The Power of Peer-to-Peer and Relational Organizing

Find out everything you need to know about Relational Organizing and how Qomon can help you implement it in your movement.

8 min read
The Power of Peer-to-Peer and Relational Organizing

Sharing is activism

When you share your opinions, talk about politics or what you believe in with your family and your friends, you do much more than just sharing thoughts.

You defend a point of view and describe the world not as it is but as you think it should be. And this is true commitment. Your commitment and energy can be inspiring for others and convince them of your ideas. Sharing your ideas is activism, without even realizing it!

This is called “Relational organizing”.
Relational organizing is about using the small “everyday actions” taking place in restricted networks and make them act of mobilization.

How does-it work? How to mobilize people through their personal interactions? How to ignite the impact of this kind of organizing ?

What is “relational organizing”?

The short definition

Relational Organizing consists on a canvassing model.  But a model that focuses on contacts between people who belong to the same social network – friends, family, acquaintances, or neighbors. It could be named also “Peer-to-peer organizing”, Peer-to-peer campaigns,  Peer-to-peer fundraising or Peer-to-peer texting.

Your volunteers contact people in their close network through different channels of communication: texting, emailing, phone calls, social media, or physical conversation, etc. Then the people contacted by your volunteers are converted and can share it again with their contacts, friends, family, … This process is repeated again and again.
It’s a true network effect.

The advantages of peer-to-peer organizing or relational organizing

Overcome the inability/ fear of your team to contact strangers

Many of your volunteers will tell you that they don’t feel comfortable contacting strangers or canvassing strangers; especially if they are new to it. And you don’t want to traumatize them from the beginning. This issue disappears when you start by mobilizing your network and people you know like your neighbors. It builds confidence and on top of that, contact details are usually up-to-date!

Overcome the problem of non-credibility

Two relatives would feel much more comfortable talking about politics or societal issues together than with a stranger. The message is delivered by someone who is known and trusted presumably more credible.
In some case, people will find more credibility in the speech of a friend than in what they will read in local newspaper.

Is “relational organizing” worth it?

Previous experiences from the field

Prior to the Municipal elections of November 2019, the nonpartisan group Turnout Nation conducted a randomized evaluation of its “captain” (mobilizers) model of promoting voter turnout. It focuses on contacts between people who belong to the same social network. The evaluation took place in four places: Ohio, San Francisco, Connecticut and Colorado. In all of these regions, the turnout rate was about 32%.

After they agreed to participate, the “captain” proposed approximately 20 names of friends or relatives who would be eligible to vote in the coming election. Half of those names were randomly selected and assigned to a captain, who was in contact with them. The other half was randomly assigned to a no-contact control group.

For each captain, the difference between the turnout rate in the treatment list and the turnout rate in the control list provides an estimate of the average effect of assignment on voter turnout. Finally, across all four sites, 43 volunteers were able to mobilize 387 voters. Another 386 voters were assigned to the control group.

It was finally found out that the turnout rates were 13.2 percentage points higher in the randomly assigned treatment group than the randomly assigned control group!

Comparison with other funnels of engagement

  • “Cold Text-messaging” and Facebook: the turnout rate is less than 0,5 percentage points higher
  • Commercial phone banks: the turnout rate is approximately 1 percentage points higher
  • Canvassing door-to-door: sometimes it produces strong effects among those who answer the door, but contact rates are under 30%. The turnout rate is approximately less than 4 percentage points higher.

How to organize your relational organizing campaign?

Organization is the key

Let’s be concrete, and see what’s the best practice to organize a relational organizing campaign. According to the same study, Ohio state was the most organized campaign.

In Ohio, where supervision was especially well-organized, the results were remarkable: assigning a voter to a captain raised the probability of turnout by 17.1 percentage points.

What should be done to achieve such results?  

  • Organizers have to verify that volunteers are aware of their responsibilities.

They have to make sure that each volunteer knows what they need to do. Some volunteers will have difficulties or a lack of motivation to communicate with their contacts. To overcome this issue, organizers should share material with their volunteers so they feel confident and empowered.

  • Organizers should encourage volunteers to move quickly from the beginning

This strategy requires some effort as soon as volunteers enroll, they’ll need to: select targeted contacts, get communication lines set up, and recruit some new volunteers. The quicker those tasks are done, the better.

The most important part when recruiting a new volunteer is not that the new volunteer agrees, but it’s getting him/her fully onboard!

  • Organizers have to ensure volunteers are informed and prepared

Organizers have to partner up with volunteers to make sure they follow the training process and instructions, and they must stay available to answer any questions volunteers may have.

  • Organizers have to be clear of the goal and reward volunteers

Clear goals = clear sky. Best is to set a number of targeted contacts by volunteers. 10 or 20 are good metrics 🙂
You also need to reward people and bring consideration from those make the most.

  • Organizers have to schedule a time to touch base

Organizers have to connect with each volunteers regularly to gather updates on progress, answer any questions or concerns they might have, to brainstorm and strategize. It is also important to ask if volunteers have been able to get promises or at least commitments. Promises to friends really work!

  • In the case of politics, follow up after the vote!

Organizers will get results from all of their volunteers after the elections. They should ask them about their predictions for their contacts and then follow up after the elections to analyze the results. Organizers should debrief about things they feel like worked well or improvements to be done.

Big Tech + Big Humans = Big Mobilization

The organization required for this type of mobilization campaign is mainly done with the help of technology. Three main categories of tools exist for mobilization and to help implement these types of strategies.

  • Team management tools for volunteers to share material and info (Volunteer management system)
  • Tools for managing communication and feedbacks from the volunteers and follow up with contacts
  • Tools for managing your contact database (a political or nonprofit CRM)
  • Data analysis tools to target priority territories and locate contact points

Qomon gathers all these campaign management features in one tool! It has been thought to be simple and friendly so that anyone can use it.

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