Casey Vaughan Leverage: Philly Campaign Finance Update #4

Leverage: Project Update: Spring/Summer 17

The spring and Summer of 2017 brought Leverage both cause for celebration and cause for concern. The list of reasons to celebrate included an in depth interview with a supervisor at the city of Philadelphia Board of Ethics, a presentation of iteration 3 proposed features in front of a panel of judges and conference calls with representatives from MapLight and OpenOakland. In addition the research team carried out its 2nd & 3rd Focus Groups at various public libraries in the city. Still at end of summer it was as if all these gains could be eclipsed by a lack of progress and consensus on the frontend. Here is a closer look at these events and a shout of appreciation out to those who helped along the way.

At the CELaunchpad Demo night held in early spring Chris Williams and Casey Vaughan presented the project and received feedback from several professional developers. While not all the feedback was what we wanted to hear it definitely helped us to evaluate our project objectively. No one want’s to hear that your project is “a little lacking in direction” but its better then finding out the hard way when no one shows up to team meetings. Feedback like, “I think your idea of a focus group is great. It will really help further your project.” helped us solidify our plans for running focus groups throughout the summer months.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2017 Eamon Caddigan and Casey Vaughan held a series of focus groups at various libraries in the city with interested citizens. The conversations provided us with several insights into how citizens relate to campaign finance information, insights we hope can be used to inform the design of the Leverage user experience. Thanks to the staff at the Philadelphia Free library (Independence, Fishtown and Blackwell branches) for allowing us to utilize their meeting rooms for focus groups this summer.

Our Open Disclosure Oakland conversation was a dream come true and is thanks to the planning of People team lead Pat Woods. In mid summer Leverage had a whole hour to discuss topics with key members of their team. Questions ranged from teambuilding tips and onboarding to code architecture. John Rhoades from Commonwealth Commonsense joined the call and provided key insights about existing campaign finance disclosure in the state of Pennsylvania. We plan to keep this line of communication going in the future as it provided us with valuable insights and answers. Thanks to the Open Disclosure Oakland team for an informative conference call that helped us appreciate what it takes to complete a campaign finance application!

Our conversation with Map Light helped us realize just how fortunate we were to live in a city with rigorous campaign finance regulations and data. Map Lights program director Hamsini Sridharan filled us in about the work Map Light is doing around the country to build a campaign finance product (Illinois, New York and California) for voters and journalists. Going forward we have been offered the opportunity to speak with Skippy Williams, Product Manager at Map Light. We are looking forward to continuing this conversation. Thanks to Hamsini Sridharan for sharing insights into the landscape of campaign finance around the nation.

Code for Philly continues to provide the Leverage team a backbone of support services. CfP has helped Leverage find new members as well as places to hold meetings. Launchpads and hackathons have been springboards that allowed the project to build momentum. We are grateful for all the hard work the CfP leadership does to provide passionate civic technologists the opportunity to build cool projects.