United States

Boston Action Tank - Updates


The Action Tank is an experimental "think tank" for social justice advocates to develop strategies and tools for shaping the media/communications future. Co-coordinated by CIMA & the [link::Organizers' Collaborative::http://www.organizerscollaborative.org], the new Boston Action Tank welcomes your ideas and collaboration!


Latest news from a practitioner-based "think tank"

Article Text: 

The BOSTON ACTION TANK: a social justice strategy lab looking at shaping the future of media and communications

project update, July 2008

Members of the Boston Action Tank joined the Grassroots Use of Technology Conference in Lowell, MA on Jule 28th and led a workshop on "Strategies for Shaping our
Media/Tech Future."

partnered with MayFirst/PeopleLink and
began with their Internet Rights Workshop
where participants collaboratively generated a list of Internet Rights.
The top "right" that emerged became the "long-term goal" that we used in
our session to introduce and explore some strategy/planning tools:
Theory of Change mapping (learned/adapted from
ActKnowledge --see also this tool-- and Power Analysis (learned/adapted from SCOPE and the Praxis

The Boston Action
Tank's goal is to develop our own long-term strategy thinking and
capacity for influencing the media future and to support our
communities, allies, networks and movements to develop theirs. We'll be
sharing more reflections on our emerging methods soon.

project overview, May 2008

In February 2008, a dozen social-justice media & technology activists came together to form
a new "Boston Action Tank" – a team of experts researching and
strategizing about the changing communications systems. Unlike typical
"think tanks," this is a collaboration of on-the-ground
practitioners, committed to producing tactical projects to strengthen our work,
and our movement.

As community media organizers,
communications strategists, independent journalists, digital artists,
technologists, media educators and producers, we and our allies know that the
future media environment will affect all our work for social justice and
community empowerment. We know we need to look up from the immediate day-to-day
to be able to strategically confront these changes.

We've begun by meeting together
and mapping out the trends, threats and opportunities we see before us. We are
looking 15, 20 years ahead in order to envision what can move us toward a better
future, and what can prevent further inequity, exclusion and exploitation in
media. The Boston Action Tank is both an opportunity to produce research and
tools to help the movement and also an experimental model that might be useful
in other communities. This model has been developed with the guidance of many
allies, including the members of the [link::Media Action Grassroots Network::http://mediagrassroots.net].

We held our second meeting in
March and identified three core areas we are concerned with:

  • increased and improved media education as popular education linked to
  • sufficient, sustainable funding and economics to support social justice
    media & organizing
  • media policy strategies that can build power and make systemic
    improvements for communities

Five of us facilitated a
workshop at the Women, Action and Media (WAM!) conference where participants
shared their visions of a "best case scenario" media future and how
we might work to make it a reality. We found the evolving ideas of the Action
Tank validated as the WAM group raised similar priorities. Several other
attendees in the workshop were national organizers who focus on media policy
and communications infrastructure and reported that the session helped them vet
their strategies as well.

On June 28, members of the Boston Action Tank will present a workshop
at the [link::Grassroots Use of Technology
Conference::http://organizerscollaborative.org/conference] in Lowell,
Mass, partnering with [link::MayFirst/PeopleLink::http://mayfirst.org]
and their collaborative democracy workshop.

The Boston Action Tank members
are working in small teams, using email, phone and online networking tools to
map out pilot projects that a group like us can pursue to make an impact.

We are considering the strategic possibilities of several projects we might undertake, such as:

  • materials to help develop advocacy campaigns on media policy or

  • tools for strategic decision-making on the use of
    commercial/corporate technologies & networks
  • curricula/workshops for strategic planning around changing media
    & communications systems
  • presentations to funders to shift how they resource media-change

The Boston Action
Tank is:

Marie Celestin, The GIRLS Project

Nettrice Gaskins, Mass College of Art & NAMAC

Tom Louie, Progressive Communicators Network

Yawu Miller, The Boston Banner &
The Public Policy Institute

Suren Moodliar, Organizers Collaborative

Denise Moorehead, Third Sector New England

Cara Lisa Powers, Media education organizer
Colin Rhinesmith, Cambridge Community TV

Ada Robinson, Boston Neighborhood Producers Group

Helen Sinzker, Brazilian Immigrants Center

Felicia Sullivan, Organizers Collaborative (coordination/support)

Aliza Dichter, CIMA (coordination/support)

The Boston Action Tank is
looking at the emerging future of media and technology with a
community-centric, social-, economic-, gender- and racial-justice agenda.

We will be working together for
the next 8-12 months, seeking input and collaboration from others. As we focus
in on the issues we want to tackle, we are reaching out to our communities,
allies and other experts in our networks for the knowledge and perspectives we
need. You may be hearing from us soon! The Boston Action Tank will be meeting
in person and online, participating in conferences and workshops, conducting
interviews, research and writing. We will share our progress at events and
online. We are eager for your ideas and input.

For all of us this is deep,
reflective work. Our focus is sharpening, and yet it takes time. We know that
some of our allies and advisors might be frustrated by the pace. But to get the
best thinking of people who are already overtaxed, we need to work in a way
that respects everyone's time and realities. To paraphrase a proverb: the work
is so urgent that we must proceed slowly.

Background: The Boston
Action Tank

In October of 2007, CIMA: Center for International Media
Action established a partnership with the Boston-based Organizers'
Collaborative (OC) to bring together community-based social justice activists
concerned with systemic and structural issues in the media/communications

With the dramatic shifts underway
in technology, economics and policy, and major infrastructure decisions under
debate, our aim is to strengthen the collective force of groups who can advance
a social and economic justice agenda for media and communications systems. We
want to work with community- and constituency-based leaders to identify what
that agenda should be, and what's needed to build plans that can win. We want
to explore a model of pro-active strategy development and movement-building
that can be useful and replicable in a local and national context.

Throughout 2005-2006, CIMA worked closely with MAG-Net
[link::Media Action Grassroots Network::http://mediagrassroots.net] in
developing these
ideas. We received inspiration and guidance from Fred Johnson of the
Working Group and the [link::Community Media & Technology
Program::http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/cmt/] at U Mass
Boston, as well as many other thoughtful advisors. Media activists and
educators around the US contributed to an extensive survey and planning
meeting, resulting in the report [link::Building a Media Justice and Communication Rights Movement::surveyreport] (by Rachel Kulick)

Based on the ideas from this planning, CIMA partnered with
the Organizers' Collaborative to pilot a strategy lab in Boston. CIMA and OC
spent several months identifying and reaching out to people who would be able
to work together over time, and who would be liaisons back to their own
communities, allies and peers, bringing other perspectives into the strategy
lab and sharing the work as it develops.

We are currently seeking funding to provide the Boston
Action Tank members with a budget to support their work, coordination and the
publishing, travel or other project components that the group develops.

CIMA: Center for
International Media Action works to strengthen the movement for media &
communications systems to serve social justice, economic justice and human
rights. CIMA helps build alliances, knowledge and strategies for structural
transformation in the media and communications environment. CIMA Website:

The Organizers’ Collaborative
(OC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that identifies and develops
low-cost, replicable technology, software, trainings, and networking events
that meet the organizing, outreach, and fundraising needs of small nonprofits
and grassroots groups. OC is comprised of community organizers and
technologists dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations and community groups
integrate technology into their work. OC Website:

Syndicate content