How Does It Work?

Cutting edge political science research shows that canvassing is one of the most effective tactics in an activists’ arsenal (to read more about this, check out Deep Canvassing 101).

So why don’t more campaigns for candidates and issues canvass? To run an ad campaign you just need a bank account and a media consultant. To run a canvass you need staff, office space, voter lists, technology and more. It also takes time to get a canvass up and running and for volunteers or paid staff to get good at delivering. Canvassing needs to be managed. It costs money. Not every campaign can afford to run canvasses.

We hope to provide both new and seasoned grassroots activists with a quality canvassing training that will allow them to enhance their local power building around whichever issue or candidate of their choice.

#KnockEveryDoor serves as a nationwide hub for progressive canvassing training and deployment. That is, it will be a platform that individuals, groups, and campaigns alike can plug into to receive training and support for progressive volunteers who wish to canvass in their communities. While #KnockEveryDoor will focus on the mechanics of canvassing, not the campaign objective of the canvasser, there will be minimal restrictions on what volunteers may canvass for. For example, KED won’t support Republicans or, potentially, certain Democrats facing primary challenges.

#KnockEveryDoor will support volunteers in several ways:

First, we will train volunteers. Training resources will include a structured training pipeline of live calls and webinars, training guides, recorded videos, and volunteer-to-volunteer coaching calls.

Second, we will provide volunteers with materials, including template scripts, data entry sheets, sign-in sheets, field training and debrief agendas, etc.

Third, we will help volunteer teams do data entry for volunteers. If a canvasser sends us scanned copies of their data entry sheets, we will have a team of data entry volunteers enter them into a Google sheet. We will retain the data and also send the digitized data back to the volunteer.

Volunteers who don’t have a specific election or issue they wish to canvass on can use a listening script. Volunteers who want to work on an election happening in their community or a nearby community will have the option to use a fill-in-the-blank style voter ID or GOTV script. Volunteers may also canvass as part of an issue-specific advocacy campaign.

It’s up to volunteers to add specific candidates, districts, elections, or geographically-specific voting information to our templated #KnockEveryDoor scripts. Volunteers will be responsible for localizing the script they wish to use. #KnockEveryDoor isn’t currently supporting or opposing any particular federal, state, or local candidate, but instead we are providing materials for volunteers to support or oppose candidates of their choosing.

Volunteers may find #KnockEveryDoor through a variety of channels:

An introduction to Deep Canvassing

An increasingly large body of political science research shows that the gold standard for moving a voter to the polls is a personal conversation between a volunteer and a voter.1 These conversations are the most powerful when they are in person, but they are also effective when a volunteer and a voter engage via the telephone. Peer-to-peer texting is another vehicle (though virtually untested for turn out effect) for personal back and forth conversations.

One of the highest impact and lowest cost strategies for building power in our communities and taking back our democracy is to radically increase the number of conversations between volunteers and voters. We’ll use these conversations at the door to engage people who are currently sitting out elections, to recruit the people who are already with us to volunteer, and to persuade people who supported Trump but have a shared interest in our agenda of racial and economic justice.

KnockEveryDoor’s canvassing methodology is based on the groundbreaking work of the Leadership LAB at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. There, Executive Director David Fleischer, collaborating with political scientists David Broockman and Josh Kalla and a host of staff and volunteers, have been working for years to iterate a model called “deep canvassing.”

This model encourages a freeform and reciprocal conversation between the volunteer canvasser and the voter. The canvassers’ role is primarily to listen, to build trust and then to have a respectful conversation about areas where both parties may disagree.

An excellent introduction to deep canvassing and the work of the Leadership LAB can be found in an April 2016 feature article in the New York Times Magazine: How Do You Change Voters’ Minds? Have a Conversation. To learn more read the Leadership Lab’s Deep Canvassing Primer. You can also go more in-depth on the science behind deep canvassing by reading the academic study referenced by the New York Times’ that was published by political scientists David Broockman and Josh Kalla in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

One of the challenges at #KnockEveryDoor is to take a traditional organizing practice that assumes volunteers can be extensively trained and managed by staff and translate it into a distributed organizing model. In a distributed organizing model, a sprawling crew of part time, sometimes, and one-time volunteers work across space and time and use consumer software platforms like Google apps, Maestro Conference Calling, Slack and Facebook to manage everything from canvassing logistics to training to research to tech development. It’s also volunteers who schedule, recruit for and manage in-person canvasses.

Without in-person, full-time, paid organizers running all aspects of the operation, we are piloting a canvass model that is lightweight, easier to learn via online training, and depends on peer-to-peer coaching, encouragement and knowledge sharing among volunteer hosts, canvassers and support team members. We’re literally iterating this model every day with a handful of full-time paid organizers working as peers with hundreds of volunteers to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be added, subtracted or changed from our processes. Our organizing philosophy was outlined in the book Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything which was co-authored by Becky Bond, one of the volunteer chief organizers at #KnockEveryDoor and featuring stories about several other co-founding staff and volunteers who worked together on the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, including “Texas Zack” Malitz, Hannah Fertig, Lynn Hua, Sam Ghazey, Cole Edwards, Kenneth Pennington, Hector Sigala and Max Cotterill.