We’ve spent the last few years talking to a lot of organizers — like Dom Leon-Davis at Digital Climate Coalition and Renee Parker Sekander at Organize Tennessee — about their experiences working in the field to mobilize communities and build movements.
While not designed to be a rigorous scientific study or even a series of qualitative interviews, we do talk to a lot of people and organizations as part of our daily work. And we hear the same important points again and again.
Power to the people
Organizing is all about people. People, their relationships, and their nuances can’t be captured in rows in a spreadsheet. We know that an individual's beliefs and behaviors change based on events, the media, interactions with others, and other influences.
But these nuances aren’t yet captured in the data that is available to organizers. So, Helm is ditching the spreadsheet and looking beyond traditional lists and metrics to help organizers build and sustain issue-focused movements more effectively.
The data could be better
Plus, organizers have told us that the quality of the data that is available to them falls short. In order to associate street addresses with geographies like electoral districts and census tracts, those addresses have to be “geocoded” — translated from an address to an actual location on the globe (e.g. latitude/longitude).
But industry standard geocoding processes can’t confidently geocode below zipcode-level. So, an address might be associated with a latitude/longitude coordinate that’s far from reality. These inaccuracies matter because they impact people’s representation and agency, as well as organizers’ ability to run effective programs.
That’s why our team of behavioral and data scientists are working to geocode over 99% of addresses within ~150 feet of reality — to be more accurate on core attributes like ethnicity, income, and education, and there is still much more to do, so we really want organizers (like you all) to look under the hood and test it out.
Delivery and messaging matter
Not all modes of communication are the same. Different channels like phone calls, texting, email resonate differently. Organizers need to understand how to reach the people they want to engage and mobilize.
The message matters just as much as how it’s delivered. Research can help identify what messages land with organizers’ supporters and communities.
Helm’s team of behavioral and data scientists have assembled a unique set of cross-industry and proprietary datasets to develop more insightful models and personas as well as more accurate targeting for polling and outreach.
The tech can be tough
Many of the organizers we’ve talked to stress that they lack time and resources, especially when it comes to data expertise. They’re having to spend too much time “fussing” with data and don’t have enough opportunity to learn from and use it to develop effective campaigns.
When organizers and issue advocates launch campaigns, they've come to expect that their data won't quite fit into their tools. This means that organizers can't leverage their data to its potential, so they do what organizers do best: they make it work, anyway.
We’re developing datasets and tech products to support planning and executing advocacy campaigns at scale, based on an even more sophisticated understanding of individuals and their relationships and communities.
Our aim is so that whether organizers have an in-house analytics team or not, we can help them really know their audiences so as to deliver the right message to the right person through the right messenger.
Organizers know best
We know that addressing these important points is not just a matter of solving tech challenges, and we rely on the experts — organizers themselves — to share their pain points and ideas. We take a lot of notes!
The takeaways above are from conversations we’ve had with people from about 100 organizations (about half are within the mid-size nonprofit or advocacy space) over a nine-month period. These conversations reveal market trends and help us adjust our research plans and product roadmap based on what various organizers go through on a daily basis.
Leave a comment below to share what might make your job easier, powering civic participation for a more equitable future!