As an entrepreneur, strategic communications professional, and policy wonk, I've worked on social innovations in the for-profit and non-profit world, helping to develop campaigns and solutions to social and natural resource challenges.

I'm constantly tracking and analyzing what make us as humans, inspired to act and respond to new ideas. This is where I share my thoughts and notes. 

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Wednesday
Oct032012

Inspired to Act: Demand a Plan

On an evening when many Americans were following the answers given in the first Presidential debate, a group of 725 Republicans, Democrat and Independent mayors led by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and survivors shooting incidents, were asking both candidates for an answer to a question that wasn't raised; what are the Presidential candidates' respective plans to address guns and gun violence?

During a period of time in the news cycle when many issues are on the table for discussion, a new TV ad/PSA from Mayors Against Illegal Guns was released on the evening of the first Presidential debate as part of Demand a Plan. Demand a Plan is a campaign attempting to gain attention on a question that neither candidate, the mainstream media, or even Wednesday night's debate moderator, has elevated to a top level Presidential campaign issue. Considering the heightened level of awareness from the recent incidents of gun violence, the request for some answers by the mayors and these victims isn't too much to ask. 

A number of important elements are at play in helping this campaign to inspire people to act.

First, a compelling story from a unique voice. Stephen Barton, a survivor of the Aurora shooting is a "recent Syracuse University graduate and Fulbright Scholar who was shot in an Aurora theater as he was biking across the country."

Second, timing. The ad comes just two months after Colorado's Aurora massacre and released during the first Presidential debate, being held just miles from where the shooting took place.

The next important factor of the campaign is that it takes a balanced and reasonable approach to what has traditionally been a difficult issue for politicians and citizens to work through. Ultimately the ask is simple, come up with a plan to address the issue. Not a call to ban all gun ownership, just a plan to address gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Fourth, the campaign has a statistic and message the opens minds and gives people pause; "48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during next President’s term." While some see critics see this as a relatively small number, preventable gun violence has a dramatic impact on civil society, whether it be by taking one police officer's life or of 12 innocent movie-goers.

Lastly, and most importantly the campaign has an immediate way for people to act, to respond to the video - demandaplan.org and an online petition. This site also provides the ability to automatically send tweets to each candidate about the issue. In the online world, where immediate critical mass counts, these elements will be the most important to raise awareness at a time when attention is focused on a lot of other issues. 

Sure, every campaign has a website, but this campaign's site does a good job of immediately capturing those interested in getting involved. Already, the effort is starting to stir up commotion across the spectrum. While TV advertising has the potential to make some impact in an issue advertising saturated television market, the online side of this has the greater possible upside for earning supporters. 

Although the mayors' Facebook page has just over 5,000 likes, the organization has a big base of support. They've collected over 250,000 signatures to their petition. In August, Demand a Plan delivered a petition with 150,000 signatures to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder calling on President Obama and Governor Romney to offer a concrete strategy to fight gun crime. That's a jump of 100,000 people in a month, not huge, but it'll be interesting to see what happens after this ad run. 

What the Demand a Plan campaign could potentially do, and is positioned to do now with this well timed and effective PSA, is push a non-partisan issue and question back into the national debate. While the question might not have an easy answer, it's clear a lot of people think it needs to be asked.

Maybe when that happens, then everyone might be inspired to act in someway, offer their own plan, or ask what the best approach is. Including the debate moderators and as a result the presidential candidates.

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