The Progressive Technology Project is a capacity building and technology services organization with deep roots in organized communities of color and low income communities across the United States. Our mission is to help community organizing groups achieve their goals more effectively and efficiently. We do that by helping them build their capacity — both skills and understanding — to integrate technology strategically into the life of their organizations.
PTP’s expertise is at the nexus of organizing and technology. PTP fills a niche by providing the guidance and skills for organizers and organizations to use the communications and technology tools that they need to achieve strategic wins. You can read more about PTP on its website.
About the PowerBase Project
For over 15 years PTP has focused on building the capacity of community organizing groups to use technology more effectively, efficiently, and strategically. For PTP’s entire history, the groups we work with have expressed deep dissatisfaction with their database options.
PTP responded to pressure from groups by taking on a comprehensive scan of database platforms in the fall of 2008. We found that CiviCRM – an open source platform – already had 75% of the essential database requirements for basebuilding organizations.
PTP received a grant from the Ford Foundation allowing us to work directly with representative organizations to develop a version of CiviCRM that meets the needs of organizing groups. We completed the first version of PowerBase through a close and collaborative process with Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Environmental Health Coalition, Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL NY), and others.
The PowerBase project is more than simply a database. It’s a combination of a uniform database and a system of on-call technical support and training provided by people who understand the field of organizing. Because PowerBase is a web-based platform, it’s accessible by multiple people in multiple sites at the same time.
When PowerBase is adopted by a critical mass of organizations as the standard database for community organizing, the gains go well beyond the work of individual organizations. The entire field of community organizing will benefit:
- PowerBase allows organizations to share information in ways that were inconceivable with earlier technology
- PowerBase integrates smoothly and reliably with voter data
- PowerBase facilitates the sharing of best database practices across organizations
- PowerBase means staff can move among organizations and not have to learn a new database each time
- PowerBase allows the creation of database training programs for the field as a whole so that groups can gain the ability to use the database deeply and effectively (as opposed to the current situation where cross-organizational training is impossible because each group is using a different customized database)
PowerBase and CiviCRM
When PTP launched the PowerBase project, our first step was to undertake a scan of the existing open source database tools to see if there was a toolset that we could build on. Our scan showed that CiviCRM was the best fit for the project, and so when you use PowerBase, what you’re using is a version of CiviCRM, prepared by PTP, that is designed to meet the needs of community organizing groups.
The CiviCRM and PowerBase projects enjoy a close working relationship, and in fact much of the code PTP commissioned in the creation of PowerBase has been included in a module of CiviCRM. As the project moves forward, our hope is that by working with PowerBase users, we can help to spur the creation of additional Civi/PowerBase modules that add additional pieces of functionality to PowerBase, and that CiviCRM continue to benefit from the PowerBase community of users.