Digital advocacy can be very powerful in affecting change

Charlie Angus gets it.

Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail writes  Marketing the aboriginal housing crisis:

The tragic tale of Attawapiskat grabbed the spotlight on the national stage only two weeks ago, but it was in rehearsal for six years.

In 2005, New Democrat MP Charlie Angus was trying to bring attention to the misery in Kashechewan, a Cree community on the shores of James Bay struggling with water-borne illnesses, when he came to a realization: People wouldn’t care unless they saw the evidence. So he orchestrated a press conference at Queen’s Park and released horrific photographs taken by doctors in the community.

It was when we came to Toronto with the pictures of the children that suddenly it hit home,” Mr. Angus explained on Friday. “Pictures always make the difference.”

Harnessing new technologies for a social justice end.

When Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency in late October, Mr. Angus knew he could go much further by leveraging a pair of tools that weren’t around in 2005: Facebook and YouTube. So, in early November, he visited Attawapiskat with a borrowed Flip video camera, shot some footage of the squalor, and uploaded a short piece to YouTube. “We didn’t think we wanted it [to run] any more than 10 minutes,” Mr. Angus said in a nod to the short attention spans of Web surfers.

Still, the success of getting Attawapiskat on the national agenda isn’t just about pictures and social media; it also reflects media savvy, a recognition of how to market a crisis, among both first nations leaders and Mr. Angus himself.

As a media owner, Charlie understands the new media’s power to inform and move an agenda.


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