Azavea Atlas

Maps, geography and the web

Adding State Districts to Your Salesforce Nonprofit Account

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Cicero Salesforce Nonprofit

Cicero’s integration with the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack has been expanded to include State Upper and Lower Districts. Back in November, we announced the ability to verify household addresses with Cicero and match them to Congressional districts. Now, it is possible to add state legislative districts as well!

 

How Does it Work?

The Nonprofit Starter Pack uses the Cicero API to geocode addresses associated with Household records. It then matches the address to Congressional, State Upper, and State Lower districts, and appends them to the address record. In addition, it updates the record with the Cass-certified standardization, meaning your addresses get verified in the process!

If you haven’t yet used Cicero with Salesforce, you can follow the steps outlined here to get started. Now, instead of only seeing Congressional Districts appended to your household address, State Upper and Lower Districts will be populated as well! Important note: Before starting, make sure you are running version 3.43 of the NPSP or higher. Versions below 3.43 will not support this function.

If you are already utilizing the Cicero integration with the Nonprofit Starter Pack, and you have not upgraded to 3.43, you can manually add the districts to your address detail. Here’s how:

 

1) First, edit your address page layout to include State Upper and State Lower:

NPSP Address Layout 2

 

2) Next, add the new fields to your profile:

Profile Address Object 2A

 

3) You’re done!

NPSP Address Detail Page 2A

Cicero hearts Nonprofits

We offer excellent discounts to nonprofits wishing to use Cicero. Through our partnership with TechSoup, all nonprofits are eligible for 5,000 credits (that’s good for 5,000 addresses matched to legislative districts) for only $25. We also offer a 10% discount overall to any organization qualifying as a nonprofit, Government, or educational institution.

Need more reasons to sign up? Drop us a line or tweet us; we’ll be happy to help. And don’t forget to tune in to the next post in this series, which will cover tips on customizing your Address Layout in the NPSP.

 

The Struggle for Power in Civic Tech: Highlights from #PDF15

Among the numerous talks at this year’s Personal Democracy Forum, one word that stood out was “Power” (not the kind that is currently keeping your computer on). Power, in Civic Tech, was discussed as both an impediment to achievement, as well as a by-product of having the right tools at your disposal. Below, several compelling perspectives:

Picture of the stage at Personal Democracy Forum 2015

Let’s Talk About Power

Eric Liu’s excellent first-day talk framed this discussion, defining Power, simply, as “a capacity to have others do what you would like them to do.” Civic Power, therefore, is that capacity “as applied to the common good” or the many. This leads to the core question of civic Power, which is, for the many, “who decides?” Eric thinks we should strive to Democratize our understanding of how Power works, and be responsible with the pile of tools, skills, and ideas we have in our possession. This is especially important in Civic Tech, where we have the opportunity to design tools for the public good, and often, to choose how they are used and distributed.

 

Knowledge is Power

Both Harold Feld and Dave Troy gave incredible presentations about the internet and social media as public utilities, although approached from two very different angles. Harold discussed Verizon’s attempts not to rebuild on Fire Island after Hurricane Sandy. He argued that the internet’s powers to offer open communication are as crucial as any other public utility, and it should be made available and affordable to all.

A People Map of the City of St. Louis showing various twitter users interests who live in St. Louis

People Map of St. Louis, via Peoplemaps.org, created by Dave Troy

Dave Troy, a social media cartographer, presented a new project called Peoplemaps.org. He used Twitter to create a people map of St. Louis (including Ferguson) that shed light on the segregations in that community in a much more meaningful way than geographic maps alone. Dave used to do this with Facebook, which unfortunately no longer allows access to the API. Many other sites do the same. Even Twitter allows itself to be censored in other countries. These tools also are public utilities, Dave pointed out, and blocking access to them is a direct attack on knowledge.

Tools are Power

Many PDF speakers agreed that having the right tools impacted Power. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (pictured right), Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers Presenting on stage at PDFCongressional Chair of the House Republican Conference, gave an honest speech about her efforts to integrate Congress with the technology of the future. “Policy makers should be innovators,” she said, but instead, “Congress is more like the DMV than Uber.” She also summarized a recent trip to Ukraine in which the Mayor of Kiev stated, “media is more powerful than bullets” when it comes to revolution.

Danny O’Brien highlighted the successes of the movement to stop mass surveillance with the Patriot Act, but asked “Did we win because we were right, or because we had cool tools?” He ended with this message: “Tools need to be used to distribute Power, not aggregate it.”

 

Control is Power

Dante Barry’s passionate speech about the Black Lives Matter movement recognized the extraordinary collaboration that has resulted from the open internet. This Powerful platform has led to a Powerful movement, but he warned, “The internet is only as good as the people who control it.” In an age where phones have become defense mechanisms, rules that keep our content in our hands are critical.

