Organizer Heart, Scientist Mind

Helm delivers valuable products that support our partners’ work on issue advocacy, community organizing, and efforts that strengthen our participatory democracy. Our currencies are stories and insights, produced by listening, hardened by experiments, scaled through a Civic Graph which grows smarter and more effective through each new node and edge in our network.

To do that work , we have assembled a team of scientists, engineers, designers, and campaigners. We are on fire for the problem we aim to solve -- to create technology that gives everyone organizing superpowers, and to operate that technology with partners and customers that will drive equitable change in their own communities. Our commitment is long-term. It is born of curiosity for how human behavior can shape and strengthen community.

As we build Helm, we hold two spirits at our heart—the organizer and the scientist.

We refuse to tilt toward polarized partisanship and we reject the reductive tribalism of zero-sum politics. We believe in the multidimensional continua of issue positions, ideologies, and activism that is required to build a more perfect union.

As organizers and scientists, we also aim to operate with humility—we do not have all the answers, and in fact, we’re not even sure there is one, conclusive answer. We must listen with openness for what we might find, for the chance to be wrong about our theories and to adapt to better understand how Helm can achieve our vision of making organizing superpowers available to everyone. We aspire to drive strategies hewn by exploration, experimentation, data, and context, not merely anecdotes and conventional wisdom.

Helm will roll out new data and tools to the market throughout 2022 and the years to come.

In the coming months, this space you’re reading now will grow as a two-way communications platform. The point of The Vertex is not simply to tell the world about what we’re learning, but more aptly, to create more space with our partners and customers where we can learn about that organizing journey together. We will share here, freely, with the hope that what we publish sparks new conversations and introduces our experts to the experts working on the front lines of change.

And so I’ll kick this off by sharing some of the questions that drive me in our work. Some of these I have grappled with over the course of my life. Others are newer, manifesting through the journey of building Helm with our team.

  • How do we think about equitability in an empirical way? What policies actually lead to more equitable outcomes in our society?

  • How do our identities and values as humans interplay with politics, policies, and in particular political parties? Is it healthy for so many people to have their identities deeply intertwined with a political party? Does a political duopoly still benefit our politics and society? What positive purpose should political parties serve in our society?

  • How do we lessen or devalue the influence of an ever expanding political class in American society?

  • If the role of political parties in our society should change, what does that look like–and how do we get there–in the short, medium, and long-term?

  • How do we reward political compromises that advance the cause of equitability–rather than reward a demand for absolute wins often crafted through a partisan lens? How do we shift away from a mindset that any disagreement on policy or politics must necessarily be a moral one? But at the same time, how do we balance the necessity of compromise in a democratic system with ensuring that every American feels a sense of safety?

  • How do we embrace that each of us as people–and collectively within our various communities–are on a journey toward moral improvement with inevitable twists and turns? How do we acknowledge that better ideas will inevitably come in the future without denigrating the progress that our past selves or communities have made?

  • How do we better understand who we are as people within the context of the various communities and identities—overlapping and non-overlapping—that define each of us?

  • How do we ensure that participating in improving our communities does not require privilege? How can that consequently change the nature of the work and the culture of community improvement?

Please join me in making this a conversation! What questions drive your work in civic participation? What more would you like to hear from us? What ideas do you have that can help us advance our work on democracy and equitability?

Evan Burfield is the CEO of Helm.