Why We Need Empower Engine
"Wait, you're gonna build maps?” said a National Deputy Field Director of a large Super Pac in 2018. “That would be amazing! It'd be great to actually 'see' what's happening on the ground," he continued, his eyes gleaming with excitement.
This kind of excitement to see, geographically, the progress of a field program and/or campaign is all too common and for many organizations there aren't many good solutions that fit this need. First, many groups doing political work will hire various people, many of whom come with diverse skill sets; but only a few have solid experience with map making. The few who have such skills are often saddled with the arduous task of finding shapefiles, matching them to proprietary data, and building custom maps. Every map takes hours for the staffer to produce. These maps are often hard to share and may be simply static images. By the time they get into the hands of the intended audience, they are often already out-of-date.
My name is Ejike Obineme, and that is one of the reasons I joined Empower Engine -- to help build tools to enhance the workflow of those doing important work. I got my start in politics doing community organizing work with many groups including Black Youth Project 100, New Orleans Workers Group and #FightFor15. At the same, I worked at Apple in varying capacities from software training to troubleshooting UNIX-based operating systems. This eclectic mix of skills put me in a special position where I was able to see the needs of those on the ground and also imagine new possibilities of where tech and organizing intersect. Empower Engine gives me the opportunity to use all my skills, designing tools for organizers and building them as well.
Making tools that allow progressive groups to do their work quickly and efficiently is an urgent need, and Empower Engine's data viz platform specializes in helping folks with virtually no prior experience build maps easily. Competent users of GIS technology may take hours to create a map or two. Empower Engine reduces that time to seconds. I was struck by the platform's ability to not only make valuable maps but also connect seamlessly with an organization's data to provide daily updates of their team's progress.
It's almost a no brainer that such a tool would exist, but I've been on a number of teams that struggled to find a solution to the problem that Empower solves handily. The hustle and bustle of a campaign leaves the more time-consuming data visualization tasks further and further down the priority list. I experienced this when I worked as the Data Director + IT Manager at Voice of the Experienced, a group who focused on felony disenfranchisement as well as various electoral campaigns. We desperately needed a mapping solution but with all my duties, I could not dedicate the time or resources to developing a mapping solution that fit all of our needs. In retrospect, Empower Engine’s platform would have been a great solution and still afforded me time to complete other tasks.
For the 2018 election cycle, I worked as the National Reporting Director at a Super PAC called For Our Future Action Fund and indeed people wanted maps, maps and more maps. Most people agree that being able to visualize the realities on the ground in map form would be extremely critical in making an honest assessment of errors and opportunities in one's program. And yet, a comprehensive mapping solution for such groups is virtually non-existent, save for Empower Engine. It’s true that people who work in politics are are burdened with an almost unlimited number of tasks and very little time to complete them. I'm excited to bring my talents to a firm that offers a platform that bridges the gap between data and people.