One effort aiming to give Obama's millions of grassroots supporters post-election input into the 2009 leadership in DC is “Ideas for Change in America” from Change.org and MySpace. The effort launched November 24.
Visitors to either Change.org or MySpace can submit ideas on specific public policy areas, such as energy, the environment, and gay rights, as well as vote on their favorite ideas. The initiative will create a list of top 10 and top 100 ideas, which will be presented to an Obama administration representative prior to inauguration day, January 20, 2009, and supported by grassroots lobbying efforts by various partners, including Public Citizen and People for the American Way.
“With traditional grassroots lobbying, you get contacted maybe once to take some specific action or contribute money,” said Change.org founder and CEO Ben Rattray. “This keeps people actively and continually involved... The partners can leverage [their] existing resources with lobbying in Congress.”
Liba Wenig Rubenstein, the manager of MySpace's public affairs channel, Impact, noted that MySpace created a presidential debate site that helped shape some of the questions posed during the election season, and that same online public interest can now be directed at the new administration.
“We're in close touch with the Obama team and [know] they support this kind of public input,” she said. “But that's without knowing exactly how they're going to take these ideas and implement [them]...We know their priorities may change.”
EchoDitto principal and longtime Democratic political consultant Brian Reich said via e-mail that such attempts at “crowdsourcing” are a good first step at tapping into public interest and enthusiasm.
Another example is the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition that launched November 19 with the help of Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Starbucks, Sun Microsystems, and The Timberland Company. Partnered with the nonprofit Ceres, the group hopes to build a movement to press Congress to pass legislation that could stem global warming and energy inefficiencies.
“These are new names and faces speaking out [on the issue],” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. “[These are] not the usual suspects [of advocates], but some of the largest companies in the world.”
It hopes to promote renewable energy and green jobs, too, and Ceres and its partners are working to reach out to business and financial media, Lubber said.
The group will roll out a bigger launch, including additional company partnerships, in February once the new administration is in place.
Nicole Fallat, communications program manager for Starbucks, says the company is weaving the group's message into its CSR platform, Shared Planet, through 2009. It's working with AOR Edelman to reach out to key stakeholders in the Energy Committee and media, from consumer to CSR beats.
“To the debate on climate change and clean energy, we feel we're bringing a consumer brand voice,” she said, noting that Ceres added value to their ongoing environmental cause as a credible third-party. “Now we're trying to deliver on those promises so they don't fade away.”
Levi Strauss is also using its communications resources as a founding member of BICEP, doing media outreach and “leveraging our government affairs function [in DC] to really move the needle,” said E.J. Bernacki, director of corporate communications at the company. It also highlighted the program on its Web site and other plans are underway. He said that Levi's previous commitment to climate change issues made sense for the partnership.