Stage

Prototyping

README

The goal of Leverage is to empower citizens of Philadelphia to use campaign finance data when making informed decisions about who they donate to, who they support, and who they vote for.

The foundation of Leverage is the campaign finance data published by the City of Philadelphia. On top of the data we are building a simple user interface with a search feature that leads to a few visualizations.

Our Guiding Principles

  • Empower citizens to make informed decisions.
  • Keep in mind non-native English speakers and illiterate citizens when designing interface.

Project Activity

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.

Update #3

Leverage: Project Update: Fall 16/ Winter 17

Leverage kept warm and busy through the Fall of 2016 and Winter of 2017. With the added momentum of an award for “best Civic Tech Project” at #CaasH and the tangible progress of an API built by James Lott and other stalwarts of the technology team, the group had much to be proud of. Starting in November the team doubled down on their user centered design goals with several highly productive and well attended Hack Nights gathered round the hearth at “Local Host”.

Jacqueline Siotto lead a dive into the results of the roughly 100 surveys she gathered. The presentation summarized major findings as well as highlighted key takeaways. The team also dedicated a night to looking at campaign finance applications currently in use in New Mexico and Oakland. Chris Medykiewicz took note, gathered feedback and built out a wireframe that includes basic features and pages that the team agreed will be needed.

The strategy team carried out its first focus group with the help of the friendly staff at the Philadelphia Free Library Independence Branch and the generous citizens who participated. The focus group is part of a larger research plan the group is carrying out to better understand its stakeholders and users.

As all projects go through cycles of leadership, Leverage has been fortunate to have had new volunteers step up when others had to step back. While the core group has remained unchanged previous team lead titles: Data Analysis; Visualization ;Technology; Strategy; Project Manager; Project Coordinator have fallen to the side and a new formal structure has emerged.

The new structure is a Technology team coordinator, People team coordinator and overall Project Lead. Positions will be held for six month cycles culminating at either the spring or fall hackathon. The Project Lead will be responsible for quarterly reports summarizing the monthly feedback from the coordinators. The Technology team will encompass data, pipeline and UX while the People team will include research, strategy and recruitment.

We are especially grateful for the help of Chris A. Williams, Matthew Tomlinson and Montana Goodman in recent weeks. Chris teamed up with others focusing on data and pipeline efforts at #CELaunchpad providing valuable insights from his efforts building a campaign finance application for the state of Delaware (http://de2016.com/). Matt helped the strategy team to refine its focus group exercises and Montana provided valuable insights as a co-participant in the #CELaunchpad project design workshop.

Leverage Wins Civic Tech Prize at #CaasH

This project was in better shape than the rest of the cohort, as it was the team’s second hackathon attempt at putting together a comprehensive review of campaign finance data in Philly. The site has an active API which can be leveraged by other cities (and states? and countries?). Thanks to its advanced state, the team behind Leverage took home the Civic Tech award.

Read the full article on technical.ly…Published

Update #2

Leverage: Project Update: Summer 2016

The summer of 2016 was a busy summer for both the city of Philadelphia and members of Leverage. While the city hosted the Democratic National Convention, Leverage participated at the American Experiments Showcase Challenge. In addition we met for hacknights, held a UX feature workshop and distributed a user surveys to hundreds of citizens. New members James Lott, Chris Medykiewicz and Remi Adewale joined the group adding technical skills and experience to the technology and visualization teams.

The American Experiments Showcase Challenge provided Josh Werner, Jacqueline Siotto and Casey Vaughan a chance to answer attendee questions and demo a prototype of Leverage. "We were honored to be included in the showcase which included applications in use from around the country such as Democracy Works and Ballot Ready". In speaking with conference attendees we had many takeaways. First, we learned that some people are interested in seeing campaign expenditure data as well as donations received. Second, we learned that users desire the ability to drill down on the data and that infographics should be clickable into a subset of data if possible. Third, many attendees expressed a strong concern that we avoid assumptions about the public domain knowledge about campaign finance. In other words we need to meet the community where it is.

In the Fall of 2016 Leverage will be busy. The team will regroup as an evergreen project at CaaSH. We will utilize the extended face time to reach a consensus on a core feature set that will be built out in as an MVP (Leverage 1.0 application) for #CaaSH demo night being held Oct 25th. In addition the Leverage team will be meeting at a Hacknight later in the Fall to view a presentation by strategy lead, Jacquiline Siotto that summarizes information gleaned from our citizen summary.

Update #1

Leverage: Project Update: Spring 2016

The Leverage team energized by an excellent Hackathon prototype built over two days in late March 2016 has continued in its effort throughout the spring months. Two in person group meetings were held in the weeks following DemHack 2016 to finalize team leads in the following areas:

Subject Expert: Meghan O’Conner Data Analysis: Led by Eamon Caddigan Visualization: Led by Patrick Woods Technology: Led by Adebayo Adejare Strategy: Led by Jacqueline Siotto Project Manager: Josh Werner Project Coordinator: Casey Vaughan Consultants: Bob Lannon & Kam Lasater

The Data Analysis is experimenting with different ways of distilling the finance data released by the city into easily digestible information for Philadelphia voters. This includes additional analysis of the unsupervised clustering approach used in our DemHack 2016 presentation; we hope to discover hidden structure in the pattern of donations that will allow us to make comparisons between the candidates. We are also experimenting with supervised approaches that could allow us to apply meaningful labels to the types of donors who support each candidate.

After some research and debate, the visualization team has decided on using NVD3 (http://nvd3.org/) as its means to display dynamic data. Moving forward, we will work with the Data Analysis Team to determine which visualizations will be needed. We want to focus on displaying the campaign finance data in a way that is clear and understandable for both experienced user of this information, and novice voters who are interested in understanding how money has been spread in their local elections. We will then work with the Technology Team to connect the site to the data, and display the visualizations on the front end of the site/app.

The technology team tasked with infrastructure for the application ensures the seamless integration's of the various web systems and provides maintenance and security for the server. The technology team deploys Django API with a Nginx+Gunicorn setup as the server infrastructure complete with reverse proxy, load balancing, firewall and any other necessary components to the availability and security of the web application and site. Lastly, the technology team investigates the integration of dockerized containers for easier deployment and maintenance.

The Leverage project's main objective is to make Philadelphia campaign finance data more accessible and useful to voters. The strategy team is conducting market research to better understand how city-level campaign finance data is currently being used around the US, and how and to whom it might be most useful in Philadelphia. We are following up our general research with an online survey and in-person focus groups, which will help us identify and define our core target users as well as inform how we design and build our website/app and visualizations. We will continue to solicit feedback throughout the development process to ensure we best meet the needs of our users. The strategy team will work closely with our subject-matter expert to gain insight into the national and city-level campaign finance landscape, the data analysis team to determine what information is most relevant to our target users, and the visualizations team to help inform our final product.

We are especially grateful and excited to have caught the attention of Tina Zh, Marc-Andy Noel Jeune and Ian Campbell in recent weeks. Tina and Marc-Andy are joining the visualization team and Ian is looking to provide support to both the technology and visualization teams. Also we would like to publicly thank Chris Alfano and the entire Code For Philly team who constantly fan the embers that keep projects like this alive.

Moving forward the group has settled into an impressive cadence as members juggle professional and personal obligations. A monthly group-wide teleconference will be held during the summer months to keep the cadence steady. Teams and smaller groups will continue to work independently via Slack, hack nights and google hangouts. We will post an update at the end of the summer to keep others apprised of our progress!