An online advocacy event, and free software! – Feb. 27 & 28th in Toronto

Toronto City Hall, (flickr.com - Bitpicture)

flickr.com - Bitpicture

There are a lot of interesting campaigns with online components happening here in Toronto at the municipal level, including this recent amazing victory for a more beautiful city. Campaigns like this could be even more effective if they had simple and effective ways for citizens to get in touch with their elected representatives (or their candidates during the upcoming election).

As it stands now, online campaigns either spend a lot of money to purchase advocacy software, or ask participants to use government websites to find and contact their elected representatives, with no way to record how many messages have been sent, or stay in touch with participants. There is a better way.

The Make Poverty History campaign, who I work with on several projects, has software that makes it easy for people to send a message or sign a petition to their Member of Parliament based on their postal code.  The software also allows people to opt to join an email list to keep up to date on a campaign – a useful way to build a list of supporters. You can see an example of an online action here.

The best part of this story? Make Poverty History wants to share this software with other activist groups across Canada. So they are sponsoring an event in Toronto on February 27th & 28th so you can learn more about it and contribute to it’s development.

The 27th (a Saturday) is meant for activists and communicators – people who will be using the software. There are no technical skills required.  The day will include:

  • A quick overview of the tools used in online advocacy: website, email and Constituent Relationship Management systems
  • How Drupal software has been used on the Make Poverty History campaign, including how to set up an action using the Connect module (no tech knowledge required!)
  • How you can adopt this software for your organization
  • Next steps: how we can work together to improve this software, including using it during the upcoming 2010 Toronto elections to engage more voters

On the Sunday (Feb. 28th) the Drupal developers get to work, improving the functionality of the module (which already works pretty well, I might add) If you have something to contribute as an activist or developer, it would be great if you could make it to either workshop. Sign up here.

The software I am talking about is open source, runs on the popular Drupal platform and is called the Connect module. It allows activists to quickly create online petitions or contact forms that send messages (emails, faxes) to recipients (MPs, candidates or corporate targets) based on the user’s postal code or other information.

It is a flexible tool that organizations can use to run online advocacy campaigns and build an email list of (opted in!) supporters. There is some excellent software that does the same thing for Canadian campaigns, but it costs many thousands of dollars a year to buy a subscription – beyond the budget of most community groups. Other groups use software from the US (which has many options for this kind of software) but find that Canadian addresses (and often, a second language) are not supported. Connect, when properly installed and configured, offers a made in Canada solution that solves these problems.

On February 27th and 28th Make Poverty History is sponsoring a set of workshops for both activists and Drupal developers on using this software for advocacy campaigning. The event will be held at the Centre for Social Innovation at 215 Spadina.

If you have an interest in advocacy or open source technology, I would like to invite you to the event – RSVP here.

The event will be useful for anyone interested in online advocacy – there are no technical skills required.

If you are not in Toronto, we will have some capacity for people to attend virtually- likely IRC and Skype – sign up as a “Remote Cyberparticipantand we’ll send you the details as they become available. If you would like to help organize the day, please get in touch – we can certainly use some volunteers!

Posted in Online advocacy, The work I do, Workshops

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