Snowmen for human rights | Into the ether | 9 Feb 2009 | Amnesty International UK

Snowmen for human rights

Snow, snow, snow. I know it’s all anybody has talked about all week but I’d like to chip in with Amnesty UK’s own snowy adventure.

As some of you may know, we’ve been getting quite into Twitter of late (along with everyone else and his dog) and have been using our slowly growing network as guinea pigs whilst we trial the idea of offering all of our followers one small way to help, every day. The idea is simple, if we have 1000 plus followers, and each of them has between 10 and 100,000 of their own, when we post an action its potential impact is huge. This is good news for human rights.

Some of the actions we’ve been trying out have been fairly standard. You know the sort; send an email, sign the petition, and so on. Sometimes they’re more about getting the word out and just occasionally we have the chance to do something that is a bit more fun.

So back to the snow.  London ground to a halt and our office was shut. As I started to work from home, all I could think about was the ankle-deep blanket of the stuff sitting just outside my front door. What excuse could I possibly have to play in the snow whilst working? Then it dawned on me. Snowmen for human rights.

I was half-joking when I emailed the rest of the team, but a quick collective approval sent me into action. Having been following the #uksnow tag on Twitter since the previous night, I knew that was my first port of call.

The reaction to the idea was fantastic and within a few hours we were in the top three most re-tweeted posts on Twitter. A first! From there the idea snowballed (excuse the pun), messages were sent on Facebook and members of the team headed out to their local parks to see what they could rustle up.

It wasn’t until the next day, when we made it back into the office, that a few photos began to emerge. After they were uploaded to ProtectTheHuman.com, I excitedly shared them on Twitter.  The Guardian then picked up on the idea and mentioned it in their live snow blog.

This, to me, is a great example of why Amnesty and Twitter can be a great match. It gives us a space to be part of conversations we otherwise wouldn’t be, as well as the chance to engage our supporters in new ways. Whilst this action wasn’t a direct one, the effect was a growth in our network. This means that the next time we have an urgent action; the number of people taking action and sending an email will hopefully increase.

We’re already seeing the effect of this in cases such as that of Larry Ray Swearingen and Bahman Salimian. Both were due to be executed and in the final 24 hours before their execution dates we asked our network on Twitter to send an email calling for them to be halted. The reaction was fantastic and around 400 emails were sent across the two cases with both being granted a last minute stay. Whilst the emails might not have been the deciding factor, they could have been, and as the volume of emails we can send at a moments notice increases, so does the effectiveness of our campaigning.

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