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Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies 2015: A Conversation With Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson

Join the editor of Fast Company Digital, Anjali Mullany, for a live Q&A with Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson on Wednesday, March 4th at 12 p.m. ET. You can start submitting your questions now using the "Make a comment" box below.

Rashad Robinson
Executive Director, Color of Change

(Photo: Gus Powell) 

Can social media help change the face of American politics? 

Join us on March 4th at 12 p.m. ET for a live Q&A with Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change. Fast Company recently named Color of Change to its annual Most Innovative Companies list "for creating a civil rights group for the 21st century". Anjali Mullany, editor of Fast Company Digital, will lead the discussion with Robinson as we explore a number of issues--from strategies for using social media to create real-world impact, to the next generation of politicians being born on social networks today. We'll talk about the challenges of navigating and appealing to diverse perspectives online, and the ways in which Color of Change is using data as a tool for activism. 

You can start submitting your questions and comments now using the "Make a comment" box below. And be sure to read J.J. McCorvey's piece about Color of Change in the recent issue of Fast Company.

    Before today's live conversation with Rashad Robinson at noon, check out J.J. McCorvey's entry about Color of Change on our Most Innovative Companies 2015 list:

    Color Of Change

    Fast CompanyFor creating a civil rights group for the 21st century.
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    It's really important for us to listen to what we are hearing from our members and to take moments of dissent to explain our decisions and strategy. We try to do that in our campaign outreaches so we are being proactive. For us, the big thing is to listen, respond, and be aware that not everyone is going to agree with everything we do at ColorOfChange. We're stepping back and looking at the totality of what folks are saying on twitter or via email and ensuring that we are being responsive to trends.
    by Rashad Robinson edited by Cayleigh Parrish 3/4/2015 5:58:53 PM
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    You've mentioned before this idea of transitioning "cultural presence" to real "cultural power"...what are the paths to making that happen? This echoes some reader questions, as well.
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    The key is not to confuse cultural presence with cultural power. It’s the difference between the cultural popularity of an issue, and real strategies for effectively leveraging cultural momentum to secure concrete political outcomes on that issue. What we are trying to do at ColorOfChange is take issues that often have deep presence in our society and build the type of power necessary to win. From my perspective it means running campaigns that often have those most impacted at the center, but build the type of energy and momentum through story-telling and organizing to get people who may not be personally impacted to engage.

    • Women have great presence in our culture obviously, but that doesn’t mean that feminism has brought enough people in to be politically powerful on Equal Pay or contraception.
    • Gay people had plenty of presence and influence in culture in the '90s, but when I was at GLAAD we realized we needed way more people identifying with that struggle, in order to become powerful enough to make any real change. Even though gay was already culturally “cool.” So we were part of inventing a new model.
    • And of course, plenty of Black people and Black issues were visible in society in the 1950s and '60s, but the civil rights movement had to find a banner that would allow more people to join their struggle, before they could become powerful enough to move the country on major policy.
    by Rashad Robinson edited by Cayleigh Parrish 3/4/2015 6:04:13 PM
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    This next question from a reader is a great follow up to that point about presence vs. power...
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    Great question. When President Obama announced that he was running for President back in 2007 we didn't have twitter. The growth and presence of twitter and #BlackTwitter speaks to how many of the old rules of engagement are changing. Who gets to have a voice? Who gets a response from those in power? Folks in power who often have barriers designed to prevent them from having to deal with the public directly...twitter blows that up. So to the extent that we could have a long primary season for both parties, twitter will allow folks to force issues into the debate that may not be the issues that media gatekeepers or the political parties want to talk about. For instance, I can't imagine the candidates being able to ignore #BlackLivesMatter, even mainstream media will force them to address it.
    by Rashad Robinson edited by Cayleigh Parrish 3/4/2015 6:10:48 PM
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    Speaking of hashtags (and this loops back to our conversation about dissent online), here's a great question from my colleague JJ...
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    Both...I think hashtags are tools for organizing. They allow us to capture attention around an idea and open up spaces for conversations. So depending on who ends up inside of the hashtag they have the same type of opportunities and challenges that offline debates or conversations can sometimes have. From my perspective, #CrimingWhileWhite started off as a really interesting tool for allies to engage in a set of conversations they might not always engage around, however, I think as the pool of participants expanded, the goals and intentions got diluted, which is one of the challenges with hashtags.
    by Rashad Robinson edited by Cayleigh Parrish 3/4/2015 6:20:02 PM
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    Finally, we've got a couple of reader questions about the future of technology and activism...
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    ...do you have plans to utilize geolocation as a way to get individuals to do offline tasks when it is something that is near them?
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    Over 50% of folks reach us online via mobile devices. This has grown pretty rapidly over the last couple of years. It speaks to how folks engage everyday and also speaks to how black folks and young folks get online. A geolocation campaign is certainly part of the future and a part of ColorOfChange's future. More work with interactive maps that allow folks to take their campaigning into the stores they may be shopping in, for example. Last year ColorOfChange launched IAmColorOfChange.org, which is our distributed organizing platform which allows our local leaders and local organizations on the group to utilize our technology for free and build and run civil rights campaigns that sit inside of our issue area. Because I believe that we have moved from a top-down communication age to a participation age, where everyday people have more power to amplify their voices having tools that capture that energy without feeling like we, as organizations, need to "get in front" of it will be key.
    by Rashad Robinson edited by Cayleigh Parrish 3/4/2015 6:27:16 PM
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    Thanks to everyone for coming! Please make sure to check out our ColorOfChange entry on our Most Innovative Companies list! We're sorry we couldn't get to everyone's questions, but you can reach out to Rashad on twitter @rashadrobinson, with anything we couldn't get to today.
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