Archive for the ‘congress’ Category

Soapbox Site Launch: Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) wanted an update to their outdated website – for being the greatest representative of whistleblowers in our nation’s capital, they wanted to have a site that demonstrated their force when reckoning with the bullies.

Dylan Blaylock, my point of contact at GAP, was a very proactive client. He was so prepared that he delivered the site’s wireframes to me instead of the other way around! While these provided a great starting point on which to consider layout, we worked extensively on the site navigation. I once again was confronted with a communications challenge – I didn’t initially present the solution in a visual way. (This is becoming to be a common thread among my clients. I can’t help it- I’m not visual! I see things logically. Forgive me, people!)

In addition to the common website hurdles, Dylan and I had to reckon with DC Snowmaggedon RIGHT. BEFORE. DEADLINE. And this deadline was extremely important:

“On February 17, 2010, GAP teamed up with Participant Media and the Paley Center for Media for a fantastic and unique event – the first-ever televised, long-format special that details and analyzes what whistleblowers are, the six stages of whistleblowing they typically experience, and their lack of legal protections.”

Read more about this event on GAP’s Blog.

So while all of Dylan’s coworkers were at home trying to organize the event when all DC offices were closed, Dylan trudged into work amidst the horrible weather to make this site complete — all by himself! He really did a great job. Between his iPhone and my ski vacation breaks over President’s Weekend, we worked hard to troubleshoot and resolve all outstanding issues before the big event. Dylan gave us some props himself: “Thanks for everything with the Web site again. You and Ryan did an amazing job.”

Through the new website, advocates and constituents alike can contact congress on initiatives, using an advocacy platform through DemocracyInAction (DIA). Online donations are processed through Network for Good.

About GAP The Government Accountability Project’s mission is to promote corporate and government accountability by protecting whistleblowers, advancing occupational free speech, and empowering citizen activists.

GAP is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with an operating budget of around $2.5 million. Gifts to GAP are tax-deductible. The vast majority of our funds come from over 10,000 individual donors and foundations such as the Carnegie Foundation, CS Fund, Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute and Rockefeller Family Fund. Additional support comes from legal fees, settlement awards, and services provided. GAP is compliant with standards set by the Better Business Bureau, and we enjoy that organization’s stamp of approval.

Founded in 1977, GAP is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. Located in Washington, D.C., GAP is a nonpartisan, public interest group. In addition to focusing on whistleblower support in our stated program areas, we lead campaigns to enact whistleblower protection laws both domestically and internationally. GAP also conducts an accredited legal clinic for law students, and offers an internship program year-round.


Cool tool: GovTrack

We love finding new tools for our clients to use, and we recently came across a pretty cool one that was highlighted on the Progressive Exchange listserv*. GovTrack, an independent web tool that allows the public to track the activities of Congress, including voting records, legislation status and member information, has an API that makes it easier than ever for non-profit organizations to pull the information they need for free. And we know that in non-profit technology, free is good!

Using GovTrack’s API, for which there is no key, you can track bills, votes, congressional districts, and even map the districts using Google maps. It’s very cool and can be very useful for organizations who focus on Big A Advocacy and legislation. The website pulls from sources like Thomas, the official Library of Congress legislation database, among others. It was nominated for a Webby Award in 2006, and is run by Joshua Tauberer, a PhD student and software developer.

Companies like PICnet and those working in the non-profit community should be thinking about ways in which this data can be used – and not just for advocacy, but to simply inform their supporters how their congressional representatives are voting. It’s a great way to educate people on how politics can play a role in your issue or cause. So check it out!

*The Progressive Exchange is an online community for non-profit technology organizations and individuals. People submit best practices, questions, job vacancies and more. A must-read for NPO techies!


Capitol Hill to constituents: stop it with all the email (just for now, thanks)

We’ve been working on the Hill for quite a few years now, and we’ve seen first-hand the amazing impact the Internet has had on the way congressional offices operate. It seems today that this powerful connectivity has certainly been well utilized by constituents during the current fiscal crisis.

A local newspaper, The Hill, published a story on September 30 that said the House had disabled the email forms on the main Web site from processing messages sent by constituents to House offices.  Without this intervention:  the anticipated crash of the Web site.

The CAO issued a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday morning informing offices that it had placed a limit on the number of e-mails sent via the “Write Your Representative” function of the House website. It said the limit would be imposed during peak e-mail traffic hours.

“This measure has become temporarily necessary to ensure that Congressional websites are not completely disabled by the millions of e-mails flowing into the system,” the letter reads.

While I want to do my best not to wade into the debate on the “logic puzzles” on offices’ Web sites, I am surprised that there wasn’t a better way for the Chief Administrative Office to manage the flood of information from concerned citizens.


Best on the Hill – PICnet client wins Golden Mouse Award

Golden Mouse WinnerWhen you do great work, and put your full effort and heart into your clients’ projects, it’s nice to be recognized for those efforts. Today, the Congressional Management Foundation awarded Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Web site the coveted Golden Mouse award, the highest honor a congressional office can receive for outstanding Web communications.

Incredible hard work went into the effort, especially by Congresswoman Maloney’s lead Web site manager Anna Cielinski, who provided countless days and long nights into making the site a success.

From the Congressional Management Foundation:

“Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s Web site exemplifies how to use advances in technology and the Internet to better serve the growing number of constituents that are online. The content is comprehensive and cross-referenced. The wealth of features provides users with a sense of the work the Representative does, her accomplishments, and the services she provides.”

In addition to this, another PICnet client, Congressman Ed Markey, won a Bronze Mouse award, placing it in the top 30 congressional Web sites.

Congratulations to both offices, and their PICnetters, on a job well done!

You can read the 2006 Gold Mouse Report: Recognizing the Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill (PDF – 5MB) in its entirety to learn more about best practices for offices on the Hill.