After six years of working for some version of OFA, Obama for America, Organizing for America, or Organizing for Action I know there will be a series of emails that will come for a while. They look like this:
What was that rogue program you were running to do X?
What exactly was it that you did?
You see inside of the digital department lived probably the least known of all the digital teams. The Digital Organizing team run by Betsy Hoover ran as it’s own operation inside of the larger team. You can see her talk about organizing at a TEDx talk.
Why you haven’t heard more about the program is unclear to me, maybe she didn’t self promote enough after the campaign even though she was named to Forbes 30 under 30. Maybe because it’s still secret sauce. Either way, I had the distinct privilege of working with Betsy as she developed the role in 2010. Back then it was just called Organizing inside of the Organizing for America/ DNC New Media team. It’s a program that flourished under the larger New Media/ Digital teams run by Natalie Foster, Lucas Fleischer, Teddy Geoff, and Toby Fallsgraff. During the first three phases a counter part you should know is Katy Rose Glickman, who you should probably know about one of the other digital organizing thought leaders. As it transitioned into the latest OFA I shared the blackops magic we had learned with a new digital organizing team now run by Jeff Gabriel (who I’d organized with since ’08).
For my time, it was a team that worked in the development of cutting edge organizing tools, building a network of social media accounts that was unprecedented, developing social media trainings to change the playing field, leading projects on constituent specific sites, using robot arms to register voters, and so much more. Over the four years that followed I was able to work on a variety of what are still unknown projects, hacks, apps, and methods that changed how people organized and the digital connection to that. Working on such projects garnered me the nickname BlackOps Brad.
I’ve been asked about why such projects remain a mystery and why I’ve never written about it. I’ve always thought I never wanted to tip my hand to the opposition. But that thinking also leaves allies in the dark. And from conversations it sounds like some of our projects were on a curve so ahead of their time that they are still relevant to inform today. So in coming blog posts under Obamaland Digital BlackOps, I’ll do my best to share what we learned but don’t expect the secret formula. Some of it is nothing more than applying traditional organizing principles to how you embrace digital (think snowflake organizing to get people to tweet at scale), taking digital scale and placing it smartly in the hands organizers, and some of it was just BlackOps magic (think about a system that created a tweet and matching UTM tracking code for every event in the country every week and handinf it all off to organizers.)
Here’s to sharing the Obamaland Digital BlackOps files.