Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
We knew if we were able to give Americans the tools to serve Democracy, that we could actually achieve massive success in the 2018 midterm elections—or crush them, if you will. - Purpose Team
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
Crush the Midterms is an activism platform that created personalized plans for people who wanted to make a difference in the 2018 midterm elections. Using a combination of geotargetting and answers to specific questions, we formulated a list of suggested actions that would go a long way towards helping competitive campaigns achieve success and contribute to the massive blue wave.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
In the wake of the Women's March and mass mobilization in response to the Trump administration, we knew if we were able to give Americans the tools to serve Democracy, that we could actually achieve massive success in the 2018 midterm elections—or crush them, if you will. So we came up with the idea of a "planner" for activism, in which users answered some questions about themselves and in turn, received a plan. The underlying idea here was that a lot of people WANT to volunteer their time and money, but are overwhelmed or don't know how. We figured that if they could plan ahead, and only commit to what felt right, they'd be much more likely to actually act. And we were right.
Often times when coming up with a concept, it can be hard to believe something like that doesn't already exist in the world. "A planner for activism" seemed like a simple concept, and with all the brilliant technologists out there, we thought surely this must exist. But alas, it did not: At least not in the interactive, personalized, geotargeted form we'd dreamed up. When our research revealed this opening, we knew we had to seize the moment and fill it.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
Our first step in bringing Crush the Midterms to life was presenting the idea to the company at large and getting feedback. It was ambitious to take on the most consequential election of our lifetime, and building a brand new platform was a bit overwhelming. But when we shared it with the wider team, the enthusiasm was palpable. Our colleagues confirmed that a tool like this was missing, and would be necessary if we wanted mass mobilization for the midterms. So we got to work on building it.
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
Collecting data for every candidate running in nearly every race in every town in America is a massive challenge. While there are different vendors who distribute that information, there are bound to be holes—especially from less populous areas where voter data is sparse. It took a lot of cross-checking and mix and matching of databases to make sure all the candidate info being served to our users was correct. We knew we'd only be as valuable as the accuracy of our information. By launch, we felt confident in our data.
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
The real-world impact of Crush the Midterms blew us away. People in every corner of the country pounded the pavement and shared hard-earned dollars to make sure candidates up and down the ballot in competitive 2018 elections were on the path to victory. One user wrote in and told us, "I registered 15 people to vote. I am offering rides on election day." Another shared, "I put up a sign in my window, I volunteer with the county Democratic party, I am in the College Democrats, and I tell everyone I see or talk to to vote!" Messages like this reminded us why we do this work.
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
We used a custom CMS to power Crush the Midterms on desktop and mobile. After people signed up, they received a series of reminder emails to make sure they were staying on target. We also heavily utilized Twitter to connect with users and spread the word about our platform.
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
Tech was crucial to Crush the Midterm's success. The questionnaire format was designed to be mobile-first, allowing people to make a plan to volunteer and/or donate to campaigns from anywhere. The engaging experience made users excited about getting involved in the political process, and it was easy to refer back to their plans via browser or email whether planning their week at home or on the go. We used geotargetting to zero in on exactly which races were relevant to the user, making the plans personal to them and, because the future of their community was at stake, encouraging them to get deeply involved.
How did this project defy your expectations?
This project defied expectations in a number of ways. In the beginning, we saw it as a straightforward tool that people could use to make a plan. But once people started using it, sharing their successes, writing in to see how they could do more, and telling their friends about it, it was clear we were onto something. Users were sharing stories and photos from the field, totally unsolicited, and were proud to announce on social that they were Crush the Midterms users. There was so much pride in doing this important electoral work, and the reward of knowing thousands of people got out in their communities because of our project was gratifying and humbling.
How will you use technology in future work to create inspiring, cutting-edge projects that also make a difference in people’s lives?
We quickly saw the potential for a tool like this beyond the midterms: the format is widely applicable, and can be repurposed to engage people in any type of activism imaginable. The 2018 midterms were just the beginning for using the platform we've built for mass engagement. We're about to launch a tool using the tech we developed to engage Australians in environmental activism as part of a new documentary called 2040. After seeing the film, people will be invited to join the platform, answer questions, and get a personalized plan for helping the environment and stemming the growth of global climate change.