There is power in numbers, you’ve heard it before. Large sums of people banding together to do a deed not possible by the few. But it isn’t just a numbers game. Any goal-oriented effort needs coordination in the form of a leader or a tool to funnel a disparate group energy into a game-changing focus.
I recently watched a Buzzfeed video on Facebook where a small crowd of people were trying to figure out how many of them — men and women mixed — it would take to lift a 2,700-pound automobile completely off the ground. They started, comically, with just one person and added others after each failed attempt. At 19 people, two tires had remained touching the pavement, so they added four more bodies to the team. They failed again. Did they lack the muscle? Nope. Their effort was simply uncoordinated. One of the Buzzfeed team observed that they were not lifting at the same time — not at exactly the same time. He instructed the lifters to listen more carefully to the 1, 2, 3 count and to focus their maximum effort specifically on the word “three” instead of on the beat that followed. They practiced their timing several times without lifting and then tried once more. This time, all four tires lifted a couple of inches off the ground for several seconds.
What made the difference in this example is what we can call collective power: the summing of each individual’s strength at the exact moment when it is needed, versus the distributed power of a full-strength, yet offset, lift effort where the maximum force is never great enough for success. Here we see the brute force of big numbers is important but so is a group’s concerted effort. Social revolutions happen in this way. Whether they succeed or fail can be a matter of a group’s power of the collective or of the more distributed, hence dissipated, nature.
Volunteering with Ten Thousand Eyes
At the Monadnock Humane Society, using Ten Thousand Eyes — a lost pet reuniting strategy that equally combines the power of technology and the power of the pet-loving people of the Monadnock region via a website, tenthousandeyes.org, and database — we want to experiment with a related phenomenon (similar to what happened in the above example) in an effort to reunite lost pets and their families.
There are two main components to the model:
1. The brute force of a “standing army” of volunteers numbering 5,000 or more.
2. The organizing, collective power of the internet and the ubiquitous use of computing devices to immediately inform our volunteers of newly posted missing pets and rouse them in a call to action.
Like in the example of lifting the car, we first need enough TTE Micro-Vols to provide the overall brute force of so many informed eyes looking out for lost animals and their quick action if it is needed. Timing is crucial because the length of time a pet is wandering has an alarming effect on it ever being recovered. After only five days away from home, the chance of a cat being reunited with its owner is less than half what it was after the second day. A dog’s chances are a little better.
Our volunteers agree to receive an email from us — no more than one in a single day — announcing all pets lost within the last 24 hours and their last known location. A link in the email leads to the lost animal’s photo and other critical information needed to identify the wayfarer. Also, each pet’s post contains a link to contact the owner directly or to contact MHS. Once a “spotter” connects with a likely owner by email, the two may continue to correspond, trading updates.
All volunteers receive the email alert at the same time — basically the 1,2,3 count — they’re asked to look at the post(s) and as they go about their daily routine, to maintain a heightened level of awareness about these lost animals. As a volunteer, your role can be as active as you want it to be. Paste the missing pet information into your social media page. Click the share link on the missing pet information card to forward an email to a friend. Take a walk in an area where one of these pets has been reported missing (bring your smartphone for a positive identification check). Of course, even non-members can check tenthousandeyes.org at any time, though they won’t receive those friendly email nudges from TTE.
The numbers mission
With the organizing technology in place, our aim now is to increase the number of our Micro-Vols from 400 to 5,000 within the next two years, and to keep going from there.
Here’s how you can participate: Donate your eyes by joining the MHS/TTE Micro-Vols and take a healthy walk now and then while keeping your eyes peeled. See what happens!
Note: This is something you will feel good about, it isn’t hard work, and it is a certified MHS social-distance activity. It takes only about a minute or so to sign up at tenthousandeyes.org and we promise, you’ll have all available missing pet alerts on your device early in the day, to browse while savoring that first cup of morning coffee.