Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Developing a Livelist; A proposal

Developing the LiveList
A proposal

This proposal is being jointly submitted by The Urban Labs (MIT CoLab)to initiate the creation of a unique tool for community organizing and voter contact and turnout in low and moderate income communities of color and execute the initial implementation in preparation for the 2012 federal elections. The League of Young Voters has agreed to be our use study.

Contact information: Malia Lazu

Executive Summary

It takes time for a community organizer to build the strong relationships necessary to move a low and moderate income community to action. And it takes time to collect the data that describes the community and drives decision making. Each hour an organizer spends inputting data is an hour not spent talking to the people. The Urban Labs (MIT CoLab) and MIT Center for Civic Media have developed a tool that starts with lowest common denominator technology – cell phones – to create a database that decentralizes data entry, facilitates constant contact and encourages community members to recruit friends and family members to the cause. Instead of spending time behind the computer, organizers are out on the streets, educating people, empowering leaders and incentivizing community action.

The tool is called LiveList™. LiveList is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system combined with an organizing methodology. LiveList uses text messaging and Facebook profiles to allow community members to build and update their own records within an organizational database that is supplemented by voter and consumer data. Organizers are taught the techniques that enable them to get members on the LiveList and then educate them, encourage them to recruit new members, build community events and get out the vote. Because it relies on text messaging more than internet-based social networks, the LiveList crosses over the digital divide to reach deep within lower income communities. Furthermore, the data that can be collected will be richer and more current than any voter list, building the foundation for future community-building and electoral efforts. As a result, The League of Young Voters (LYV) has agreed to be our test study.

The pages that follow will present an example of the LiveList in action, the architecture of the LiveList and the LYV program plan.

Contact information: Malia Lazu 617 308 8265

A LiveList in Action

The true power in community organizations lie in the people they come in contact with every day. If there is a way organizers can track the people they come in contact with, they will have the ability to remain connected to the hundreds of people they touch every month.

A LiveList for the League of Young Voters

In the context of political campaigns, real time data collection exists (think field lists with bar codes and iPhones) but there is nothing that harnesses the power of technology to engage potential voters from the point of contact with campaign organizers and then both keep them engaged and get them to the polls. This project will create a cutting edge technology to be developed and used by active organizers, tested in an actual campaign. The technology could radicalize how organizers' databases and voter files are created and updated by giving community organizers the tools to get the lists updated in real time by the voters (and potential voters) themselves. Piloting its use in 2011, the tool can be developed and distributed to organizations through out the country to better understand, organize and turn out the most underrepresented communities.

The League of Young Voters has a long history of turning out young voters of color. They play a lead in the 501c3-coordinated table in Wisconsin and represent one of the most extensive local networks in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, The Urban Labs at MIT is at the vanguard of technology, creating unique tools to meet inner-city eligible voters where they are to communicate, organize, build trust and activate. By combining the skills and networks of the LYV with the tools of the Urban Labs, we will work to create the LiveList tool that works with the league’s current database, text messaging and in person events. League organizing can create a self-updating voter file (the LiveList) that will be instrumental for engaging and turning out the young electorate in Milwaukee.

Central to the mission of the League of Young Voters is the fight against voter ID laws that have the effect of suppressing youth turnout. Since the laws require government-issued ID’s in order to place a vote, the LYV has started a “Get on the Bus” campaign to provide transportation to young people who otherwise wouldn’t know about state voting requirements and wouldn’t have transportation to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Urban Labs is proposing to enhance the “Get on the Bus” effort through development of a LiveList in Milwaukee.

The goals of the program will be to:

1. Develop the technology and train the League stakeholders and organizers on how to deploy LiveList
2. Deploy LiveList through the “Get on The Bus” Campaign in Milwaukee
3. Evaluate the experiment and present a plan on scalability for 2012.

In order to measure success, the Urban Labs is proposing the following metrics:

• Increase the technological capacity of League Staff
• Increased data collection: growth in membership
• Get 50% of current League membership to opt into the LiveList
• Register 80% of targeted voters who opt into LiveList
• Reach out to the LiveList at least once monthly to measure activity.
• Integration of short code for in person events
• Use organizing modules for organizing “Get on the Bus” events

Program Plan:
Below is the plan created in conjunction with all partners to reach achieve the three stated goals of this proposal.

Goal 1: Develop the technology and train the League on LiveList

The LiveList™ will be built through consistent, constant activity. The initial target for the LiveList will be the League's current active membership base. The goal is to move 75% of the current membership base to the LiveList platform. The League has a history of using a short code to survey their membership and provide basic outreach. This experiment will expand the use of the short code to provide keywords for organizers to be able to capture data in real time when they are in the streets. The short code will also be used at in person events to capture attendance and have a consistent dialogue with event attendees. The “Get on the Bus” promotion, registration and bus assignments will be run through the short code platform and all text messages will push people to the “Get on the Bus” Facebook page.

Goal 2: Deploy LiveList through the “Get on The Bus” Campaign in Milwaukee.

The League of Young Voters will engage their constituency by organizing events to help young people get ID's.  Organizing a citywide education campaign they are reaching people in schools, churches and on the streets.  The goal is to get people to sign up to get an ID.  The League will support them in getting their paperwork in order and raise money for the cost. 

League organizers will use the short code as a registration tool and push people to their facebook site.  By getting individuals to opt in they will be able to deepen their dialogue with a majority of people they touch.  This will expand their list and help organizers track their relationship building.

Goal 3: Evaluate the experiment and present a plan on scalability for 2012

We will explore the following areas in our evaluation.
1. Was it effective in mining more data consistently?
2. Was the tool helpful in mobilizations and deepening relationships?
3. Was there an increase in community participation?
4. What does it take to use this tool effectively?

We will deliver the following outcomes towards this goal:
1. Conduct debrief retreat
2. Create a formal report
3. Create a deck on what it will take to bring this to scale


High levels of transience and low levels of technology penetration make middle and especially low income eligible voters difficult to reach, track and activate. This proposal will allow for a cutting edge technology created for hard to reach populations to be used by active organizers and tested in an actual campaign. The technology developed will democratize how voter files are created and updated by giving community organizers the tools for real time data capturing and community-generated membership expansion while being dependent on technology no less accessible than a mobile phone. Cross referencing with the VAN will allow organizers ongoing registration tracking as they touch their communities in diverse ways. By experimenting in 2011, a tool could be developed and distributed to organizations through out the country to increase data collection and engagement with eligible voters in the most underrepresented communities.

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