Online to Offline Mobilization: Lessons from A Day Without Immigrants


Cosecha is a nonviolent movement working for protection, dignity and respect for all immigrants. In 2017, they organized a Day Without Immigrants, the largest immigrant-led day of action  in a generation. Through non-cooperation, boycotts and strikes Cosecha is changing the narrative of this country from “do we want illegal immigrants here?” to “we really need immigrants in order for this country to function.”

Thaís Marques, a Director at PowerLabs and the former digital organizer at Cosecha, recently shared her lessons learned in a webinar. Here’s three key lessons from her presentation.

Cosecha WhatsApp.png

Go where your people are -  In February of 2017, a graphic circulated widely on social media calling for a Day Without Immigrants and proclaiming “Mr President, without us and without our contributions, this country will be paralyzed.”  We don’t know who made the graphic, but it was square, a format perfect for WhatsApp. Thousands of immigrants participated in this action and businesses around the country were shuttered.

The spread of that image and it’s effectiveness caused the Cosecha digital team to shift their plans. They created square graphics that used similar design elements and asked their supporters to send to all of their WhatsApp contacts. Cosecha’s willingness to try different platforms and shift tactics based on results helped make the day of action a success.

Cosecha wanted to recruit older women as leaders of the day of action. As Thaís says “we all know that moms and grandmas get stuff done.” Thaís had the tough realization that traditional online recruitment tactics like petitions weren’t going to work with this demographic when she asked her mom to visit the Cosecha website. Her mom didn’t want to sign up because she didn’t understand why they wanted her name and email address. She didn’t trust it.

Instead of driving traffic to a petition page, Cosecha used Facebook Lead ads -- a mobile-friendly form that people can fill out without leaving Facebook. When a person clicks a lead ad on Facebook or Instagram, they see a form that's already filled with the contact details they've opted to share on Facebook, like their name, phone number and email address. After someone completed the lead form, Cosecha organizers followed up right away via text message and invited people to an orientation call.

Cosecha Facebook Lead ad

Reflect your target audience in your online materials -
  Thaís reflected on how immigrant moms post on Facebook and noticed that they often emphasized key words by writing them in all caps. She used the same format in Facebook ads. Cosecha also used images of moms and grandmas in their ads -- especially pictures of women participating in actions, having fun and being part of a community.

[graphic of May 1 timeline]

Move new people into action right away  - Cosecha held phone and webinar orientations to connect with people who signed up online and move them to offline action. On the orientation call, people would learn about the organization, learn the strategy and tactics and commit to participate in or lead an action. If they commited to lead, they were connected to a coach to support them.

They recruited people to these orientations via peer-to-peer text message conversations, phone calls and emails. They didn’t want to have people just sign up and then not know what to. Having actionable steps in place will help your movement grow and expand reach.  

Watch the recording above to get more tips for recruiting immigrants online and moving them to offline action.


When developing an email strategy, start with a wide net to reach a large number of individuals. Over time, tighten the net to hone in on the individuals who have committed to taking actions. Text messaging and Phone calls are an effective tool to bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds. Text messaging can help to reach even more individuals who may not frequent social platforms and/or check emails. Phone calls can help with reaching the elder community.  


Randall Smith is the founder of PowerLabs. He specializes in helping clients use design thinking processes to design and run people-powered campaigns.

Thaís Marques is a Director with PowerLabs where she focuses on using digital tools and tactics to reach communities of color and immigrants and move them into action-oriented teams. Prior to PowerLabs, Thaís led the digital program at Movimiento Cosecha. While at Cosecha she developed new models for recruiting undocumented immigrants through social channels and connecting them to the movement.


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