DevSummit07:eAdvocacy: Where We're At and What's Still Needed

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Facilitated by David Taylor, Radical Designs, Chris Lundberg and April Pederson, DemocracyInAction, and others

Tools for online organizing and activism continue to mature and evolve, but remains to be done.

This session will take a high-level look at "eAdvocacy" tools as they exist today. Without wasting too much time, the current breadth of tools will be described, followed by a brainstorm and prioritization on what "still needs fixing" (include comparison of the various platforms and respective features) before online organizers and campaigners can live in a "plug and play" campaign tool world.

Other possible topics include integration of emerging technologies such as VOIP/Asterisk, cell phones and SMS, and video into eAdvocacy tools. The vexing issue of email deliverability will also be addressed.

Notes from Session

What do we mean by E advocacy? What tools do people use? Let's name the space..

TYPES OF TOOLS for E ADVOCACY (excluding letter writing and faxing and things like that) (Chris's flip-chart notes of group brainstorming)

-Contact legislators

-Contact business leader or some other official [Chris interjects: Legislators make it really hard to contact them, often you have to subscribe to a service, etc]

-Contacting media

-static petitions - you sign your name to an existing document created by somebody else and then send that doc to the official... though many orgs use petitions to gather names of supporters

-Constituent communication - giving them information, driving action - eg event attendance

-Event Management

-House Parties (group members mention move on, and health care movement in canada)

-Day of Action; multi-organizational day of action; local folks hosted.

-Distributed Phone Banks = two people on the phone with a computer in the middle (but everyone isn't in the same physical phone bank location; like what moveon did last election)

-Phone Messaging + (phone messaging that includes the constituents name, maybe other info - snakes on a plane example)

-CMS/Blogs (information distribution over the web)

-online volunteer recruitment and management (might include a CRM)


-Video (youtube,

-intended viral (meatrix, store wars)

-social networking (recruiting tools- Simon mentions )

-More campaign/Get out the Vote tactics: *Walk Lists (David and Simon mentioned bar coded docs for faxing in) *Tell a friend

-Content aggregation; Laura: "A portal for the cause" ; David: we build research databases a lot - eg a mercury calculator for fish. It's a data driven tool related to information and research

-pure data

-data mining eg opensecrets = an organization that does data mining that is advocacy centered.

-scorecard (rating your legislator thumbs up or down based on voting record)

-voter guide

-"Share your story" sarah at Database Designs created it, users/visitors/constituents upload pictures and text about their personal experiences and they get rotated on campaign/non-prof website


-anything that is geocoded

-search engine abuse/optimization (example of victoria's dirty secret)

Thoughts from group

Simon: Creating opportunities for volunteers - providing a tool that will allow them to do something worthwhile - Images coming in from mars - they made it like a game so anyone can go online and play around with circling craters, etc. - they saved a lot of money. "Giving people a way to do clickworking on their own"

David: Green Media Toolshed - they're trying to replicated the national media database.

Laura: Mechanical Turk (on amazon) - a framework for building applications, as well as a user interface.

David: "Things that computers can't parse that are piecemeal but only humans can do it"

David: What organizer tasks can be moved into an electronic form? Always better to look at your organizing tactic first and then figure out which tools fit in.

David: idea: get a CRM to send emails out to people who are in your 'phone tree'

Sarah: even better if the phone callers had to log in

(David - idea for building an interface that hooks into all of your different social networking programs)

David: example of E Advocacy workflow for a National Day of Action 1) sign up to be a host 2) get an email 3)sign them up for a conference call 4) send out customizable press releases ... 5)have the national day of action 6)ppl call in on their phones to report back on day of action ... that's using 8 or 10 of these and creating a workflow process

Q: Is there somewhere to go and see workflow recipes?????? the e-advocacy cookbook wiki. David and Laura said they'd do it! They will make the E ADVOCACY COOKBOOK

David: "Victoria's dirty secret" - would always be #2 or #3 - great example of search engine optimization

David: we need a list of tactics- like influence, mobilize, educate and inform, outreach, recruit, build bases and/or coalition building, get out the vote

Chris: "the ladder of engagement"

Simon: my vision is moving everyone just one step up the ladder, not necesarily aiming to get someone up the whole ladder overnight

-Someone mentions that really big NGOs only do big emails ands forward, Chris says that this is true because those orgs are afraid to take the risks involved in using more user-oriented e advocacy tools

David: a while ago the structure of field campaigns really changed. some got outsourced to PIRGS, etc. Now, people are trying to go back to the earlier model. EG Greenpeace - in the last 10 years, after they started doing the E-organizing and got people interested started wanting to develop local chapters, houseparties, etc. Using E advocacy to jump start solutions to jumpstart a new model of local field campaigns. in short use online tools to make offline organizing easier

But someone says what about using online tools to do stuff you can only do online?

Alisa: online advocacy should more than e advocacy email lists.

Chris: One email address is worth one dollar

SO - the question that emerges is "WHAT'S NEXT AFTER AN EMAIL BLAST"?

Liz from Code Pink says it is a lifeline/great way to get folks to make phone calls to congress.


So where to go from here??

Laura : people need training. don't know what's out there. SO we need a cookbook

David: Also people don't know a lot about CRMs

Omar: Once this cookbook is done, can we organize it by topic, theme, etc. and organization profiles.

Laura: progressive exchange list serve IS AMAZING!

David: need more case studies

Consensus that we need independent organizing tools; to "decentralize" tool access; "Affinity group based"

Liz: Skype chat groups! She went online and got in a chat group about world issues - it's kind of like a radio show - she was talking to a guy from argentina, australia, and israel at the same time.

Chris: Email bartering/marketing = you promote my thing, i'll promote yours

Chris: mentions Brave New Theaters - houseparty tool for indy film built by Jim Gillean (also brave new films)