Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

The Groundswell that Pulled Off Radio OFA

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, February 25 2010

Credit: Organizing for America

Conservative dominance of the airwaves is taken as an article of faith, but Organizing for America is rolling out a new project that intends to equip progressives with the tools to get their voices heard on talk radio. They're calling it "On the Air."

The way is works is that supporters are prompted with the call-in number for a talk radio show that discusses political topics and the option to to listen to the show live. When the timing's right, the volunteer can call the number provided. Importantly, OFA's troops are asked to report back on whether they got on air, and how the call went.

Credit:Organizing for America

On the Air is a shiny new tool, no doubt. But what might be more important for the long-term prospects of Organizing for America -- and its ability to provide back-up to Obama's agenda -- is how On the Air was engineered in the first place.

Organizers say that when they began the radio project, they found that there was no one good database of call-in numbers for the many talk radio shows that dot the United States.

So OFA built a program, called Groundswell, that slices up certain organizational tasks into discrete bits that can be accomplished by individuals but add up to a substantial effort, a la the crowdsourcing efforts of Pro Publica's distributed Reporting Network.

The benefit for volunteers is that it gives them achievable, tangible tasks to do that fit into the nooks and crannies of their day to day lives. The benefit for OFA is that they get buy in to the organization's missing that also has the effect of multiplying the organizing efforts that those on the Democratic National Committee's payroll might hope to achieve.

Organizing for America's new media director Natalie Foster says that both On the Air and Groundswell are part of a drive within Organizing for America to encourage experimentation and creativity amongst staff, particularly those staff with the programming chops to pull something like this off.

The projects, says Foster, "demonstrate what’s great about the 'labs' concept, and having software engineers embedded with our New Media team. Building out the DNC/OFA Innovation Labs was an early decision last year, and Nathan Woodhull does a great job leading that team."

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

More