 

Politics is Power

Speaking over Skype, Birgitta Jonsdottir (pictured below), Leader of the Pirate Party in Iceland, detailed her efforts Birgitta Jonsdottir speaking over Skype at the PDF Conferenceto affect change in her country, which ultimately led to a new political party being formed. “People are always telling us we don’t have the power to change. It’s a lie,” she said. Political movements should not be triangular, but rather a circle of shared Power. “If you don’t become the power, the power can’t control you.”

During a breakout session on Designing the Digital Legislature, New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos also agreed that politics is often the road to Power: “You can have the best ideas in the world, but you still need someone in government to pass the law.” This sentiment was echoed by Santiago Siri, in his creation of the Net Party in Argentina. This is also a theme well understood here at Team Cicero. Our database of legislative districts and elected officials is often used by organizations to advance an advocacy campaign through direct contact from constituents to their legislators.

 

Power to the People

Jess Kutch’s talk on coworker.org proved what people can do when they have the right tools and skills available to them. In a triumph for Starbucks Baristas, a social media campaign was launched by one woman in an effort to change the corporate tattoo policy. What resulted was not only a win for tattoos, but also a blueprint for how the internet can fuel a movement.

With so many different channels, where does Power come from in Civic Tech? It does not flow solely from knowledge, or tools, or control, or politics. As Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry (organizers and founders of PDF) seemed to know when choosing this year’s theme, it is comes from the people. And as people working within Civic Tech, we should use that power consciously.

Unicorns, Ducks, and Things that are Big: A recap of Visualized Political Data

Last week I attended the Visualized: Political Data conference in Washington, D.C. This was an offshoot of the popular Visualized conference, focusing entirely on political data and visualizations, and also

The podium at the Jack Morton Auditorium at GW

covering themes such as open data, communication, journalism, maps, things that are big, and not-maps. With thirteen presentations in eight hours, it was an ambitious agenda. But, despite that diverse list of talking points, there was a clear sense of continuity among the sessions. Below, some themes from the day:

The Bridge

Jamie Chandler (self-described “lecturer” and professor from GW) started off the day with this statement: there is no bridge between Data Science and Communications. The problem, he said, is that Data Scientists can compute the numbers, and journalists can tell the story, but they often don’t do those things together. As Chris Cillizza from Chris Cillizza presenting on the ascent of data in journalismthe Washington Post (pictured left) later confirmed, the media is usually the last to catch on in terms of innovation.

The people that calculate the data need to be able to share it in a meaningful way. Jamie’s solution was that Data Scientists should partner with Data Journalists to get the story out. Chris’s solution, and one that other speakers referenced throughout the day, was more unicorns. Elusive beings that only exist in small numbers, unicorns are people who can crunch the numbers, make the visualizations, and talk about them in a way that makes sense. Are unicorns the journalists of the future? Chris thinks so. And he would hire hundreds of them if he could.

The Scaffolding

Derek Willis (NY Times Upshot) and Rebecca Williams (Data.gov) discussed our data infrastructure problem, and tools to encourage open data, respectively. Derek’s focus was on the dead ends and errors encountered when one goes searching for data from the government. He highlighted incorrect Congressional swearing in dates, Congressional Leave of Absence records that were surprisingly absent, and a successful hack of Rand Paul’s donations (which he pretty easily scraped from the campaign website). Before building, you need to have a strong frame in place, which is something that we desperately lack. Derek encouraged the @unitedstates project, and the sharing of our individual efforts as a group to help prevent wasted time.

Rebecca, a current government employee, offered several useful solutions when encountering data you need but cannot access:

  1. Vote on it: This vote “may be more important than your annual November vote.”
  2. Engage with it: via Project Open Data
  3. Edit it: via Github
  4. And when all else fails, email the government (under: “human capital”) and they will email back*!

(*Personal anecdote: When doing research about legislative officials for the Cicero Database, I default to emailing frequently. Sometimes it works!)

Maps and Not-Maps

This was the title of the presentation by Alyson Hurt (NPR Visuals), and also summed up the contents of several other presenters’ material. Alyson discussed the “Geo-Map” (or just, “map”), which has long been the method used for representing state data. Alicia Parlapiano (NY Times) also showed election maps, ElectoralCollege2008.svgsome dating back to the late 18 and early 1900’s, with varying levels of usefulness. One of these maps depicted ducks with and without hats used to represent the senate and congress. But, most looked incredibly similar to those we still use today. This begged the question: how effective is this image a means to convey data?

Though maps are recognizable and loved by the public, they are also fraught. Maps don’t give states that are smaller fair representation, particularly in showing electoral results. Sometimes a map is not the best way to represent geographical data, Alicia said. Sometimes a table is.

Jonathan Swabish (Urban Institute, PolicyViz, and also co-host of the conference) mentioned this same point in the workshops the day before the conference. Before you make a map, he said, ask yourself these four things:

  1. Should it be a bar chart?
  2. Should it be a scatterplot?
  3. Should it be a table? OR
  4. Should it just be a sentence?

Alicia noted that Cartograms often solve the map problem. However, the loss of geography can be confusing. But, “sometimes geography is irrelevant,” said Alyson. The answer, as it turns out, is in your audience.

