The Definitive Distributed Organizing Guide

How can electoral campaigns unlock people-power to win elections? How can Democratic campaigns - particularly candidates outside the traditional hegemony / underrepresented in politics - engage, activate and organize supporters to win in the face of moneyed interests, disengagement, disinformation, polarization, and oversimplification?

Welcome to The Definitive Distributed Organizing Guide! This guide is designed to provide Democratic candidates, campaign managers, and others involved in electoral work with the tools and information needed to implement a distributed organizing approach.

The unique power of distributed organizing, however, requires investment, know-how, risk, and accountability from campaigns. This extensive guide explores:

  • The potential value of distributed organizing (and what it can and cannot do for your campaign).
  • How to assess if a distributed approach is right for your campaign
  • The investment required and risks associated with implementing a decentralized program
  • How to set up your distributed organizing program for success - and avoid pitfalls - from the start
  • Comparisons of different distributed models and considerations in determining what level of decentralization your program should have 
  • Keys for motivating action within a distributed framework
  • All the essential elements you need to consider in running a program, including tips on: creating a handbook, recruitment, group structure, leadership roles and coaching, culture, training, and supporting volunteers, among others.
  • Technologies and tools to support distributed organizing in electoral campaigns
  • A comprehensive set of references for further reading on the topic

table of contents

Download this guide today to learn more about how to implement a distributed organizing approach and to access a wealth of resources and information on this topic. We hope you find the guide useful. 
For more information on what is included in our guide, check out our extensive table of contents:

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Potential of Distributed Organizing to Win Big
  • 3 What is Distributed Organizing?
    • 3.1 Tectonica’s Five-Part Framework for Digital Organizing
    • 3.2 A Couple Distributed Organizing Models to Consider
    • 3.3 Principles of Distributed Organizing
      • 3.3.1 The Campaign Situation Has Urgency and Big Goals, but Can Continue Beyond These
      • 3.3.2 The Work Builds Leadership, Collective Ownership, and Community Accountability
      • 3.3.3 Structures That Can Scale
      • 3.3.4 Comfort with Ceding Control
      • 3.3.5 Committing the Necessary Time and Resources
      • 3.3.6 Setting a Clear, Unifying Popular Goal
  • 4 Distributing Leadership & Balancing with Centralization
    • 4.1 Why Distributed Organizing Motivates Action
    • 4.2 Decentralizing Decision-Making
    • 4.3 Deciding the Level of Autonomy vs. Centralization
  • 5 How-To: Where to Start
    • 5.1 Is Distributed Organizing for Your Campaign?
      • 5.1.1 Is it Central to Your Strategy?
      • 5.1.2 Is Your Community Behind You?
      • 5.1.3 Are You Willing to Cede Power and Take Risks?
    • 5.2 Identify Your Community & Work Out How to Strategically Engage Them
      • 5.2.1 Your People & Your Groups Inform Your Strategy
      • 5.2.2 Volunteer Actions and Roles
      • 5.2.3 Your Model and Approach
      • 5.2.4 Engaging Leaders
      • 5.2.5 Engaging Your Supporters as Participants
    • 5.3 Resource and Structure Your Plan (Leaving Space for Iteration)
      • 5.3.1 Tools for Communication, Collaboration, and Data Management
      • 5.3.2 Training
      • 5.3.3 Culture
      • 5.3.4 Feedback Loops
    • 5.4 Create Your Handbook
    • 5.5 Taking Care of Your People and Running Your Campaign
      • 5.5.1 Founding Your Groups and Supporting Them to Thrive
      • 5.5.2 Nourishing Your Groups
      • 5.5.3 Quality Over Quantity
  • 6 Campaign Mobilizing and GOTV with Distributed Groups
    • 6.1 Recruitment In Everything
    • 6.2 Voter Registration
    • 6.3 Early Voting
    • 6.4 Voter Contact – Phone and Text Banking, Canvassing, Turf Cutting, Events, and Other Outreach
      • 6.4.1 Determining Your Targeted Voter or Supporter Universe
      • 6.4.2 Door-to-Door Canvassing and Turf Cutting
      • 6.4.3 Phone Banking and Text Banking
      • 6.4.4 Creative Voter Contact
      • 6.4.5 Training
      • 6.4.6 Don’t Lose the Data
    • 6.5 Distributed Fundraising
    • 6.6 The Lead-Up to Election Dayç
      • 6.6.1 GOTV
      • 6.6.2 Election-mania – The Final Weeks
      • 6.6.3 Election Day Activities
  • 7 Using NGP VAN’s Suite of Tools in Distributed Organizing
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 Replicating a Distributed Structure in VAN and Mobilize
    • 7.3 VAN Committees, Users, and Groups
    • 7.4 Mobilize Permission Tiers
    • 7.5 Train Your Leaders to Align and Unify Efforts
    • 7.6 Empowering Your Groups by Connecting to Other Tools: Mobilize and VAN
      • 7.6.1 Mobilize
      • 7.6.2 VAN
        • Canvassing with MiniVAN
        • Phone Banking with OpenVPB
    • 7.7 Manage All Your Groups and Distribute KPIs with Different Reports and Dashboards
    • 7.8 Choose Your Tech and Start Building Your Program
  • 8 External Resources / Articles
    • 8.1 Guides & Resources
    • 8.2 Articles
    • 8.3 Books and Broader Resources
  • 9 Definitions
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Tectonica is a movement building agency with a mission to create a seismic shift in the way politics are done, through innovations that empower social, economic, and environmental justice movements. With a broad array of strategic, creative and technological services, their work helps organizations, political parties, candidates and unions unlock transformational opportunities, build movement infrastructure, and run successful social and political campaigns rooted in people-power.

As part of its social mission, Tectonica hosts the Tectonica Organising Network (TON) - a community of progressive campaigners working and innovating to win social and political change through people-based power.  The community is a center for best practices, resources, learning, and sharing. This ebook is part of TON’s effort to empower progressive campaigns with useful practices that build collective strength, propel movements and facilitate real-world change.

NGP Van is a leading technology provider that provides campaign and organizing software for progressive organizations, Democratic campaigns, and other social change groups, offering clients an integrated platform of the best fundraising, compliance, field, organizing, digital, and social networking products. Their tools are designed to help their clients build powerful campaigns, engage with supporters, and organize for change at every level of government.NGP Van was drawn to sponsoring Tectonica's ebook on distributed organizing because it aligns with their commitment to using technology to support Democratic causes and drive social change. By partnering with Tectonica, they are helping to amplify the message that effective organizing is key to achieving meaningful and lasting change.