The Importance of Organization

Question: What’s the key to grassroots mobilization?

Lisa Witter: Well anyone who wants to change the world, the first question you have to ask is what’s your goal and who’s your target audience and so the very first thing I would want them to think about is, you know, for the vast majority of causes it’s women who are really the ones driving the social change and now that we know through cognitive science that men and women are different, we’re really different and this has been a big hurdle for people to overcome because somehow admitting that women are different than men, somehow means to some people that we’re not equal and I think this wave of feminism, the one I’m in, third wave can recognize that you can be different and equal, that’s the next, you know, big feminist frontier. So first you have to recognize that for the vast majority of our work, women are the target audience, that’s not to mean that you exclude men but in marketing, there’s this principle called “The Long List Principle” and women are much choosier shoppers, we’re the tougher customer. So we may have a list of 12 things we really care about, and you just think about if you’re walking through the aisle of the grocery store, it’s women reading the back labels of the soup cans, we’re really detail oriented, we’re really sort of tougher customers to get. Men usually have very specific things they’re looking for, so if you can reach the women’s 12 things, you can also get the men’s 3 things that they care about, so it’s actually, you know, if you hit the she spot, people have asked me “What’s the she spot?” and I say it’s women’s heart and head, where typically women think of it-- when you think of women you think of their hearts like we’re soft and we’re mushy and we only care about that but it’s also, it’s our heart and head, we really put those things together. But if you hit the she spot, you can hit the he spot too, you know, and I think that’s really important. There are four major principles in connecting with women, one is care, women are deep with empathy, we tend to really care about the things that we’re involved in and to care about the planet. So when you communicate with women it’s important to tell real life stories, you know, when you watch Home Depot ads it’s about, you know, Jane Smith from Houston and how she’s building a new kitchen or a baby’s room. So tell real life stories, use humor, really, really important when connecting with women, use optimism, you know, you wanna communicate “I think I can” versus “The sky is falling” you know, think the little engine that could versus chicken little. That’s really important but don’t forget to leave out the details, women really wanna know the details of things. Some people will go with a really good story but then they won’t back it up with the details around the policy, so women are actually really looking for that. The second C is connect, women really want to connect to an issue, they really wanna connect to each other and so when you connect women to each other around a cause, you actually strengthen your brand. Corporations completely understand that, think of Avon for example, it was about, you know, connecting women through parties or Tupperware, they would connect women through parties so organizations who connect women to each other, totally strengthen their brand and this is what, you know, Hillary Clinton is doing and Barack Obama is doing is creating sort of these women groups, that’s really, really powerful. The next is cultivate, when it comes to raising money for an organization, a lot of people are like oh it’s men who write the big checks and while it’s true that a man will write a big check faster, it takes women a little bit longer to make a commitment but once they’re committed, they’re gonna stick with it to the long haul. So make sure that you think of a long term sort of fundraising or an advocacy strategy with women, that’s super, super important and women are twice as likely to pass on information as men. So you want women in your ranks because they’re gonna be instant sort of promoters of your cause and then the last C is control and this is really important, you know, women are-- we tend to be busier than men because by the time-- it’s interesting, by the time we’re 40 years old, 80% of us will have children, which means that most of us are taking care of kids and having a career. Some people aren’t, some people are doing it a little bit differently and even some of us are taking care of our parents and so we’re living pretty busy crazy lives but the last thing you wanna do is show her that she’s busy. Like she knows that she’s busy, you don’t have to remind her how busy she is but what you wanna do is provide her opportunities to get involved in your cause that creates a two for one. For example you want her to get involved in protecting the environment, why not give her a card that has all the different types of fish you can buy that don’t have mercury in it, so she can put in her wallet or why not allow her to buy a gift for someone on their birthday or for Christmas that also is a donation to your organization. Why not allow her to go online and get a shopping bag, a renewable shopping bag and then at the same time donate $5 to, you know, save the salmon. You need to think about ways to engage women that can get them involved that fits into their time schedule. Give women opportunities to do things with their children, online games, fairs, you know, they’re coming to their activism and their political work as full human beings so you wanna bring the family into that too.




Know your constituents before diving in, says Lisa Witter.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less