One of the problems with the peace movement is that it rarely measures itself. There are few metrics that point to the effectiveness of our work. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- It’s hard to measure, often our sucesses will be invisible;
- Measuring might show donors that favorite organizations aren’t that influential;
- We might realize we need to re-vision our work to speak to today’s conditions rather than continually try to re-create a “golden age” of peace movements past;
- We might have to really broaden our coalitions and invite new organizations in.
Each peace movement group is an entity unto itself. But they are also all parts of networks with other groups. Sometimes these networks are given names and membership is formally listed. But more often the networks are informal associations of like-minded organizations who have shared history, staff and past movement organizing together.
The friendships behind these informal alliances can often be a strength to overworked staff people who can easily feel discouraged. But it also means they all turn to each other too much, and an effect which the military calls “incentuous amplification” can occur. The heads of established peace groups will all talk only to the heads of other peace groups to affirm each other’s importance. Meanwhile new groups are locked out of this buddy system.
Luckily the internet has given us a way to measure these networks. If each established peace group is thought of as a “node,” then its importance is a reflection of it’s connections to other networks and to other nodes. Web search engines can measure how many links each organization’s has with other organizations.
Here at the Nonviolence Web, we prefer to use Altavista for this measurement. A properly-constructed search query on Altavista will return the number of links to the site’s homepage and to all of it’s sub-pages while not including the site’s own links to itself. Here’s the search string:
The numbers reflect just how widely our organizations are linked to other organizations and where we fit in the larger networks. Here’s how I’ve translated it for peace movement groups:
- Under 100 links: unknown group, probably a single individual’s pet project;
- 100 – 500 links: a small group, respected by its limited core audience but little known outside it;
- 500‑5000 links: a well-respected group thought of as the most primary source for a particular type of activism but little known outside the established peace movement;
- 5,000 – 8,000 links: an important peace organization, well known and respected outside it’s core community;
- 8,000 – 15,000 links: a well-known group even outside the peace movement, one widely recognized as being a hub of information.
- 15,000 links: a widely-known organization such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace.
Knowing where we all stand acts as a good reality check for our ambitions. Each organization is strongest when it knows its core reputation and bases its future work on a level-headed assessment of strengths, opportunities and weaknesses. We can be visionary and strategic —- indeed we must be to bring nonviolence to the world! —- but we must also be sure not to squander donors’ money.
One obvious caveat: most peace organizations don’t focus on the internet. A low ranking doesn’t mean that their work isn’t important or useful. Internet links are only one measurement, one that needs to be taken in context. Still: when an individual or group links to our pages it does represent a sort of endorsement, a indication that they identify with the work we’re doing. The linker is telling others that this is a peace group they think their visitors should know about. We ignore these endorsements at our own folly.