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Innovation Platform Spotlight: Empower Engine


NGP VAN’s Innovation Platform is making it easier for campaigns of all sizes to run fully-integrated, sophisticated multi-channel voter contact campaigns. This week, we’re highlighting one of our many progressive technology partners from the Innovation Platform Marketplace - Empower Engine. A web mapping application for Democrats and Progressives, Empower Engine was co-founded in 2013 by NGP VAN alumni Julie Goldberg and Noah Glusenkamp.

Empower Engine recently caught up with the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party Coordinated Field Director, Nick Coe to learn how Empower Engine has changed the game for their work, enabling their team to take a more data-driven approach to field organizing:


What's the best thing Empower Engine’s integration with VAN has empowered you to do? What’s the biggest thing it took off your plate?

Nick Coe: Well It’s actually more than something you took off my plate, but something you enabled to be on my plate in the first place. We’re doing a lot of work this year in communities of color around Minnesota. The VAN has DNC ethnicity modeling for Latino, African American and Somali communities, and we use activist codes for that. But that data alone wasn’t giving us the full picture.

We were going to set goals for what we wanted to try do this year, and we wondered how we were going to accomplish them. We didn’t really know what the populations were, or where we were supposed to be knocking in these places.

What Empower Engine allowed us to do - with a super user friendly interface - is figure out what exactly is going on with different communities of color in different districts. It showed us a lot of voter registration data and citizenship data, and it gave us a lot of clarity. For the first time, we have concrete goals around how many people we want to register, and how many people we want to vote by mail.


What type of data are you looking at most often?

NC: A couple different data sets come into play -- DNC Arbor Unregistered Potential Democrats, ACS Citizenship, and ACS Ethnicity. These have been instrumental, and I look at these maps on a daily basis.

Before Empower Engine, these data sets were hearsay. For example, we heard from someone that there is a large Latino community in this area of town. With the help of Empower Engine this has been demystified. It has made doing work in communities of color a lot more legible; we can understand what’s going on just by looking at the map and take a much more data driven approach.


What VAN data are you most interested in?

NC: We look forward to seeing our Door Knock Universe. Minnesota has pretty high turnout, but density has always been an issue. It’s going be very helpful for us to see where are our targets are most dense, and where should we be prioritizing turf in each of our regions for organizers and volunteers to knock. 


We've constructed our universe in such a way that it's very dense in some places and not dense at all in others. With EE, we'll be able to get a sense of density at a glance, rather than glancing back and forth between a map and Counts and Crosstabs.


[Editor’s Note: Empower Engine was setting up VAN Syncing and the MN Coordinated’s Field Report Maps in the same week that the blog interview was being conducted. They will update for them nightly going forward.]


What is your favorite Empower Engine feature & why?

NC: I think being able to distribute maps has been really awesome. A lot of our regional users are not tech savvy. If I can design a map and send it out to them, they can log-in and consult it, so it remains a powerful tool. You don’t have to have people who are awesome in the field, and have connections in the community, and have political connections, and are really good on the VAN side. It’s ease of use allows you to make some compromises.



Anything else you'd like to add?

NC: Empower Engine was really helpful in organizer placement as well. For example, in one district, our original plan was to have a Hmong community organizer there. But when we looked at the map  we saw there were actually only around 800 Hmong people in the community, but 3,000 West Africans and 4,000 African-Americans. So it helped us make a better decision on who we wanted to hire to have the biggest impact on the state. This is one example on how having data has changed the way we make decisions."


About NGP VAN's Innovation Platform:

One of the main goals of NGP VAN’s Innovation Platform is to provide campaigns of all sizes the opportunity to run fully-integrated, multi-channel voter contact campaigns. Down-ballot campaigns are now able to use sophisticated tools like Empower Engine to measure success or contact voters using SMS, phones, direct mail, online advertising, email, and other channels, and have their data move seamlessly in and out of VAN.

Empower Engine’s free plan includes helpful census data and district shapes in your state. Their paid plans include VAN integration to see your field and analytics data. All plans come with unlimited user accounts, and the ability for users to login with their NGP VAN ActionID. Find all the details here

Topics: Organizing, Innovation Platform