Building Tech for Progressive Power, Not Profit

Brian Young
May 8, 2019 · 4 min read

Today, EveryAction announced in a blog post that it has acquired ActionKit, merging two of the progressive movement’s major technology providers. As soon as the post went live, I started receiving questions about what this means for Action Network and the progressive technology space as a whole. I even received a couple of questions from people about why we merged with NGP-VAN, mixing up Action Network and ActionKit (it’s ok, people get confused by the different toolsets a lot). So I just wanted to take a moment to tell you a little more about our model and why we set ourselves up the way we did.

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The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. , organized using Action Network tools. Photo credit: Flickr user Liz Lemon.

First, I want to congratulate the folks at ActionKit for having developed a powerful toolset that has historically served as an important part of the progressive ecosystem. From developing some of the earliest email mobilization tools with MoveOn to their work today, Patrick and his team have contributed a lot to our movement. I’ve worked a bit with Patrick in the past and always respected his focus on his technology’s strengths and his commitment to quality.

We’re dedicated to building tools that are sustainable and aligned with the needs of the progressive movement

Action Network’s model is a bit different from other tech companies, even in the progressive space, and has been from Day One. We wouldn’t be a part of a merger like this because we aren’t built on a for-profit model. We are run entirely by a non-profit, which has some distinct advantages for our partners and the movement at-large. Most importantly, it lets us focus on impact rather than profit. We’re dedicated to building tools that are sustainable and aligned with the needs of the progressive movement, which we do through a cooperative development process that we created in partnership with the AFL-CIO. This means that our development decisions will always be made by movement partners — and never corporate investors seeking profit. Each development decision is driven by our users’ needs, and our largest partners collaboratively shape our technology roadmap (shoutout to the AFL-CIO and DailyKos, our current table partners. Interested in joining one of our partner tables? Get in touch at partnerships@actionnetwork.org!).

From the Action Network toolset to our new organizing toolset Action Builder, this cooperative development process has resulted in tools that are open, intuitive, and accessible to all. We strive for a design that works for organizers and a business model that’s open to the grassroots. We offer a version of Action Network tools at no cost for individuals and small groups, and similarly, we made sure that Action Builder combines powerful organizing tools with an intuitive design that’s easy to use.

We believe this cooperative approach is the best way to build tools in a movement context. Our progressive movement is really not the best place to make a long-term investment from a profit perspective; there’s always more money to be made elsewhere. From Salsa to Change.org and many others, history has shown that the pathway to profit leads away from our movement. So we built our model to make sure our focus would always stay where it began: on creating the best tools for progressives to build power.

We’re doubling down on our partner-driven model by coming up with new ways to work with the movement and bring more partners into our cooperative development process.

It’s worked. Maybe even more than we expected at first, honestly. From our tools that made possible some of the largest days of action in history to the recently launched Action Builder — the most powerful tool for organizing ever created — we’ve built innovative tools that make a real difference for our campaigns. And I’m happy to say that we’re doubling down on our partner-driven model by coming up with new ways to work with the movement and bring more partners into our cooperative development process. Stay tuned for more details on that in the coming weeks!

Until then, on behalf of myself and the Action Network team, thank you for being a part of our cooperative, progressive model. We built our model to sustainably provide great tools to the movement, and we’ll continue to grow that model to help our movement build power, together.

Powering Progressive Movements

The official blog of Action Network and Action Builder.

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