Technology is now an integral part of our lives. Across the world, smartphone ownership has dramatically increased in the last five years. In America, 65 per cent of people have a mini computer in their pocket. To say it casually, smart phones are easy to come by and readily accessible to most people and organisations.
If you’re running a modern field campaign, it should be digitally integrated with the database and other online systems. Every phone call and doorknock should be input through a smart device (computer, smartphone, tablet) and each interaction logged in a highly technical sense. As a data person I could go on about the advantages of tracking log times and location data, but will save that for another post.
Cutting my teeth campaigning in the US, I remember printing hundreds of doorknock packets or phone lists. One campaign we outlined maps from the phonebook and xeroxed the different turfs for volunteers. Very rudimentary, but it worked. Since my first campaign eight years ago, many of these systems haven’t changed. Many US campaigners still use paper packets and will defend them on a variety of reasons.
But if you look at campaigns happening around the world, international campaign teams first decide to run field programs. They then jump immediately to what is the most efficient, flexible, and least resource intensive way to grassroots campaign. The answer is to use digitally integrated tools, like a mobile app for doorknocking or a web based integrated dialer. Here are the three reasons to run a digitally integrated campaign:
Paper requires a lot of handling. Someone to manage the printing process, how you sort and organise packets, and then the data entry after an activity. It all takes time and energy away from what volunteers and organisers should be doing: campaigning and talking to voters.
For Get Out The Vote programs, campaigns will often compare the list of whom has already voted with the outgoing doorknocks and phone lists. This process is still, in 2016, being done manually with a volunteer and a big black marker. Crossing out hundreds of voters statewide takes minimum over 10 hours. If we did it digitally, it would take one person an hour to compare the lists in Excel/SQL, remove the people who’ve voted, and then upload the updated data to devices.
Flexibility and More Capabilities
Technology introduces a whole range of campaigning possibilities, some which we know and are using and many which we have yet to discover. Some examples of these advancements is using GPS tracking of canvassers, survey branching during a conversation, or sending a follow-up email after you’ve had a conversation with a voter. These are only possible if you move the process online and into a digital space where it’s able to plug in with application programming interface (APIs), triggers, and webhooks.
Less Resource Intensive
Paper can get really expensive really quick on a campaign, and is a difficult resource to re-use (I’ve tried doublesided calls lists, they work until they don’t and then it is a mega problem). As first noted in this post, luckily a majority of people have smartphones in their pocket. I always recommend volunteers use their own device because they’ll be more comfortable with what they’re used to. If your organisation is planning on purchasing smartphones or other hardware, remember to check the processing power, battery life, screen size, and operating system to ensure it will work with your desired app. Try to test the actual app on the device before purchasing.
And these reasons hold true outside of field programs. Every part of a campaign should be online, synced and shared across team members to maximise the limited time heading into an election. Modern campaigns are being run with frankenstein-ed together digital systems that work for each unique project. There are hundreds of tools that do what is described above including Hustle, Organizer, Grassroots Solutions and NationBuilder to name a few.
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