What could be better than a fabulous organization getting recognized for the important work they do by the entire Convio community during our recent Convio Summit in Baltimore? Not much else, that’s what. And like overly enthusiastic Convion I am, I stood proudly as the Project on Government Oversight‘s name was called as the 2011 Innovator Award Winner for best Overall Use of Convio.
I began working with the folks at the Project on government Oversight (or POGO as they’re known by their fans) a few years ago and have continued to be amazed by how their hardworking (yet relatively small) staff strategizes to get the max out of their Convio tools. They’re frequent consumers of Convio’s Community resources and they’re are stars of the DC Convio User’s Group, too. Team POGO attended the Summit in full force—working to get staff from multiple departments within their office to see the way Convio can enhance the work they do.
When our Connection Café blogging powers that be asked me to profile a member of the POGO team with a little peek behind the Convio admin curtain, I jumped at the chance. Here’s the inside scoop on Bryan Rahija, POGO’s blog editor and self proclaimed jack-of-all-digital-trades….
EG for CC: What’s your elevator pitch about what POGO does?
BR for POGO: POGO exposes systemic problems in the federal government that are related to ethics, accountability, and inefficiency—and then it tries to fix them.
EG for CC: How do you describe your role at the organization to friends at parties?
BR for POGO: More or less a jack-of-all-digital-trades? A Venn diagram of the projects I work on in a given month would include circles for editing, fundraising, advocacy, web production, and journalism.
EG for CC: Of Convio’s array of online resources, what have you found most useful?
BR for POGO: Action alerts! Convio makes it pretty easy to whip up campaigns that empower constituents, expand our network of supporters, and most importantly, catalyze change.
EG for CC: Please share a few facts about yourself.
BR for POGO: If I’m not fighting government corruption, I’m probably making music or roving around the country with my band Bombadil. We just put out our fourth release last month! Curious ears can listen here.
EG for CC: What are you most proud of regarding your use of Convio with POGO?
BR for POGO: In general, I think we try really hard to make sure we’re making the most out of the software. A recent example of that might be the SEC Revolving Door Database, which I think is pretty neat both in terms of providing valuable information to the public and using Convio in an interesting way.
The database houses hundreds upon hundreds of post-employment statements filed by former employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission. At first glance, these documents might just look like a big pile of boring government paperwork—but when viewed together, they illustrate a disturbing pattern of government officials leaving the public sector to go work for the industry they once regulated (more on that here).
All that info presented a fun challenge on the Convio side—how to present these documents in a useful way to the public? We ended up partnering with Firefly Partners to build a database of the documents hosted on Convio CMS, which you can search by employee name, former SEC division, and by their new employers (firms like Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, etc.).
EG for CC: Share an anecdote about a project or specific campaign you worked on through Convio that was particularly exciting, interesting, or productive.
BR for POGO: The best anecdote might be our campaign to support Franz Gayl, a Marine Corps science advisor who was retaliated against for blowing the whistle.
This fall, POGO partnered with the Government Accountability Project (GAP) to launch an online campaign in support of Gayl after he lost his security clearance for exposing the need for some lifesaving equipment needed in Iraq. We urged our constituents to contact the Secretary of Defense and voice their concerns. Nearly 4,000 people took action. A few weeks later, the government agency responsible for protecting whistleblowers moved to protect Gayl, and cited the POGO/GAP campaign in a brief that called for a delayed putting Gayl on indefinite suspension without pay.
The intervention by this agency ultimately led the Pentagon to reinstate Gayl’s security clearance.
That’s a bit of a wonky explanation, but the long and short of it is we played a role in helping reverse the retaliation against a whistleblower whose heroic actions saved the lives of thousands of Marines. This press release has more details and a statement from Gayl thanking GAP and POGO, and here’s a link to our action alert.
EG for CC: If you had advice to share for a new Convio admin, what would it be?
BR for POGO: Bite the bullet and take the training courses or watch the videos—better now than when you’re up against a deadline of “immediately.”
EG for CC: What’s one secret tip or trick you’ve picked up along the way related to the Luminate Online or Luminate CRM platform?
BR for POGO: I’ve become a bit of a query junkie these days. No super amazing tricks in particular to report, but I’ve been having fun using queries to answer questions like: how many of our constituents have taken action more than three times? What is the biggest “source” for people who wind up unsubscribing? In which congressional district do we have the most supporters? Information like that can help guide our strategy down the road.