Building Blocks
Posted by Chris Coger in

In 2014, we were approached by campaign staffers and asked to look at the various reporting systems their programs were using, and they asked if we had any recommendations to make things easier and more efficient for their programs. We took a look, and we knew we could do better. In 2012 we build a successful reporting system and in the process we also learned a lot.

What we learned:

  1. The reporting system should be highly flexible. Campaigns are fluid and the platform should always be able to adapt with the program.
  2. The reporting system should be centralized. Leadership, Staff, and Volunteers should share a standard resource where everyone is in sync and looking at the same information. How many times have you compared numbers in different reports, only to realize that they were pulled from different sources or that they were pulled at different times?
  3. The reporting system should be automated. More time is spent pulling information from one source and putting it into another, and this is a problem of efficiency up and down the campaign ladder. Time is finite, and campaigns can't afford to spend their time managing the minutia of data. Instead they should be diving into their data and analyzing their programs, time should be spent making critical insights that improve the program.
  4. The reporting system should be easily accessible. You should not have to be in front of a computer in a field office to be able complete a report.
  5. The reporting system should be scalable. Campaigns grow and organizational structures change, your reporting platform should automatically evolve with you.
  6. The reporting system should not be exclusive to field and data. Reporting can be a resource for every department, and every department should be able to gather reports to help advance the cause of the campaign.
  7. The reporting system should not just be limited to numbers. Qualitative reports can be just as informative as quantitative ones.
  8. The reporting system should include visualizations, because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand spreadsheets.

We decided to take on the challenge and we built Blocks.

How we delivered.

  1. Blocks is simple and intuitive reporting platform that centralizes and organizes all of your program's data in one place.
  2. Blocks is a dynamic and fully scalable platform. It can be customized to fit your organizations structure today and will continually scale and will support your organization as your program transforms and grows.
  3. Blocks allows you to create custom reports for every role in your campaign. Senior leadership can fill out departmental reports, while phone bank captains fill out post-event phone bank reports. All the numbers are centralized and viewed in the same context.
  4. Blocks uses real-time data. As soon as a report is entered it is available in Blocks. There is no need to wait for the next sync or for the next export, your data is live and available when you need it.
  5. Blocks is a responsively designed web application and is accessible from any device on any screen size.
  6. Blocks allows your organization to create a custom hierarchy. Every role has their own view, for example, you can set Blocks up so that digital volunteers only see the digital metrics that are important to them, and that they only report on the data that matters for their program. This gives you the flexibility to support every campaign, every program, every role, and every person on your campaign.
  7. Blocks allows you to report numbers and qualitative metrics. This empowers your staff and volunteers to share vital information that can't be quantified in numbers directly with your team in the same tool.
  8. Blocks allows you to visualize your data dynamically on a fully customized dashboard. Use the latest visual data analysis tools to build a graphical utility to show your key performance indicators in real time.

In 2014 Blocks was used by political campaigns and issue advocacy organizations. In the words of Steve Sisneros, the State Field Director for the Ohio Democratic Party, "Blocks is a powerful reporting tool and was an important part of our program. We were able to build reports that were specific to the goals of our program, and instead of changing google docs or excel forms every week, we were able to have our staff and volunteers report the same way each and every day. Blocks was a simple way to keep our data organized and to keep up with our face paced program, it allowed us to spend our time focusing on recruiting new volunteers and talking to voters."