Monday, August 29, 2016

Part Two: So You Want to be a Space Advocate?

Defining Advocacy

                   By Chuck Black
An earlier version of this article was presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress, which was held in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, 2014.
It's thesis is that successful advocacy requires: 
  • Strong media skills able to define the problem, craft a compelling narrative and define appropriate solutions 
  • A mechanism to move the narrative forwards by solving the defined problem using those previously identified solutions.
  • A funding network willing to pay for the costs associated with the campaign.
The question of whether or not those three conditions apply in our current aerospace and space environment is open for debate. 

It’s worth noting that advocacy, a “political process by an individual or group which aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions,” is still advocacy whether or not the final goal being worked towards relates to space activism, civil or political rights, environmentalism, building a museum collection or some other outcome. [i]

The methodologies used to “influence public policy and resource allocation decisions,” or set up a new curriculum at a local community college are also more than sufficient to encourage the exploration of the high frontier. Even better, these methodologies are also generally pretty standard and reasonably well understood.

No rocket ships here, but still useful. The cover of “The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide EVER!” Cover graphic c/o Green Memes.

An example of current advocacy methodologies is “The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide EVER!” Compiled by Green Memes, a US based environmental justice activist organization, the booklet bills itself as “a practical handbook for those who want to leverage social media for social change.” [ii]

And while there are no rocket ships or references to Buzz Aldrin on the cover, the booklet contains a surprisingly large number of pretty obvious observations and suggestions of use by advocates of any stripe. Examples include:
  • Our objective is building movements for social impact. Clicks, likes, donations, (and) even actual organizations are just means to that end, and it’s the end toward which we’re working.
  • Social change begins with strategy. Rarely in history have movements been truly spontaneous.
  • … nearly always, it’s been the often-unseen strategic work of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Trying, failing, and trying again, until all of a sudden it seems inevitable.
  • Nor are social networks new, of course — the only difference is that some of these networks are now made visible online. Strategies hashed out in the homes of workers during labor movements, black churches in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, gay bars in LGBT movements, and college campuses in student movement have plenty to say to us today[iv]
But the booklet doesn’t just regurgitate platitudes. It’s thesis is that the first step in any successful advocacy is the crafting a compelling narrative which outlines the problem, drives reactions for change and paves the way for solutions. As outlined in the booklet:
What do you remember about the civil rights movement in the 60s in the South? Really, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? 
Now, I’m going to take a gamble here and say that the first thing you remembered when you read the question above was a story about someone, or a group of people, doing something brave—rather than voter registration statistics, or desegregation rates or the like. I suspect you remember Rosa Parks refusing to give up a seat, students being harassed as they integrated a lunch counter, Freedom Riders making their way across the South, or Martin Luther King Jr. at the pulpit.
Rosa Parks on the bus in 1956, one day after a US Supreme Court ruling desegregating public transportation in Montgomery, AL. As outlined in the December 1st, 2015 CNN post "Remembering Rosa Parks," she became a symbol of the modern civil rights movement "when she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1st, 1955 after refusing to give up her seat in the black section of a city bus to a white passenger."  Photo c/o CNN.
That’s because stories are the essence of human communication and relationships, containing our collective memory and values. That makes them a core part of movement building.
Personal stories aren’t just how we remember successful social movements —they’re the connective tissue that links a movement together. Stories are both the inspiration that brings people to a movement, and the substance of the relationships that hold people to it once they’ve joined. Telling the stories of the people you work with is one of the most important ways you can use social media to strengthen your organizing.” [v] 
In essence, the narrative is the glue which ties any specific advocacy together into a coherent whole. And space focused activities over the last 50 years have also been crafted into compelling stories. Examples include:
  • 2001: The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey by Frederick I Ordway III and Robert Godwin - Despite over 30 years of advances in space flight and movie-making, it is still 2001: A Space Odyssey which most fans, film makers and critics use as the yardstick against which all other space films are measured. Take a trip through more than eleven decades of film to learn just how far the movie pushed the state of the art and how it continues to affect both motion pictures and the space program. [vi]
  • An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield - A guide to becoming an astronaut and the fun of living off planet from a man with quite a bit of first hand expertise at doing both. Hadfield shares exhilarating experiences and challenges, from his 144 days on the International Space Station (ISS). [vii]
  • Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek - Why did a government program whose standard operating procedure had always been secrecy turn its greatest achievement into a communal "brand experience" with top media ratings and high public approval? Read this book and find out. [ix]
Not all story tellers are historians. An example would be American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer Walt Disney, shown on the left with German/American aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun in an undated 1950's file photo. Von Braun, along with Disney and others, created a compelling 1950s narrative showing how military rocketry could be re-purposed for exploration, science and the benefit of mankind. In the 1960's Von Braun went on to build the rockets which landed men on the Moon.
  • Sex and Rockets by John Carter with an introduction by Robert Anton Wilson - For those of us who think rocket science is boring, here's the incredible but true story of scientist, poet, and self-proclaimed anti-Christ, Jack Parsons, who co-founded the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), led the Agape Lodge of Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and even bore more than a passing resemblance to Iron Man's father. Scary, scary stuff... [x] 
  • Soviet Space Culture: Cosmic Enthusiasm in Socialist Countries by Eva Maurer, Julia Richers, Carmen Scheide & Monica Rüthers - An interesting historical examination of the Soviet space program as a unique cultural phenomenon, which united communism and religion to the utopian and atheistic during the period from the first Sputnik launch to the mid 1970's. [xi]
Oddly enough, most of those compelling narratives were written by historians who weren't so much concerned with changing the future as they were with chronicling the past. But an advocate would want to drive this compelling narrative forward in real time towards real change.

How that happens, will be the subject of the next post.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

[i] “The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide Ever,” Edited by Megan Kelley & Joe Solomon at Accessed August 29th, 2016.  
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid. 
[iv] Ibid. 
[v] Ibid.
[vi] “2001: The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey” by Frederick I Ordway III and Robert Godwin. Griffen Media, 2010. 
[vii] “An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth” by Chris Hadfield. Random House of Canada, 2013. 
[viii] “The Atomic Rockets of the Space Patrol website” by Winchell D. Chung et al. at Accessed August 29th, 2016. 
[ix] “Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program” by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek. The MIT Press, 2014. 
[x] “Sex and Rockets” by John Carter with an introduction by Robert Anton Wilson. Feral House, 2005. 
[xi] “Soviet Space Culture: Cosmic Enthusiasm in Socialist Countries” by Eva Maurer, Julia Richers, Carmen Scheide & Monica Rüthers. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Last Week: An Introduction to our Changing World as Part One of of "So You Want to be a Space Advocate" begins!

Next Week: Varying the Characters and Narrative to Move the Story Forward as Part Three of "So You Want to be a Space Advocate" continues!

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