These are groups of email addresses hosted in such a way to facilitate group communication. There are many ways to have a listserve and these vary by internet service providers and web hosting companies. One of the most popular these days is "YahooGroups". According to their description. this "is a free service that allows you to bring together family, friends, and associates through a web site and email group. You don't need to know HTML to create your own site. YahooGroups offer a convenient way to connect with others who share the same interests and ideas." Yahoo as a corporation is not attuned to progressive movements. A more progressive host for listserves and one used by hundreds of progressive groups is lists.riseup.net Both have similar features. Easy to sue instructions are usually posted on the host sites (e.g. http://groups.yahoo.com ),.
There are literally thousands of listserves. There are unfortunately no complete listings even for ones that deal with human rights and advocacy. A limited listing of key ones are found at http://democracygroups.org
Building the list requires outreach and networking. For building a local activist list, key organizers should have a sign-up sheets at each local event and also engage in basic legwork like asking people about who else might be interested. Activists also can scout local newspapers for letters and op-eds that fit within your area of interest and networking with the authors. But do not try to reinvent the wheels but rather see what groups already exist, and see if your interests are served by joining and volunteering with an existing community of activists. Some networking and coalition building among various activist communities can significantly enhance collective efforts. For building specialized but not necessarily local lists (e.g. an international group that deals with media coverage on a particular issue), the best source of additional members is networking over the internet and visiting areas (literally and in cyberspace) where such activists might be found. The rule of thumb is to go where people are and recruit them to your cause.
Literally thousands of groups start and fizzle within a few months. People lose interest, members can see increasingly irrelevant email messages or simply get overwhelmed by the volume of emails, and, the most damaging, is members bored by passive lists that do not get members to do things and act on the ground. Individuals need positive reinforcement and need to feel that their participation is making a difference. This places a burden on those with leadership skills to keep the list focused, keep it practical, and keep it from getting too "bulky." If a list gets too large and unfocused, perhaps it is time to rethink its mission and goals. Perhaps splitting it into "working groups" or committees may facilitate this.
The most important ingredient for success is maintaining action-oriented lists with translation of cyberactivism to action on the ground. Towards this goal it is important to keep the mission in perspective and set achievable goals for the group but also to provide good leadership and follow-up. The key to these successes is finding and nurturing activists working as teams. From action committees evolve good leaders/coaches who will take these committees to higher levels and advance in taking more responsibilities. Potential leaders should promote action and encourage development of democratic structures. The are encouraged to lead by example in developing actions. In the local action committees, this means: