SXSW: Taking a Moment and Turning It Into a Movement

Cammie Croft, Amnesty International USA’s deputy executive director of digital and strategic communications, speaks at South by Southwest March 13, 2015, in Austin, Texas.
Julie Walker

When the hashtag stops trending, what can be done to continue the movement? That was the topic tackled at the panel “When a Moment Becomes a Movement” at South by Southwest on Friday in Austin, Texas. The session was led by Cammie Croft, Amnesty International USA’s deputy executive director of digital and strategic communications.

#BlackLivesMatter is the perfect example of a moment becoming a movement, said Croft. It was the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, as well as developments on the ground, that got Amnesty to send a team to Ferguson, Mo., to monitor police during last summer’s protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown. Croft told the audience that it was the first time her organization had ever sent human-rights observers to a city in the United States.


When it comes to sustaining the movement, Croft said, “We are still watching, we are still shining a light and not going to go away.” That, she said, is the mantra for a multitude of causes they get involved in.

Other ways to advance a movement are to “define your theory of change and what you want to accomplish and achieve,” said Croft. She told the audience this should be done as concisely as possible. Think of 140 characters of a tweet, or even think of it as an elevator pitch. “A bunch of those, over time, builds to a movement. Sometimes it happens very quickly, sometimes it’s a long haul,” said Croft.


Amnesty is working on a number of social tools to help facilitate human-rights-abuse reporting, which would, in turn, lead to more people getting involved in movements. One is a citizen-evidence lab that lets Amnesty document and verify video of human-rights abuses. Another is the idea of an app or program similar to Snapchat that would let a user send a message regarding human-rights abuses that would then disappear from the user’s phone in case he or she were taken into custody, or the person were in a hostile environment where that information might be used against him or her. 

Also on The Root from SXSW: “SXSW: How Black Twitter Is Changing the Narrative of Black Stories

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