New York Times Cartogram of the United States in 1929, from Alicia's presentation

Fairly bad photo from Alicia’s presentation: New York Times Cartogram of the United States in 1929

The Human Element

At a conference focused on political data, many of the talks were geared toward the people. Jamie Chandler’s presentation on Communicating Data to Mass Publics emphasized the consumers. His first key step toward making an impactful visualization was to “understand your audience.” This was a theme that others carried along as well. Ben Casselman (FiveThirtyEight) asked the question, “How do we reach readers who are non-data junkies, while not disappointing those who are.” It’s important, he said, to choose your complexity wisely. “Reader’s eyes glaze over when they see a lot of numbers that don’t need to be in the piece.”Jonathan Schwabish

Jonathan Schwabish’s presentation (pictured right) made a similar point. He dissected hilarious comparisons that have been made in the media (3000 DWPF Cannisters to 24 Empire State Buildings, the olympic luge course inside of Times Square, 90 tons of CO2 next to wherever this is). Comparing something big to something bigger doesn’t usually work. If a person can’t actually imagine what something looks like, it’s probably not a useful tool for relaying information. We can do better, he said. We’re human. Make people feel. Have a soul.

The Takeaway

Rebecca Williams started off her presentation by saying “All Politics is Data.” In the age of information we not only need to be careful about what we choose to represent, we also need to represent it using the correct tool, for the correct audience, in the correct space. The goal of a successful visualization is not to show “all of the things,” as Alyson Hurt said. Instead, it is to clearly, and fairly, represent one angle of the story.

Anyone can be a journalist today. Anyone can make the decision to post a graphic of something big next to X number of football stadiums, which shows how Y politician is not the person any of you should be voting for. Anyone can put ducks on a map. But what would happen if we thought about the impact first? What would happen if we just stuck with what was really and truly important?

 

 

Free Cicero API credits for Apps for Philly 2015!

In honor of Apps for Philly Democracy 2015, Cicero is granting twice the free API credits to all who sign freeup this weekend. Apps for Philly is a weekend-long hackathon that brings Philadelphians together to discuss how technology can improve democracy in our city, an awesome event for which Azavea is a flagship sponsor. Cool, right?

As a proud supporter of this event, we want to encourage everyone to test out Cicero’s API with 2,000 free credits! The API matches addresses to legislative districts, both in the US and abroad. It also returns comprehensive elected official information, including district offices and social media identifiers: just the tools you need to engage in democracy your way. cicero

To sign up, simply visit our free trial page. You will instantly get 1,000 credits, which is good for 90 days. As a tribute to Apps for Philly, we’ll add 1,000 more. Happy geocoding!

Five Easy Steps to Add Districts to Your Salesforce Nonprofit Account

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Cicero Salesforce Nonprofit

We’re excited to announce an integration that allows users of the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack to verify addresses and append legislative district information to their Salesforce records. The Nonprofit Starter Pack uses the Cicero API to geocode household addresses, and parses the response to extract the district and attach it to the address record. Cicero will also update the record with the CASS-certified address using our geocoding services. CASS-certified addresses have a much better automation postage rate and helps mail carriers deliver more accurately.

what_if_i_told you

As of right now, the integration will only append Congressional district information. But with a little tweaking of the code, it could easily be configured to append other district information from Cicero — like state legislative district, school district or census identifiers.

The Cicero API will verify the address and append Congressional district information to the address record. It’s important to note the address record is associated with the household in Salesforce.

Setting up Cicero in Salesforce

Once you have the Nonprofit Starter Pack installed, integrating the Cicero API is quite simple.

  1. First, you’ll want to make sure you have a Cicero API account, which you can sign up for here. You’ll need the unique API key from your account.
  2. To start using the Cicero API, navigate to the Nonprofit Starter Pack Settings page.
  3. On the left side menu, under People, click the Addresses option. This will take you to the Address Settings page.
  4. Click the Edit button. For Verification Service, choose Cicero. This will populate the Address Verification URL with the legislative_district Cicero endpoint (https://cicero.azavea.com/v3.1/legislative_district). Choose whether to enable automatic address verification for new addresses.
  5. Authentication ID can be left blank, but you’ll fill in the Authentication Token box with your unique Cicero API key. Your API key can be found on the Cicero Profile page.

salesforce_npsp_address_verification_settings

 

You can then choose to update all of your households at once. As soon as Address Verification is activated, Salesforce will update new records with Cicero information whenever they’re added.
mass_verify_addresses

Boom! Now you’ve got a Congressional district for every verifiable address record in Salesforce.

address_detailOf course, the Cicero API free trial will give you 1,000 credits to use just for signing up. This will essentially allow you to verify and append district information for 1,000 addresses (applicable to legislative district information only). If you’re a TechSoup member, that’s 5,000 Cicero API credits. For additional addresses, you can easily purchase a bucket of credits by logging in to your Cicero account. We also offer discounted high-volume pricing for more than 100,000 credits and always offer a 10% discount to nonprofits. Questions? Email or tweet us and we’ll be happy to help you get started.