Looking back on the Twitter Vote Report with Allison Fine: A lesson in the importance of partnerships

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I was recently fortunate to speak with Allison Fine, an all-around do-gooder in the world of tech 2.0 (or whatever we're calling it these days - what are we calling it these days?) Among the many fabulous things for which Allison has been responsible, you might recall Give List, a crowdsourced a list of volunteery things that could be offered for Christmas. The project was developed in partnership with Techsoup/NetSquared C.E.O. Marnie Web.

Allison and I discussed - in essence - the planning of the order-of-operations used to put into action meaningful and effective web-outreach campaigns.

With a little bit of retrospect, we looked back on the Twitter Vote Report, a collaborative Twitter-based effort that was focused on helping to report voting-day irregularities. Here, we focused largely on the role and importance of partnerships in said campaigns.

Some folks in this realm suggest that, when putting together a campaign like this one, one should have various outreach strategies and methodologies that play off of each other. It seems the report was relying exclusively on Twitter, no?

It had an SMS number and an iPhone app that went with it as well. Those subsequently were used in the next iteration of Twitter vote report, which was inauguration '09 that NPR ran and then Indian Vote Report for the month-long election in India. What stopped me there short for a second was that in some sense, Twitter was a stand alone social media effort, but in a much larger context, it was happening within the whole voter mobilization / voter protection effort, which included all the 800 voter protection lines, efforts on NBC to advertise voter protection, so the Twitter Vote Report was just once slice of this much larger, more complicated quilt of voter communications and protection efforts. It's certainly true that we didn't have - say - a YouTube presence, but part of that had to do with the fact we got the whole thing up and running in 28 days.

So it wasn't necessarily a case of, "We're not going to have X, Y, and Z social media presence" - it was more a matter of trying to get this thing off the ground.

What we did do though, is we had fantastic partnerships. We had partnerships with the entire voter protection coalition, which were 30 or 40 of the largest voter protection groups like Common Cause and Rock the Vote. We had partnerships with YouTube that did have it's own voter communication channel and there was their partnership with NPR. There was a whole lot of leveraging and networking going on.

It sounds like I'm hearing from you that Twitter was the primary tool that you all were responsible for, but in a larger context, it was one of many tools employable in a tapestry of many partnerships. You didn't have to rely on other channels because you had other partners that were already taking care of those channels.

I think that's just right. I think that any time someone goes into a networked initiative - those different channels and different tools are going to come into play by the definition of being a networked initiative itself. It can't be a closed effort if the whole thing was built on the strategy and values of a network. It's the only way we got the whole thing up and running in such a short period of time.

I find Allison's illumination of the importance of partnerships (in the context of staging successful campaigns) particularly heartening, as I often hear a particular hesitancy from organizations looking to move forward with similar efforts like this based on the fear of lack of infrastructure needed for proper follow-through. However, as we see in the conversation with Allison, it becomes clear that the successes of actions - especially larger ones like these - are contingent on relying on pre-existing infrastructures by establishing strategic partnerships. How have partnerships like these benefitted initiatives that you or your organization have worked on?