020

Welcome to Tectonica Organising Network’s newsletter. This week we’re breaking from our usual format for a very special reason: to introduce you to our groundbreaking State of Digital Organising in Europe report! We’re thrilled to be able to share it with you. Let’s dive in!


The wait is over, the first of its kind report on the State of Digital Organising in Europe is finally here! We’re incredibly excited to share this report, which we believe is an important resource for anyone doing digital organising, whether in Europe or elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Tectonica and GQR embarked on an ambitious project to measure European organisations’ digital campaign activities with the goal of understanding how European progressives are using digital in their work. We interviewed and surveyed over 150 groups to gather critical information about the state of digital organising in Europe. What we found is a shocking discrepancy between what activities we know we should be doing and those our movements are actually doing - confirming our suspicions that there is a great unrealised potential for the power of digital organising to help us win.

The report details highly revelatory insights about why progressives across Europe have been losing important ground in recent years -- and provides the roadmap for where we need to go.

Special thanks to our sponsors NationBuilder, Care2, and ACTE who helped make this report possible.

You can read the full report here.

Looking forward to moving the conversation forward with you all,

Team Tectonica

Key Learnings

“I think social media, in particular, has played a big part in moving things, I would say more to the right.” — Coordinator of Organising, Pan-European NGO1

The report dives deep into what we are doing, what we are not doing, and what barriers we have. Some of the key learnings we explore in depth in the report are:

  • The right is winning online: 43% of our survey participants believe that the right is winning online, with many stating that they believe digital platforms favour populist rightwing content, making it easier for rightwing campaigns to succeed online.
  • There is massive unrealised potential for digital organising: the lack of “full organising” encompassing the entire spectrum of activities detailed in our Five-Part Framework for digital organising appears to be an important factor in the relative failure of progressive campaigns and candidates.
  • Lack of education on best practices and lack of funding are main barriers: 13% of respondents, most of whom are responsible for developing digital organising strategy, said they had received no training at all on digital organising, even from colleagues. The field in general is understudied and misunderstood.
  • The online/offline dichotomy in campaigning is no longer relevant: a majority of survey respondents believe that an offline component is vital to fostering relationships built online; online actions alone will not build successful campaign movements.

To read the full key findings and our recommendations for progressive organisations and funders, please click here..

The Five-Part Framework for Digital Organising

In developing this report, we created a framework to assess all campaigning activities that fall under the umbrella of “digital organising”. The purpose of the framework is to help organisations better understand the full spectrum of online activities by categorising them into five categories, ranging from one-way communication to coordinated mobilisation, and finally to decentralised organising. We believe that it’s crucial that organisations engage in activities distributed across all areas of the framework in order to build successful progressive campaigns. You can read more about the framework here.

Tools, Technologies, and Trends

Our study confirmed what we have seen in our experience working with progressive organisations around the world: digital campaigns are spending most of their energy on the communications side of our framework (e.g., Facebook and email), less on segmentation and organisationally directed action, and even less on platforms that allow supporters to collaborate and organise autonomously. Respondents reported that collaborative tools like Slack and Google drive were valuable in creating community and in building trust and deeper relationships. However, respondents also reported that those same tools are not always ideally suited to political influencing and are usually not designed to facilitate mobilising activities. To see the full findings of our study on tools, technologies, and trends, read here.

Mapping progressive organisations across Europe

We began our project with an ambitious mapping exercise to identify over 1,100 organisations across Europe working for environmental, social and economic justice, giving a strong base for outreach to engage in the research. For more detailed information on mapping our project participants, please click here..

Inspiring Case Studies from Progressive Organisations

While there’s certainly plenty of room for improvement when it comes to progressive organisations’ use of digital organising, there are also some great examples of European campaigns doing inspirational digital organising (without the need for a massive budget) to push their movements forward. Here are three that we’d like to highlight:

aHang: Gaining progressive ground in Orban’s Hungary

aHang (the “voice”) is a digital campaigning organisation founded in Hungary in 2018 that has used digital to quickly grow to include over 300,000 members. In 2019, aHang used digital to organise primaries to unite the opposition in electing a single candidate to run against the sitting Fidesz mayor in Budapest. Their 100% member funded campaign recruited hundreds of new volunteers, developed campaign flyers, and created data management software to monitor voting online and offline. Their efforts were instrumental in electing the most progressive candidate, Gergő Karácsony, as the mayor of Budapest.

Voor 14: The Fight for a Living Wage in the Netherlands

Voor 14 is the fight for a living wage campaign in the Netherlands. Tectonica began working with Voor 14 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to help them continue their advocacy efforts by bringing half their organising team online. We helped them develop their digital organising strategy, which includes fuelling the infrastructure for list building and growing the number of local groups and organisers that are part of their movement. Voor 14 has been hugely successful in moving people from online signups into activity and ultimately leadership. In a couple of weeks their first petition attracted 50,000 signatures.

Milieudefensie: Connecting to Voters on Climate Justice

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands) wanted to use digital to grow their team of volunteers who they could pivot into campaigning to influence the March 2021 general election. They embarked on a canvassing project to talk to people about climate justice and recorded the results of their conversations on a mobile friendly website. They also used the platform Open Social to connect volunteers, build peer to peer relationships, coordinate events and run monthly trainings for new starters. The doorstep polling has been immensely helpful in getting news coverage and influencing politicians, as it shows the level of support for climate justice in areas politicians might not have expected to see it.

Read the complete case studies.

For the full Report on the State of Digital Organising in Europe and fact sheet, click here.