How databases can and should support mobilizing communities

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Facilitated by Progressive Technology Project

Session Description


Session Notes

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Notes by Amy Gahran

Session: How databases can and should support mobilizing communities

Is there some way organizations to share info across networks to achieve mutual goals.

for Progressive Technology Projgect (PTP) -- so far, they've been mostly focusing on CRM tools so ors can focus on relationships with constituents

attendees want to address: - Decentralized access to data - Data as a tool for creating meaning

Opening question: Decentralized access & Data: What are you trying to accomplish? - From there: How do you go from data to meaning?

Oakland, Center for Media Justice has big CRM program, it's a mess, no clarity about what to do with data. Partner ors have similar problems. That's common for nonprofits. - Lisa is trying to update CRM and data protocols, and also look at how ors they're trying to bring together network, how they can share and co-manage information - If ors have a shared political commitment, shouldn't they be sharing data as well. - Intl climate chg campaign, works at many level. - in 2011, focusing on US - Decentralized campaign, relies on volunteers - We have a good-sized base of local organizers, and a larger base of local supporters. We want to empower local organizers with data to build stronger local groups, without neck. opening up our whole CRM. - Also track new people coming into organization and how they get utilized, to build future leaderships - Ongoing campaigns plus distributed days of action (events in several cities, same day) - If you've already organized an event in your community, what next? Can you tap into a dataset to strengthen and deepen local networks?

Hand-in-hand with engagement ladder are implications for data access.

US Social Forum - Most of our data is in CiviCRM, hard to get to tiered granular access. - If you're on planning committee, you get data access. If you're not, you don't - This was a very political decision: We have a large chunk of data, who controls it? - The 1st US social Forum in Atlanta, 800-lb gorilla. We had huge dataset but didn't discuss who controlled or could access to it. - When data is owned by an ephemeral collection of organizing groups, how do you decide who controls what?

Focus so far in this session is about databases where organizations compile info about volunteers, supporters, donors, etc -- not really about data about communities themselves.

WP has a multisite feature to allow you to roll out new sites easily - 1 code in template for sites for new countries allow us to control permissions to data access. - you don't want to have a situation where people have to keep re-opting in to information/communication. You bug people very quickly & wear out your welcome - More like positioning most of data as open, public -- registering a session, contact e-mails, etc. - If you provide opt-in/opt-out options, boiled it down to just 3-4. More than that confuses people.

350 - Even opening your data up to part-time organizers around the world has been complicated, unexpected access issues. You have to start writing policies.

You want as much participation as possible, but when does too much participation work against you? Don't want to burn people out

Everybody gets to a point where they click on "unsubscribe," and you don't want to cross that line - But that's a fundamental problem with organizing. - But advantage is you don't actually have to show to local organizers the addresses of local recipient - Or build in approval requirements. - But look out for single points of failure -- like if there's one moderator for CA listserv, and he's backpacking for the next week.

Good tools that have solid ways of controlling that granularity? - Social forum built software that had this capability. No longer used, but model exists. - everything that got posted to the site got approved before it got there - Tiered protocols for escalation about approving content

Green Party NZ has been developing some of this, but it only releasing it to the Green Party, not other orgs.

CiviCRM could be updated to add these capabilities, but it would take a lot of work - And testing to see whether permissions, controls work in real time can be really freaking scary.

PTP is about to start working with a natl group that has 15K autonomous partners, all of who shares info up to the natl group. - Josue does a lot of mapping stuff, so we use geoRSS and take dots that are plotted, pull the feed. Maybe that might give some clues for how to share data.

don't want to create one big DB because that's a single point of failure. - More exciting to imaging groups having structured ways to share data among each other - a protocol of systems to allow people to request and share information - Rather than top-down data model. - Certainly google and FB have figured that out, but that tech doesn't seem to exist for organizing data

There was a project called MyBlock, social networking for activists - building open source social networking tools - But it didn't take off, dunno why - Maybe lack of resources, or complexity - Josue didn't like MyBlock. Too focused on individuals. Also, custom-built tool, not open source. Small dev team. Also they didn't do outreach and legwork. Very disappointing

It's so scary to test things things. - In nonprofit sector, need to have tolerance for failure. You need to fail if you want to have something good. - How can nonprofits share the lessons they learn from failure?


How do we take advantage of DBs to mobilize people? - It's hard and complicated - Problems lie in controlling who has access to what data. Keep it local, give the right ppl access to the right data - How do you ID the right tools to share that data, safe and efficient ways - You also need good methodologies: How do we work together as humans using these tools? - How are we getting our data out and accessible? Mapping helps make information useful.