democracy open-source participation politics tech

What makes OpenSource tools so valuable in the political spectrum

This article was orginaly published on the website of NIMD Colombia

We are and for years an experienced network-organization in the NGO, the public, charity and political spheres. We implement technical and functional OpenSource tools as well as methodologies to support, or reframe, processes and to innovate on new challenges.

Our strategy is to come to a situation where the organization will benefit due to a broad implementation of scalable solutions. We emphasize our clients on the risks not to have a vendor-lockin or to fall into the traps of the big tech companies. One of the key answers is to define data or process ownership within the organisation itself.

We worked with one of our political clients to embrace and adapt her mission so well that taking ownership of the supportive tools was pretty easy. We defined a simple ruleset to get this accountability and the quality of handling this toolset, actualy fully supportive to her own mission, was like working with a natural flow.

Because of the significant low overhead costs all the organisational- values could go into the further developments of the mission and campagnes, with the toolset as a well know supportive machinery.

Political innovation works well with organisations whom are adapting this mindset into their business-operations. Besides this, we feel strongly that people working for strong mission-driven organisations, like political parties, do feel comfortable when their own mission and vision is part of the business-operations and ethical model. When we say, “practice what you preach”, everybody will understand the filosofy behind this.

A strong and powerful campaign needs to rely on the perspective of your base (members, supporters, donors).  This perspective needs to have a place in your CRM-based system. When you want to gather this knowledge you have to start communicating with your base fromout your CRM, develop the channels that are part of your political mission and vision and organise it. Yourself!

A party organizing their members themselves are up-front, to outsource this process can become part of the infamous vendor-lockin, as explained here.

When political campaigns are in the developing stage it is necessary that the members and volunteers are for more or less 99% behind the campaign and will add important information as content for the campaign.

For the Dutch labor party we organised an internal Consul platform to work with all internal staff and members to have their say and to develop the outcomes leading to their annual congress. Having this platform will guide the members and volunteers into their own framework, it gives them a much more cofortable feeling as well. So in this way all campaigners, members ans staff will speak the same language.

Furthermore, the power of the campaign will be of a structural and powerful set of recognisable and well thought campaign materials for the people you want to reach. It should be the best way to adapt and manage the constant flow of information and news. To have this definitions clear it is for the organisation herself a great oppurtunity to manage this information with the possibility to steer the campaign on a more abstract level, without creating a distance to their base.

When you link your Consul and CRM (like CiviCRM) databases with each-other you have a very powerful toolset with your own crownjewels in your own hands.

After the campaign, as stated over and over, you still have your input AND output in a very structurized and save situation. This is very much re-usable but, it is again the optimum to embed this in your daily membership management, your news gathering, the memberships you can achieve and manage to have  long term relation with your supporters, members, volunteers and so on.

The wonderful idea to have the possibilty to link your Party ideals to the personal ideals should be an ongoing and daily process in order to manage your members.

Do not only reach out to them via news channels or news letters, no, it is necessary that the party herself starts to communicate with their people.

Only this is a real base for a succesful relationship and thus a deservable vote on your party.


Self-determination about your own data gives you more! Change will come.

We have to admit, our workfield is very divers, while we have one project running in Vientiane – Laos, our other project had a kick-off in Bogota Colombia. At the same time.

Nevertheless we had some time to have some great chats via our Nextcloud integrated chatapp Talk to talk about our projects and to support our clients based in the Netherlands. Our devop guy in Atlanta worked well and had probably the hardest task to deal with GMT -6 vs. GMT + 7 etc.

We came, one in Laos, one in Colombia and our 3d partner in Haarlem, working on the different projects, to a powerful conclusion, when organisations have the ability to work with their own data it gives them so much more power in their mission. Luckily society driven programs like CiviCRM and Consul, where we work with in all our projects, do give these enhancements in optimum.

What has to change for mission driven organisations? Like political parties and charity organisations?

We presented via our Twitter channel already a very interesting interview with Professor Shoshana Zuboff concerning the rise of the new digital powers, and in many topics related to our work-field she is so right! Why should you give your OWN data into the hands of NOT YOURSELF? When you have the chance to read the latest from Shoshana Zuboff, please do, it is mind-blowing.

And with not yourself you can imagine in whom would love to have your data. Even very much respectable human rights organisations are using Google while at the same time protesting against it. Is this the famous catch 22? Or is it morely a lack of trust in your own people, or what they are able to work on, besides managing contracts?

Surely you can use the products of the big corporations, even to outsource your own mission. But does it comply with your own mission ethically? And… are costs a driver for your organisation? Please be aware that Open Source is not only ch aper at the beginning, because the software is so-called free, but at the end you and your organisations are better off, independent without a vendor lockin and much more in line with your own organisation or business management

In the meantime we will continue our work with independent Open Source software like CiviCRM and Consul, and we strongly belief, change will come!