The mission of UpRise was to build political campaign capacity within communities themselves by dramatically increasing the scale and variety of volunteer engagement. Their goal was to reduce the dependence on money in politics and make elected officials more responsible to their constituents.
How UpRise Got Started
UpRise Co-founder Antonia Scatton had been working for political campaigns and advocacy organizations for more than two decades. In that time, she had developed many ways for campaigns to harness the energy, creativity, relationships and local knowledge of political volunteers.
Meanwhile, UC Berkeley computer scientists Nelson Morgan and Barath Raghavan were exploring ways to reduce the cost of political campaigns in order to relieve pressure on candidates and incumbents to court large donors.
In late 2014, Scatton and Morgan were introduced by Berkeley Professor and political messaging guru George Lakoff. Together with Raghavan and user experience expert Madelaine Plauché, they formed UpRise Campaigns in June 2015 as a Social Purpose Corporation.
The goal of UpRise was to build a platform which would allow volunteers and campaigns to connect with each other and manage volunteer driven activities for campaigns.
From 2016 through 2019, UpRise traveled across the country working with individual campaigns and state and local Democratic Party committees. They found that, in order to get people to embrace a tool for engaging volunteers beyond the typical limited options, they had to first promote a culture in which people were comfortable trusting volunteers with greater responsibility.
Across the Country – 2016
In Berkeley, Nelson Morgan and the technology team developed the platform and app design specifications, conducted market research, and created and field tested a beta version of the platform.
Meanwhile, Antonia Scatton traveled across the country to conduct training sessions for the Arizona, Idaho and Minnesota State Democratic Party Committees, advise campaigns and meet with political leaders.
These training sessions focused on helping people visualize a much wider range of roles for volunteers in all aspects of campaign and party operations, with an emphasis on reconfiguring campaigns around the maximization of person-to-person outreach in communities.
UpRise wrapped up the 2016 election cycle working with Michele Young for Congress (OH-2) in Hamilton County, one of the most “swing” counties in the U.S.
Virginia – 2017
In 2017, UpRise worked with the Democratic Party of Virginia and more than 40 state legislative campaigns, assisting with volunteer recruitment and management. These campaigns and volunteers used the platform to connect with each other across the state.
UpRise also created and staffed two Young Virginia Votes Centers, one in Richmond and one in Newport News, in collaboration with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table. These centers focused on mobilizing millennial voters. Youth turnout increased by a record breaking 30% over 2013 (the most recent comparable election cycle).
UpRise organized a volunteer recruitment fair in Chesterfield County as well as numerous outreach and visibility activities including postcard campaigns, poster campaigns, roadside rallies and a several much loved overpass parties featuring LED light-up letters.
Democrats picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates and swept the state-wide elections by a huge margin. Candidates that used the UpRise platform or that were actively advised by UpRise performed better than those who did not:
“UpRise could revolutionize grassroots politics. UpRise was able to connect us to volunteers who we would not have otherwise connected with.”
Lizzie Drucker-Basch, Campaign Manager
Dawn Adams, Virginia House of Delegates, District 68
In November of 2017, Antonia Scatton went to Orlando, Florida to train the staff of the Florida Democratic Party, including the field staff for the 2018 election cycle. Innovative DFL Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown had hired the 2018 staff a full year in advance with the intention of building a program of long-term community engagement.
“We need more folks like UpRise Campaigns working on revolutionizing the way we campaign. If we are going to continue to pull in newer generations of voters, we must think outside the box and find new and different ways to reach the growing and ever-changing electorate.”
– Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director, Democratic Party of Florida
President, Association of State Democratic Executive Directors
Arizona – 2018-2019
Special Election Pilot Program
In Spring of 2018, UpRise launched a pilot program with the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) for the Special Election for the 8th Congressional District. They worked with the campaign of Hiral Tipirneni to identify interests of incoming volunteers and deploy them effectively in a wide array of activities, resulting in a dramatic increase in community engagement.
While Trump won the district by 21 points in 2016, Hiral Tipirneni lost by only 4.7 points, a historic improvement. Learn more here.
“Nothing makes a bigger difference in life than creating community. UpRise understands this and builds upon it for your campaign. If you like cooking, there’s a volunteer job for you. If you like driving, there’s a role for you. If you like painting, sign up and help change the world! Antonia and her team take the time to understand each person’s unique skills and abilities and how to incorporate them into a campaign. Media buys, direct mail and robocalls will never come close to having the impact your neighbor, peer or colleague have when it comes to influencing your vote. This isn’t a job, it is a passion for UpRise. They want to change the world one conversation at a time and they are. Look at their latest result in AZ CD-8!”
– Kelly Paisley, Campaign Manager, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni for Congress
In the Fall of 2018, UpRise worked with the Democratic Committees of Arizona Legislative Districts 21 and 22 to conduct several controlled experiments into the impact of handwritten postcards and letters. They found significant positive results which you can read all about here.
UpRise also worked closely with the campaign of Anita Malik for Congress (AZ06) and No on Prop 305, which defeated school voucher expansion 65% to 35%.
Blueprint for a Better Party
In late 2018 and early 2019, UpRise interviewed more than 120 stakeholders of Arizona’s Democratic and progressive political community for the purpose of gathering feedback on existing campaigns and ideas for future improvements. This was the first stage of a process to recommend improvements to the Arizona Democratic Party for year-round operations that would impact the ADP’s ability to innovate and succeed during future campaign cycles.
The result of this process was a set of recommendations for a strategic improvement process to build capacity, improve services to candidates, develop leadership at all levels, increase volunteer participation, develop year round community presence and voter engagement, and improve the party brand both internally and externally. You can read all about it here.
We’ll let you know…