Labour Party activists in Manchester have come together to launch a social network, which is built around Twitter and that allows supporters to connect online, register their skills, and where others can ask for help.
Called Labour Exchange it uses social media to bring supporters and party members together and it nicely slots another piece of the modern campaigning jigsaw into place.
What it also does is recognise that the greatest asset of any organisation or party is its people and has worked out a way of doing something about that.
It echoes some of the efforts we’ve seen in the US such as the Obama Dashboard. The Dashboard if you have not seen it is the Obama campaign’s all singing all dancing way to connect volunteers together, to telephone canvas and track campaign progress as well as quite a lot else.
The dashboard was recently described by the Guardian as Barack Obama’s “secret weapon” that the Democratic Party hopes “will vastly increase its ability to mobilise volunteers and potential voters across the US”.
The new tool, called Dashboard, is being seen as the possible Holy Grail of digital political organising, one that has eluded campaign chiefs for years. It is already being road-tested in several of the crucial swing states that Obama must hold onto if he is to remain in office.
The technology has been incorporated into the campaign’s website, myBarackObama.com, and is expected to be made available to thousands of staff and volunteers across the country within the next 10 days. Its URL can be found through search, though it remains inaccessible to most Obama supporters until the launch, the Guardian reported.
Labour Exchange is a long way from that, but it fills part of that much needed gap in how political parties like Labour can get the most out of the resources they have available at a grassroots level and it adds to the tools that the Labour Party itself has developed, which still need much development.
It also starts to give a hint of the kind resource that parties from all sides will need come the 2015 general election in terms of digital campaigning. What’s exciting is that we might also
Labour Exchange has been created by Labour members Matt Doughty and Grace Fletcher-Hackwood.
According to Fletcher-Hackwood they created Labour Exchange because “we believe Labour people have more to offer”. She says one way to think of it is “a sort of Labour Gumtree”.
“The Labour Party’s members and supporters are our greatest asset. In fact, I’d go further than that – our members and supporters are awesome. We come from all walks of life and between us, I have absolutely no doubt that we have the skills and experience necessary for a successful General Election campaign in 2015.
“But when all these multi-talented people come along to a branch meeting or a street stall, are the talents they bring with them put to good use? In my experience, usually not. They’re more likely to be handed a few hundred leaflets and told to watch out for the dog at number 11.”
Labour Exchange is Fletcher-Hackwood’s response to that gap between the political reality of local party meetings and the campaigning requirement. She says the party are hoping to use the site in Manchester in an up coming election battle and hopes other will too.
I still think that crowdsourcing of ideas has a bigger role to play in opening up debate in someway within political parties at a local level that can unite members across large constituencies.
Maybe that will be part of the digital campaigning re-organisation being talked of within the Labour Party, which desperately needs to happen.
In the past its “Campaign Engine Room” has been called a “mess” and its members area on the Labour Party website, MembersNet, suffers from under use.
There is talk that the party might use US software from NationBuilder. That was used by Ken Livingstone as part of his Mayoral campaign and by the SNP in Scotland to power a new snp.org to help it beat Labour in 2011.
NationBuilder like a lot of emerging campaigning platforms are social media based, about conversations and people, and easy to use. Their key is that they act as a digital reflection to how parties organise themselves which is key to any success digital platform.