While working on a political campaign this summer, we noticed a lack of distributed system's that allowed for civic engagement. The campaigns we saw had large numbers of willing volunteers willing to do cold calling to help their favorite candidate win the election, but who lacked the infrastructure to do so. Even those few who did manage to do so successfully are utilized ineffectively. Since they have no communication with the campaign, they often end up wasting many calls on people who would vote for their candidate anyway, or in districts where their candidate has an overwhelming majority.
What it does
Our app allows political campaigns and volunteers to strategize and work together to get their candidate elected. On the logistical end, in our web dashboard campaign managers can work to target those most open to their candidate and see what people are saying. They can also input the numbers of people in districts which are most vital to the campaign, and have their constituents target those people.
How we built it
We took a two prong approach to building our applications since they would have to serve two different people. Our web app is more analytically focused and closely resembles an enterprise app in it's sophistication and functionality. It allows campaign staff to clearly see how their volunteers are being utilized and who their calling, and perform advanced analytical operations to enhance volunteer effectiveness.
This is very different from the approach we took with the consumer app which we wanted to make as easy to use and intuitive as possible. Our consumer facing app allows users to quickly login with their google accounts, and, with the touch of a button start calling voters who are carefully curated by the campaign staff on their dashboard. We also added a gasification element by adding a leaderboard and offering the user simple analytics on their performance.
Challenges we ran into
One challenge we ran into was getting statistically relevant data into our platform. At first we struggled with creating an easy to use interface for users to convey information about people they called back to the campaign staff without making the process tedious. We solved this problem by spending a lot of time refining our app's user interface to be as simple as possible.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're very proud of the fact that we were able to build what is essentially two closely integrated platforms in one hackathon. Our iOS app is built natively in swift while our website is built in PHP so very little of the code, besides the api was reusable despite the fact that the two apps were constantly interfacing with each other.
What we learned
That creating effective actionable data is hard, and that it's not being done enough. We also learned through the process of brainstorming the concept for the app that for civic movements to be effective in the future, they have to be more strategic with who they target, and how they utilize their volunteers.
What's next for PolitiCall
Analytics are at the core of any modern political campaign, and we believe volunteers calling thousands of people are one of the best ways to gather analytics. We plan to combine user gathered analytics with proprietary campaign information to offer campaign managers the best possible picture of their campaign, and what they need to focus on.