Relational Voter Program — A Great Concept, A Problematic Name

Relational Organizing empowers volunteers to reach out to their friends and family and share personal stories around the issues that matter most to them throughout the campaign cycle and beyond. It utilizes the power of trusted messengers to deliver potent messages, empowering increasing numbers of activists in the process. 

We are proud to be amongst the creators of the concept — as well as the term — Relational Voting Program (RVP). It first emerged as part of the progressive organizer’s toolkit during the Wisconsin recall elections of 2011 and 2012, when a prototype program run by We Are Wisconsin reached over 31,000 voters. 

Since that time, our toolkit has expanded significantly. To date, it’s been used by over 100 organizations across more than two dozen states.

Relational Voter Program Map

Until recently, we called it the MyRVP tool. No more. 

We’ve learned a lot since 2010. Our community has changed. Our goals have changed. And our toolkit has changed. So now too, our name has changed.

During the 2018 cycle, we came to understand that we weren’t doing enough to meet the communities we wanted to serve where they were.

Which is why we’re excited to announce our new brand and toolkit overhaul. 

RVP — Relational Voting Programs — are, by definition, limited to campaign work. But Relational Organizers are looking to do more than simply “get out the vote.” RO programs aim to build coalitions that can be empowered and mobilized consistently and effectively again and again, not just build towards election day. We came to realize that the term “voting” was holding our program back. 

Thus, we knew that “RVP” had to go. And we’re excited to announce that it’s now officially been replaced by the Empower App.

Our evolution from 2018 isn’t just in name. We have teamed up with some brand new Bay Area software engineers who have helped us take our tool’s capabilities to new heights. Innovation has been at the heart of our technological change. Our focus has been on meeting volunteers where they are so we have created a system where as many Relational Organizing styles in as many communities as possible can be used.

Before, we were a computer-centric tool. But we found that many field organizers we serve don’t have access to personal computers. So we rebuilt our toolkit to work within an app that can be accessed via smartphone or tablet.

We found that many members of our community didn’t have their own email addresses. So we added in the option to access the toolkit via phone number.

We found that many communities were using text messaging, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. So we added integration of these platforms into our system. 

We found that cost was a significant factor for many organizations, and that numerous communities who needed our toolkit couldn’t access it due to overhead fees. So we have transitioned to a non-profit ownership model and are now excited to offer our full toolkit free to many other nonprofits and 501c4s. We are even providing grants to small organizations to hire organizers from within their community to lead their Relational Organizing programs.

We know that we cannot serve the progressive community if we aren’t meeting our activist’s where they are. Our new toolkit is designed to do just that.

It’s simple to use, easy to implement from an organizational perspective, and it is built to meet everyone where they are so that together, we can harness the true power of our community.

Join us in raising a glass 🥂. RVP served our community well. But it was time to let it go. Long live Empower App and all of the activists using Relational Organizing programs to make change in their communities and beyond.