Feature Interview: Adriel Hampton on Leadership + Technology
Making space for new technology and voices starts at the top. In this Leadership + Technology interview series, Groundforce Digital is reaching out to not-for-profit and political executives who are leading practitioners — those creating the future of their sectors by building and adopting technology that will enable a new generation to fundamentally transform their own organizations as well as those they interact with.
Adriel Hampton is the CEO of The Adriel Hampton Group Ltd., which provides growth consulting and services for civic tech startups. He previously worked at NationBuilder as the VP of Business Development and its original Chief Organizer. Adriel is a founder of Gov 2.0 Radio, the first U.S. Congressional candidate to launch a campaign via Twitter, and a frequent speaker on civic technologies and government reform.
What do you see as the top three to five most important digital tools for community organizing? Why are they important?
Adriel Hampton: I continue to be a huge fan and booster of NationBuilder. It’s important because it solves a lot of entry-level challenges for organizations seeking to thrive online — CRM, websites for organizations that don’t yet have one, great mass communications tools, and online fundraising. It’s also very flexible and expansible for organizations of any size and budget. I am also a huge fan of Phone2Action, a DC-based product that makes direct advocacy easy — with patch-through calls, email advocacy for contacting legislators or custom targets, plus creative ways to engage officials on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Phone2Action also emphasizes the mobile experience for higher engagement rates. It’s an enterprise tool but very affordable compared to similar custom solutions. For Facebook advocacy and new supporter email acquisition, I love ActionSprout, and for mobile canvassing, SF-based Organizer is a great choice as is Ecanvasser. My favourite advocacy toolkit with email actions is Do Gooder. (Disclosure: Ecanvasser and Do Gooder are clients of The Adriel Hampton Group Ltd.)
What are the biggest barriers you see for campaigns or organizations looking to adopt these tools? Do you have suggestions for overcoming these barriers?
Campaigns can adopt these tools very easily and quickly — the biggest challenge I see, that’s true especially with more structured organizations, is having clear goals and workflows. Those can be mapped onto software, but if you don’t know how to use volunteers, or how to handle a major donor differently from said volunteer, with clear processes and staff training for that, you need to start with process mapping for your organization.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing a senior manager can do to foster young leaders within their campaign or organization?
Give them a lot of clear responsibility and a lot of support and feedback. I was a front-page editor of the San Francisco Examiner at age 22, but I could handle it only because I had a really hands-on, creative publisher and a more mature co-editor who helped me understand and navigate management as well as working with a team.
What advice would you give to young people who care deeply about an organization and want to help it keep up with the times? How can they help it evolve?
Respect process. Sometimes it is easy to think you know better and that process and structure are just getting in the way — but unless you’ve taken the time to really understand an organization’s processes and what’s behind them (Nobody really says, “Because we’ve always done it this way.”), you won’t be able to help it grow.
When you think of organizations or campaigns that are getting it right in terms of leveraging new technology for community organizing, who do you think of? Why?
I’m in awe of #BlackLivesMatter and its growth as a leader-ful movement. From online ubiquity to public protest to taking the stage at the Netroots Nation presidential debate in July, this is activism that won’t take passive support as an answer. This is the kind of activism that changes attitudes, public policy, and makes real change. The U.S. gay marriage movement has been incredibly effective — the NOH8 photo series is ubiquitous in social media, and in the seven years from Proposition 8 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision (Obergefell v. Hodges), organizers effectively used technology in state after state to share personal stories, change hearts, and grow a donor support base.
About Groundforce Digital: We work at the intersection of politics, technology, business and community. We help organizations grapple with complex community organizing challenges by laying down digital infrastructure designed to allow a new generation of civic leaders to experiment and chart new paths forward. Get in touch! http://www.groundforcedigital.com