“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” — G.B. Shaw
DemDash is a consumer facing set of mobile and web applications that deepen voting and political engagement by making it easier, more effective, social and fun.
The founder, political consultant/organizer/developer Dan Ancona, has helped hundreds of campaigns get the most out of data and tools at California VoterConnect and TargetSmart Communications. He’s backed by a team of four advisors from the Bay Area political and technology communities that have built numerous startups, political campaigns and nonprofit organizations.
DemDash’s alpha was released in 2010 and is in production at DemDash.us, and DemDash was accepted to the Hub Ventures 2011 social venture incubation program in early 2011.
What DemDash Do
Democracy Dashboard was a new hosting platform for citizens to engage with their democracy, including following campaigns and political organizations.
They got big plans, but the first problem they are solving is making the process of voting a whole lot easier for average voters. One way they are doing that is by giving campaigns and organizations, and the activists that support them, easy tools to broadcast their hard-won political smarts.
Problems DemDash Are Solving
DemDash believe that every citizen on this planet deserves basic, accessible and easy to understand information about their political system, as well as access to an easy, effective way to provide and aggregate feedback to the institutions that are so ingrained in our lives.
DemDash has chosen to focus on three basic and interconnected problems with global democracy in general, and American democracy in particular:
- There is no one reliable place to find and share basic political information.
- The feedback loop between our institutions and citizens hasn't scaled and is badly broken.
- There is no easy, inexpensive, sociable and polite way for campaigns and organizations to reach individual voters.
DemDash intend to provide those services and they are not going to rest until get it done - or someone else does. And that's a possibility: there's been an explosion of interest in this and related problem spaces.
It's excited about what the teams at Visible Vote, Votizen, PopVox, and others are coming up with and can't wait to see how all the coalescing creative energy plays out. And this deluge of projects is certainly more evidence of Steven Johnson & Kevin Kelly's work on simultaneous invention and where ideas come from.
This is the first tool designed primarily to be used away from an election. There are some kind of link-sharing apparatus in mind to build for months, but it was Pinterest's wonderful user experience that finally inspired DemDash to figure it out.
Adding pins is probably the roughest part, it's still definitely a lot more tricky than it could be. But you can give it a try anyway for one simple reason: if you are reading this, it's deeply curious about what you think is important!
And there have some other kinds of media that DemDash want to support in pins, such as Soundcloud links, that hopefully have up soon.
DemDash Actions are certainly lightweight and user-focused. In fact, all they do right now is count users and groups. They're not solely for list building.
Both partisan and nonpartisan organizations are awesome and hopefully they can succeed beyond their wildest dreams. However, the sheer volume of organizations out there clamoring for resources has resulted in a kind of tragedy of the commons, where the commons is the aggregate attention span of the citizenry.
If you've ever hesitated before sending a group money or signing up for their email list because of the deluge of requests for attention and money you know it will trigger, then you're familiar with this problem.
By building a channel for the great work these groups do, you can increase (hopefully greatly) the number of people they reach, and that by gently managing the data flow between groups and individuals that can both lower the cost of participation and better manage the attention commons.
In a sense, it is a bit like a VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) tool for democracy.
DemDash Campaign will make it easier for supporters of a campaign or group sign up easily and share their support.
If you're an activist, DemDash campaign is a force multiplier: it's the easiest, clearest and fastest way to let your social network know about the candidates and propositions you believe in.
And for ordinary voters, it's a way to find out what's going to be on the ballot, who represents you currently and to connect with groups and friends who you trust. But these new changes are a big improvement for making DemDash valuable for campaigns, too.
DemDash have achieved the goal of getting 10% of San Francisco voters using Democracy Dashboard for California 2011 special election. That's 46,000 some-odd voters.
The challenge DemDash facing was clear: not enough citizens know it!
Learn More about DamDesh
One thing they have learned from getting involved in changing politics is this: there is no cavalry. Change really is up to us.