For many Chicago-area nonprofit organizations and professionals, Meetup is a critical organizational tool allowing them to build and engage communities. (Meetup is also used by a variety of other organizations, and in the interest of full disclosure, I run two Meetups - one based on a television show, the other around coworking in Chicago). So when I recently read that the online service created Meetup Resist throughout the country, citing their own mission of bringing people together and building community, I was rather intrigued....
After all, Meetup has always been open about holding groups that were geared specifically towards building efforts. Meetup's recent social media postings have focused on social justice issues, so this seemed like a natural outgrowth of their mission. Of course, there are those who would foster the idea that Meetup: Resist is a form of "astroturfing", or adopting a grassroots effort to promote
...and that's when the complaints began. Meetup organizers openly complaining about how Meetup should "stay neutral" and not take on a political stance. Complaints that Meetup was using organizer money to promote political ideology, and that Meetup: Resist was merely an effort to deny the "other half" their voice.
It's ok to snicker. Because they're completely and utterly wrong on this point.
Now, Meetup is not beyond criticism. Like many other organizers, I get frustrated that Meetup sometimes puts the will of its nonpaying members over that of paying Organizers. Meetup poorly communicates changes with the platform with its organizers and members, leading to confusion. Plus, Meetup is playing massive catch-up with modern online community building - integration with other social media is adequate, but could use vast improvements.
However, Meetup Resist is taking advantage of an already-growing movement. For those who claim that ideology is a 50/50 split, I give you the 2016 election results. Looking at the numbers with basic math, half of any number is 50%, and 45% is less than 50%.
In addition, Meetup has always had "politically"-themed groups. In an effort to address this, I searched Meetup groups within 25 miles of Chicago. Two random screen captures reveal that yes, there are political groups outside of Meetup: Resist.
Here's another screenshot, and yes, I'm surprised there aren't more right-leaning Meetup groups:
But what most of the Meetup organizers crying "foul" are missing is that Meetup Resist is truly a mission-driven activity. After all, if Meetup were really astroturfing, they would hide the effort behind a new organization, claiming that is was grassroots. All Meetup: Resist provides is a way for like-minded people to meet. (And, after the usual trial period for most new groups, recruit organizers from within to pay for the Meetup service). Although I have many issues with Meetup as an organizer, Meetup: Resist is a great effort to engage people who are dissatisfied with Republican politicians who are overstepping their bounds.
(Think it's just a few? Why do you think so many Republican Senators and Representatives are avoiding constituent meetings? Please answer below in the comments).
For many nonprofits and other social change organizations, these are particularly dangerous times. Many people are discovering - or rediscovering - a strong sense of civic engagement and the greater community. Many are fortunate to find like-minded people; for others, Meetup Resist is an effort to give them one-stop to find their tribe. For "snowflakes", when you put them together under intense pressure, can become a projectile that can have a great impact. Quislings, on the other hand, fail to recognize that divisiveness is counterproductive, and that more people are finding the power of building a community.
Because strong, politically engaged communities really will make this country great again.
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