May 5, 2023
DPI Organizing Lab
Making Data and Tech Work for Organizers - DPI Digest
This newsletter highlights a roadmap for needed investment in state and local data infrastructure that will pay huge dividends for our movement and for winning change for our people over the long term.
Mongoose Strategies

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

Key Findings:

  1. Activists’ data, and therefore power, are getting lost between disintegrated tools. Not being able to reliably match and identify activists, especially between tools, leaves data siloed even when it is all in the same data warehouse. This leaves organizations in a position where they cannot create authentic continuity in the relationship with their activist base, and they end up losing their most precious resource: people. Even those groups who have seen some success with integrating their data struggle taking it to the next level, like “understanding a member’s journey” across all of their tools and programs, as one organizer described it.
  2. No 360 degree view of programs. Since data is split between different tools, it is nearly impossible to see relationships and action-taking across programs. As a result, independent programs fly blind, inadvertently siloing their relational organizing, canvassing, phone banking, texting, and digital organizing. This has consequences throughout an organization, including inefficient engagement and difficulty capturing learning to improve program in real time.
  3. Fragmented and churning tool landscape: There are so many tools with overlapping purposes, and the major tools in use change so frequently that the data and tech hubs cannot keep up with automated integration. Organizations may be choosing between a half dozen peer-to-peer texting tools, at least two major and many more digital constituent relationship management (CRM) systems, four or more voter registration and early voting form tools, and a host of relational voter turnout apps. The shifting tools landscape has consistently failed to deliver program value to on-the-ground groups and requires organizations to spend significant amounts of staff time on understanding and navigating the tools landscape. Many organizations expressed regret over tools decisions they felt forced into making–by national partners, funders, or simply because they did not know of other options–without sufficient understanding of the consequences.
  4. Unclear roles and little accountability between national networks, hubs, vendors, and on-the-ground groups: Multiple, overlapping affiliations between organizing groups and national networks, hubs, and vendors lead to frequent confusion about who is responsible and able to solve problems and get work done with tools and integrations. Without accountability, even needs like trying to move data from a single tool to a data warehouse–a project that should be relatively easy and routine- is nearly impossible.

At this juncture, we need a new era of funding and innovation driven by organizers that will power real-time data sharing and enable the organized recruitment, development, and deployment of activists and leaders, shepherded by the community and not just a single for-profit vendor. Our society needs strong, bottom-up, people-led movements that build community, legislative, and electoral power. To foster that, we must invest in both national and local organizations and solutions. As we move into the next funding cycle and prepare for the next presidential election, funders, organizational leaders, and the community at large should focus on addressing these challenges.

Summary of Recommendations:

  • Efficiently and sustainably supporting state and local organizing groups. Through a focus on replicating what’s working and investing in cohorts of similar organizations, we can build on our existing successes. Similarly, we should implement an explicit focus on data and tool integration. Funders can solicit proposals from organizers on what will be most helpful for them. National networks and hubs need to collaborate on solving the issues of overlapping membership and vendor accountability, with an eye toward streamlining the experience of state and local affiliates when they need assistance.
  • Developing the skills and leadership of data practitioners for higher-level data management and program analytics in organizing and political programs. We can do this by requiring that consulting and vendor engagements (and any other contracts that are intended to boost state and local capacity) include specific metrics around learning and knowledge sharing. We can also invest in state-based training programs. There should be consideration given to hiring senior advisors and senior analysts at state and national tables to directly support state groups.
  • Improving the interoperability of core progressive data and tech systems. Major stakeholders across the progressive ecosystem should convene to discuss the possibilities of developing movement-wide API and data standards. Hub organizations and national networks should develop a set of standards and practices to ensure that, whenever possible, data exchanged between systems include the specific source of the data and its unique ID. Vendors who don’t meet this requirement should be down-weighted.

Using our collective power to hold the tools ecosystem accountable to the needs of long-term organizing groups. This can look like national hub organizations requiring timely and robust syncing and user support in their contracts with tools and vendors. Wherever possible, funders should not mandate the use of a specific tool when making grants and other funding decisions, particularly if a grantee does not already use the tool. Funders and their grantees should mutually decide which tool(s) will best achieve programmatic goals. Accountability mechanisms should be set up with consistent service level agreements.

See the Surveying the Landscape of Data Integration for State and Local Organizing Groups Report

Watch Briefing on Data Integration in States (passcode: &i^r2@9d)

Related Research

URL Link
May 24, 2023
Briefing on Data Integration in States
Watch the full briefing on Data Integration in States: Challenges and Solutions, authored by Carter Kalchik, a longtime leader in the data, tech, and campaign strategy space. This research documents the challenges base-building groups face with the current set of movement tech tools and suggests some systemic solutions
May 1, 2023
Surveying the Landscape of Data Integration for State and Local Organizing Group
This report documents the challenges base-building groups face with the current set of movement tech tools and suggests some systemic solutions.