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

NationBuilder, a New Online Activism Platform, Previews Today

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 6 2011

Jim Gilliam. Photo: Brave New Films / Flickr

Online activist, Brave New Films co-founder and Personal Democracy Forum 2011 speaker Jim Gilliam is planning to give a live preview of his new platform for online campaigns, NationBuilder, at 4 p.m. ET today. It goes into open public beta tomorrow.

In an interview last week, Gilliam told me that NationBuilder is an evolution of an earlier tool, pro.act.ly — which is itself loosely based on his act.ly project, the tool for circulating petitions on Twitter. From the NationBuilder dashboard, a campaign can manage its website content, online donations and finances, email lists, mobile campaigns — it has mobile and phone messaging features built on the Twilio platform — post to its Facebook or Twitter accounts, and look through supporters and messages. A tag-based constituent management system allows the campaigner to sort supporters by influence or Klout score, and follow each user's activity.

It's supposed to be cheap and easy-to-use enough for the renegade types, folks who are acting without the blessing of their local political party or professional group.

"What we did at Brave New Films — we took the concepts of political organizing and we applied them to distributing documentary films," Gilliam told me. "We wanted to make these movies but they weren't the kinds of movies that Hollywoold networks would touch ... we needed to organize around these movies and getting them seen.

"Our events were around screenings," he explained. "Our donations were about funding the films ... what we're seeing now is a whole new group of people that are starting to understand that model ... this is why Kickstarter is becoming really popular."

To work in that bottom-up, distributed, viral way — if anyone even uses the word "viral" anymore — you need more than Kickstarter, of course. An email list helps. So does Twitter and Facebook, and a website would be nice. NationBuilder is supposed to pull all of these threads together and lay a single dashboard on top of them to track and manage them all. The meta-story is that this platform reflects what a real student of online activism thinks the comprehensive "toolkit" should be — one without email-your-legislator tools, for example, but with a flexible voice and SMS activism component.

Gilliam pledges that it will be apolitical and nonpartisan — a service open to anyone who wants to use it, with a starting price of $19/month. Passaic, NJ Tea Party: I specifically asked if you're invited to sign up. You are!

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