What makes OpenSource tools so valuable in the political spectrum

This article was orginaly published on the website of NIMD Colombia

We are Enabl.ist 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.

Just another Community Building Success?

We from Enabl.ist…this can be a great promo story about Us, Our Great Company, our Huge Successes and terrible mistakes in daily life etcetera. No, we decided to tell you something about a huge community building success in another perspective. And, a serious one. One of the biggest successes in a grassroots community building project can be called Discogs. Disc what? Discogs! It is a perfect example of only a few KPI’s, if you want to call it like that… bonding together to perform simultaneous duties. Wow. And it works too!

Discogs was founded 18 (!!!) years ago by the great hero, named Kevin Lewandosky. Not sure what his primary reason was, but for many, many music collectors, like Kevin must be, Discogs is the easiest way to catalog your collection. Now it is a real-time database with nearly 11 million submissions and almost 6 million musicians. Discogs is a musical walhalla.

One of the big succes factors of Discogs is that its community has a strong moderation behind it. You may enter, as a contributor, information into the Database about music, an artist, a track, an album and so on. But; there are very strict guidelines. And, careful, do not mess with the Discogs Community Police. My first experience with them, I lost a discussion with one of the DCP officers concerning a submission of a CD Album from soul and funk legend D’Angelo. A lost case, my submission was clearly not as exact as on the CD Album, so I was not allowed to enter it into the Database. It reminds me that only with a decent “how-to-use-the-system-guide” such a system can be successful. And yeah the DCP was right 🙂

And what is Discogs more then an Ebay or Amazon marketplace? And that is to our opinion a very essential part, the database belongs to us as a community. We can add our own Open Source philosophy to it. The Discogs database grows daily, by our own input. And, how sweet, other music geeks, beside myself, rely on these entered details. And that is a very comfortable thought as well.

So, finally you can see whether your cool guitar player is credited on more albums, without annoying popups. What makes it even more successful is the great marketplace where you even can find albums from your favorite artists yet to come! Recordlabels simply put the new releases into the system so you will get advanced notifications about your dearest artists.

What can we say more about Discogs? Is it one of the best music related libraries because the lack of influence from the big music corporations? I have never seen so many white label productions, or the so called “unofficial albums” like there. Amazing. Or is it the twist between a community based platform in combination with a second-hand shop? Worthwhile to do more research into the huge success of Discogs. At this moment we can only conclude, Discogs is a worldwide Community Building Success!