Late yesterday I spoke with a class in the Strategic Public Advocacy for Civil Society course at UNSW law school. They are lucky to have Joan Staples as lecturer – because she is one of the few people in Australia who understands these issues at both a deep practical level and at a theoretical level.
The class and I talked about the digital revolution and its impact on social activism. We covered topics such as wikileaks and the implications for activist groups, the risks of cloud computing, and some of the successful digital campaigns (such as Greenpeace’s Nestle action).
Meeting up with smart and thoughtful young people like this class always gives me hope for the future of our country and for the world. They asked a lot of insightful questions and hopefully the session gave them different perspective on digital technology and advocacy.
There was also a mention of the various #wonkdrinks that take place from time to time around the country. The funny thing about this discussion was one of the students asking what a wonk is. And then immediately followed the dawning realisation that most of the class were, in fact, wonks.
For the uninitiated a wonk is defined as:
“wonk (wongk) noun
An expert who studies a subject or issue thoroughly and excessively.
[Of unknown origin.]
This word is most often encountered in the term “policy wonk”. There are many speculations about the origin of the word, for example an acronym for WithOut Normal Knowledge, or the reverse spelling of the word know, but these claims are not supported by evidence.”
But for me the real sign of a political/policy wonk in Australia is whether they own or have watched the entire series of The West Wing and/or they regularly watch The 7.30 Report and Q&A on the ABC. Other wonk give aways are that they know the names of federal or state electorates and who is the sitting member; or the names and portfolios of ministers; or even of shadow ministers.
For those interested in #wonkdrinks you can follow on Twitter @wonkdrinks.
I also mentioned some of the social change and activist related meetups that happen around Australia, some of these include:
The Social Change Collaboratory
Social Innovation Sydney
NSW Wonk drinks
ACT Wonk drinks
(please let me know if there are any to add to this list)