Stanford Social Innovation Review
Road Map to a New World, Ann Christiano
As details emerged this spring about Cambridge Analytica’s mining of Facebook data to help manipulate elections around the world, it was easy to succumb to a feeling of powerlessness. It can seem insurmountable to drive change in an environment shaped by resources beyond the reach of anyone working to change the status quo. And yet, just as the public learned about Cambridge Analytica, a group of high school students from Parkland, Florida, captured the civic conversation on preventing gun violence. With few resources and without attachment to any organization, they have generated mass protests and brought millions of voices to bear on legislators and others whose decisions profoundly affect the availability of guns.
These two initiatives are more alike than they are different. Both are subverting traditional power structures to gain their own power and influence. One was extremely well funded, the other runs on the passion of grieving students. But both used the power of platforms to gain traction for their ideas.
New Power, written by Purpose CEO Jeremy Heimans and Giving Tuesday cofounder Henry Timms, helps us both to understand the moment unfolding around us and to navigate this new world. The term “new power” describes the participatory and peer-driven model of those who share control to drive influence. The authors liken it to an electric current, which is most effective when it’s channeled rather than hoarded. New power is characterized by radical transparency, a willingness to allow communities to reinvent or re-create content, shared control, and actionable ideas that people make their own rather than simply consume. It is not defined by social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, though ideas well designed to flourish in a new power world certainly transmit far more quickly on these platforms than through traditional and highly controlled media.