Saturday, November 15, 2008

NDP Strategic Review, Step 4: Building Connections

Following up on my earlier posts in the NDP Strategic Review, I'll quickly point back to my earlier comments on the party's online presence in the past election to set out the framework for what the NDP should be looking to do in the future.

Again, the creation of the Orange Room puts the NDP ahead of its federal counterparts for the moment in enabling user-generated content, while efforts to make use of other platforms (such as a successful push to keep NDP candidates ahead of their competitors in Facebook support0 have also been at least somewhat effective. But that speaks far more to the pitiful efforts of the other federal parties than any sense that the NDP has maximized its potential to use the Internet to connect actual and potential supporters.

Instead, the path forward would seem to me to involve something comparable to Barack Obama's MyBO platform which both ensures that the party's central site becomes a primary online destination, and allows for decentralized organizing rather than funneling all activity through the NDP's central office (which is still the case to the extent that the Orange Room is filtered by a central review).

Obama's efforts seem to have borne fruit, resulting in what looks to be a unique means of delivering content, tracking supporters and facilitating decentralized networking and organization. Yet the payoff for developing a similar system may be even greater in Canada than it was south of the border.

After all, Obama's online platform looks to have been bound to change in a hurry based on the outcome of the election. While the initial organization was centred around Obama's primary run, the site has had to evolve since to turn toward the general election, and has now faced questions about what will become of the site as Obama's focus turns toward governing.

In contrast, a platform which finds its basis in a stable party to begin with would have no need to account for that kind of metamorphosis. Which means that the site's profile and user involvement would seem to have significantly more potential to carry on and continue building over an extended period of time.

Of course, that would also require the NDP to put in sufficient resources to both develop a similar platform to begin with, and keep it up to date so as to ensure that it stays on the cutting edge. And the easy answer might seem to be to say that party resources are better put into more traditional efforts.

But given that the NDP has seen fit to get at least a temporary jump on the other Canadian political parties as a hub for user-generated content, it would only make sense to put in the additional effort required to put together the kind of online infrastructure that can actually give the NDP an advantage in terms of organization. And the combination of a "my NDP" site which reduces the need for geographic proximity with a concerted push to connect with supporters currently off the radar would seem to me to be the most promising means of expanding far beyond the NDP's current pool of supporters.

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