May 17, 2007
The MyBLOC Jump-Off:
Ever looked at the jumble of sleazy personal ads, bad basic layouts and suspicious corporate forces behind MySpace and thought to yourself, “This ain’t me!” Turns out a lot of folks feel that way, and, more importantly, an innovative group of them have put their heads together to make something more authentic. These same folks know that technology may be the next frontier for a new generation of social activism.
But technology intended to connect young activists needs to be culturally relevant and user- and value-centric, and support face-to-face organizing.
That’s according to ibrahim abdul-matin, 30, a technology organizer at the Movement Strategy Center, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization that supports young activists in the development of networks and alliances. This rubric is the result of matin and his colleagues’ experience conceptualizing and developing myBLOC.net, a social networking website for young activists of color, as well as his overall organizing work.
“I document the progressive youth movement, and I help create technology tools to keep the youth activists and organizers connected,” said matin. “We’re trying to do some thinking around what social and racial justice organizations should be looking for in technology.”
MyBLOC, the first website of its kind is the byproduct of the BLOC (Building Leadership, Organizing Communities) Network, a group committed to youth-initiated social progress. Generational Alliance, a collaborative of organizations, including the Movement Strategy Center, supports another first–a national database of youth organizations and organizers, the Future 5000 project.
In the age of MySpace and Craigslist, young people are accustomed to going online for just about everything–getting information, meeting new people and connecting with friends. MyBLOC and Future 5000 are now using Web 2.0 to organize a movement. These organizations face the challenge of developing web tools in such a way that doesn’t simply mimic those popular sites but addresses the specific needs and culture of young activists.
Kat Aaron, 29, is co-director of People’s Production House, a media justice organization working with young people in New York. PPH provides media training to young people who want to create an independent media that speaks to and reflects their culture and concerns. Due to the nature of PPH’s work, myBLOC is a particularly attractive alternative to MySpace.