I recently read a post on the Technology and Politics blog that featured the work of Scott Chacon. Scott is doing what I think might be the best use of open source software for politics yet. First off, he is running for Congress. If that weren’t enough, he’s also building software that is helping him do that and will make it freely available to others.
GroundWorks – the stuff Scott’s site is running on – is truly groundbreaking. The tools allow for a serious online to offline connection…something that has been missing up to now. It is all tied together in a really neat package that allows a campaign to harness grassroots support in new ways. The thing I’m most excited about is the Community Captains part of it. This tool will allow people to volunteer to head up a precinct or community. They can get other volunteers to do stuff – canvass, phone bank, write letters – and it is all tracked and managed.
The phone banking is really cool because people can call and use the web to track responses, etc. Not only that, they can tie in to the Open Schedule feature to actually ask if the person would like to meet with Scott and then schedule that in real-time. I know there are other tools that accomplish virtual phone-banking, but I’m not sure if they are open-source or not. Question would remain where the data comes from – you would still have to get that and import it.
I recommend checking out both Scott’s site and GroundWorks and following his progress on releasing it. It runs on a lesser known middleware known as Ruby on Rails, but TextDrive has a hosting program where 50% of the fees go back into supporting the development.
Grassroots and Open Source…always a good combination!