As civil society groups come to rely more and more on data from social media and other online outlets to see what the public is talking about and how they feel, it is critical for us to create and hold space for the ideas not already captured by online currents. Unfortunately, the internet isn’t a safe space for many, but campaigners and organizers can identify emerging or unaddressed issues across diverse communities by listening. When people cannot or will not come forward online with asks, civil society groups like 18MillionRising continue to serve the same people, despite dim awareness that there are others whose lives could be transformed through our advocacy.
How do we foster safer spaces online to build dialogue and relationships? How do groups who work online build trust with marginalized constituents? How can we avoid the trap of only listening “big” for ideas to gain momentum on their own, while we have the capacity to start the snowball ourselves, if we listen “small”?