From beliefs to strategy
Many tech firms have declared their commitment to being objective. That’s certainly a noble aim, but so long as companies are made up of human beings, it’s an illusion. No human being — not a scientist, researcher, journalist, or CEO — can ever be completely objective. At Helm, we think that it is more productive to accept that our unique experiences and our commitment to a particular future shape our work.
Informed by our shared beliefs, we’re committed to a strategy for change that equips issue advocates and community organizers to power civic participation for a more equitable future. Here, we want to not only explain what we believe and our strategy for change, but invite reactions, alternative perspectives and constructive criticism.
We work to equip issue advocates and community organizers with the data and tools that can power civic participation for a more equitable future.
But more broadly and importantly, we know that people have unique expertise about their communities. By evaluating which strategies effectively empowered which communities, we can better see what actually enables people to realize change and what moves us toward equitability in the long term.
We believe in always-on organizing.
Civic participation a requires a long-term commitment — it isn’t an undertaking to be forgotten after every election. A strong and healthy democracy starts with people engaging in their communities day in and day out to drive progress toward their shared goals.
Democracy is an outgrowth of community with many ways to participate.
We believe in equitability.
We focus on equitability — as opposed to equality — because it is sensitive to existing forces and structural barriers that advance some individuals while oppressing others and considers ways to reduce inequity.
We believe in science.
We talk, survey, and test ideas with people to learn about individuals' pain points, needs, wants, goals, and motivations. In the same way a scientific approach has helped scientists learn how to help folks save money, exercise and eat healthier, we think we can help people become more civically engaged in their communities.
We have developed a strategic framework for explaining what we believe community issue advocacy and community organizing can achieve. We have a set of hypotheses on what tactics and behaviors could lead to better outcomes.
Over time, these hypotheses will either be supported or not based on rigorous research. Our strategic framework is based on:
What people can do on their own within their communities
What organizations can do at scale
What people and organizations can achieve together
Through our work, we want to understand people’s motivations and their actions so that we can develop the right data and tools for organizers to power civic participation — so that people vote, run for office, volunteer, donate, and more, especially at the local level.
Our team conducts survey research to help us support or refute the hypotheses that emerge from our strategic framework. At the moment, we are working to validate the aspects of identity that build community and by extension understand how community drives civic participation and whether communities with higher civic engagement are more powerful.
And there is always more to do! For example:
We want to understand a lot about people as the building blocks of connection and community.
We want to measure civic engagement that’s happening at a community level — including, but not limited to, political engagement — with a richness not often captured.
We want to know how often, to whom, and by what means, people are talking, organizing, supporting initiatives, and sharing information.
We want to wrap our heads around how to define “equitability” (informed by principles of intersectionality).
Our work is ongoing, with no end in sight. And we fully expect that our thinking will change, and our ideas will evolve the more we learn from organizers like you.
What are the values and beliefs that shape the work you or your organization do?
If you have built a community before, how did you go about that and what have you learned? What makes that community unique?
What hypotheses are you testing? What have you learned?
Please offer your perspective in the comments below! Throw challenges in our direction. Share your experience. Suggest something we can explore together.