Civic technology

Wholistic Campaign Software, Data, and CRM

My post in response to Harish’s over at EchoDitto regarding data, CRM, and wholistic campaign software.

Great thread Harish.

To my mind the problem begins with the traditional firewalls of power and information in Democratic campaigns. Field, Political, Communications, Policy, Correspondence, and Fundraising don’t talk to one another much, and cloister information in order to accrete and retain power within the campaign. Furthermore, power and budget flow sequentially from fundraising at the beginning of a campaign to policy to political to field etc. as we draw closer to election day. Traditional commercial technology vendors to Democratic campaigns have typically developed, understandably, focused tools and services geared towards meeting the needs of and winning business from one of these departments.

Ushering in a new era of wholistic campaign technology would require, among other things:

-development of a great open-source highly scalable CRM system at the core

-integrated and fully productized and supported toolsets that leverage this CRM system and that meet the traditional needs (e.g.: voter file systems, donor tracking, web CMS, etc.) of each Department at least as well as today’s stand-alone tools do

-vendors that are willing and able to provide and support these integrated systems at a price point that small campaigns as well as large can afford

-lowering the barriers (legal and cultural and technical) between political campaigns non-campaign grassroots advocacy organizations so that constituents can effectively participate in and be leveraged by both

-case studies that visibly demonstrate that sharing information within a campaign yields success far more than cloistering it

-a means to fund the development of all this that does not depend on contracts from campaigns (because the internal advocates for and budget for such product will not be there before the product is there)

-visionary and powerful campaign managers and candidates who will hire staff that are willing to take on the risk of doing things in a very new way, and a track record of those campaigns winning in order to prove it to those less visionary and more risk-adverse.

This is a tall order– but there are reasons for hope:

1) My sense is that NGP is going to be a powerful advocate here because they get the opportunity available in providing wholistic solutions, and they are already in the door in most Democratic campaigns with the Department that gets to call all the shots in the early days of a campaign– Fundraising.

2) The currently-happening integration of CivicSpace with Advokit with a new open-source CRM back-end will bring a lot of these capabilities together, and low-cost open source committed vendors/consultants are standing by, ready to implement and support and to do the heavy lifting on hosting potentially massive databases of voters and street networks and the like… The biggest questions on this approach are how well it will be productized, how effectively it can be marketed to traditional campaigns, and whether campaigns will budget sufficiently to support viable business models for these vendors.

3) Some traditional campaign technology vendors have committed themselves to handling the heavy lifting of hosting massive data sets while newly opening up their systems to interoperate with 3rd party tools and services through coherent APIs.

4) The one size fits all approach of the commercial ASPs and the high-cost proprietary custom solution approach of others, while they do a good job with their existing markets, is not gaining the kind of traction one might expect in an era of exploding online donation processing, while campaigns and grassroots organizations are signing up for open-source solutions in droves, even before they’re fully productized and complete.

Andrew Hoppin

Disclaimer: I work with CivicSpace and with Trellon

Submitted by Andrew Hoppin on January 24, 2005 – 3:33pm.

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