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The 50 Days / 50 Ways Groundswell Campaign we developed is about restoring downpayment assistance programs for qualified homebuyers who need just a little bit of help to buy a home, stimulate the economy, stabilize home prices, and revitalize neighborhoods.

We built the MLK365 website as part of our engagement in building the group's capacity. The primary goal is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things—to help them become Change Agents; finding value in simple actions that anyone can take and that connect us around ideas, shared values, and social action.

Common Ground understands the unique confluence that exists between individuals, media, government, the private sector and social profit organizations. We have also developed a recognized expertise when it comes to leveraging new media and new technologies.

We believe, that the internet eliminates geographic boundaries, making it possible to connect people in a myriad of new ways. The author, Seth Godin, calls these connected groups "tribes" and offers the following (with which we passionately agree):

"This means that existing tribes are bigger, but more important, it means that there are now more tribes, smaller tribes, influential tribes, horizontal and vertical tribes, and tribes that could never have existed before. Tribes you work with, tribes you travel with, tribes you buy with. Tribes that vote, that discuss, that fight. Tribes where everyone knows your name. The professionals at the CIA are a tribe and so are the volunteers at the ACLU."

At Common Ground, we help you to build, support, nurture, and grow the tribes that care about your issues: the tribes that will benefit from your work; that have a stake in your success; that are already connected as part of your organizational mainstream; or those on the margins hoping and trying to get in. Our job is to create access points for your constituencies by harnessing new technologies in ways that are simple, accessible, and, well, cool.

You can be assured that when you work with Common Ground, you'll experience our passion, high level of attention to detail, and a tremendous desire to help you achieve your mission-critical goals. We're a small firm, so we can't work with everyone. We have to make choices and those choices involve a careful consideration of our own capabilities and excitement about your cause or issue. This means significant value-added for you, especially when it comes to experimenting with better ways of doing things, meeting crazy timelines, and living on the edges of our collective comfort zones.

With two recent clients, the Nehemiah Corporation of America and MLK365, we approached our work with much of the following in mind.

Message Development

Working closely with our clients, Common Ground quickly engaged the organizations' leadership and developed key campaign messaging for use in all of the web-based organizing efforts. Depending on the audience and paying careful attention to the project's evolution, we created messaging to reach the right stakeholders, with the right messages, at the right time:

  • Threshold Messages (What do people need to know, believe, or care about in order to become engaged with the issue?)
  • Solution Messages (What is the projected (positive) outcome? How will people's lives be better?)
  • Action Messages (What is the purpose of our message? What do we want the people who connect to do?)
  • Reinforcement Messages (How do we keep people involved? How do those who are involved get our messages to others?)

Copy Creation

In the case of Nehemiah's Groundswell Campaign, we used the carefully-constructed messages to write and position distinct articles, press releases, blog posts, and action alerts in advance of the initial launch date (with some blog posts and online debate activity occurring prior to launch). These pieces were designed to create "buzz" and add to the campaign's viral success. New copy was created throughout the duration of the project, with messages being adapted as the campaign evolved.

Visual / Design Interface

Common Ground understands that the look and feel of a website—the aesthetic—is a key part of what leads to success on the web. And for that reason, we engage some of the most talented artists in the business, working strategically to make sure that our designs will engage the intended audiences.

But, we also understand that web sites need to be simple, intuitive, easy to navigate and easy to use. We spend a lot of time with our clients up-front, defining those intended audiences, looking at each audience's "Tech IQ" and clarifying outcomes. A web presence, even the most sophisticated site, is just a means to an end. Organizations position themselves to fail when they see a website as an end in and of itself.

Web 2.0

Common Ground's team of strategy consultants, designers and engineers are experts in what has become known as Web 2.0—a paradigm shift in the way the internet is used. Web 2.0 involves a more open approach to sharing and communicating information; in particular, it represents a constellation of web sites and services in which the content is shaped partially or entirely by the users.

One of the strengths of Common Ground and our approach is a clear understanding of the power and influence of these new tools and the ability for motivated individuals to influence public-policy decisions by sharing information through web-based communities (social networking sites, blogs, wikis, etc.).

We view the web as a participation-platformTM, making strategic content placements and designing specific applications and tools to spark discussion, drive traffic, harness creativity, encourage debate, share information, and support collaboration among an organization's stakeholders and supporters.

Content Management

In the old days of the web, if you didn't know HTML, editing your website was virtually impossible without the help of expensive consultants. Today, they has all changed. When you work with Common Ground, we'll spend a great deal of time talking to you about your content management needs and your organizational capacity to keep your site up-to-date. Then we'll design and build a simple back-end content management solution, which allows for easy updates by non-web-savvy staff and which helps you to keep your maintenance costs low.

Full Integration of Existing Web Apps and Tools

These days many organizations have cobbled together a collection of web applications to meet their technology needs. From a suite of advocacy tools to blast email services, we know that there are always good reasons to integrate existing technologies (especially if you've spent a lot of money on them!). With considerable expertise in the use of these tools, Common Ground is well-positioned to ensure a smooth porting of the robust functionality of many of these technologies. Of course, we'll also tell you if there is a better, cheaper way to accomplish your goals. In the case of Nehemiah's Groundswell Campaign, we fully integrated an existing suite of CapWiz advocacy tools and several other existing tools.

Utilization of Social Networking Sites

Our team works with each organization to develop a presence on relevant social networking platforms in order to provide additional points of entry for supporters and stakeholders—the main (initial) purpose is to drive traffic to the organization's site. We often move quickly on sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter; but with thousands of these sites emerging, we're always paying attention to what will work best with your stakeholder groups.

Sometimes, we'll also create a specific social networking site just for your users. This is the case with MLK365 where the goal is to provide everyday, ordinary people with the tools to become extraordinary agents of change. In fact, on their website, we call it "My Change Agent." Throughout 2009, this platform will evolve into a dynamic online center for change. It is one of the most technologically advanced sites we've ever designed and the possibilities have us all very excited!

List Management / Integration

When necessary and appropriate, our solutions offer the ability to manage constituent records through custom web-based interfaces. As this can often be the most difficult, time-consuming, and expensive part of any project, we'll work with you to define specific goals and objectives, offering the most cost-effective and efficient tools to meet your needs. While we care a lot about scalability (the capacity for these tools to grow as your organization grows), we are not interested in having you spend money or time on technology you don't need.

Often we find clients getting excited about "what else is possible." And in fact, there is a great deal that can be done to link and sync data, but anyone who suggests that it is easy or cheap, is misleading you. Our solution will meet your current needs using your existing systems.

Digital Communications

When it comes to communications in a Web 2.0 environment, the possibilities are endless. Our team includes tremendous expertise when it comes to photography and video integration, viral and permission-based marketing, online fundraising, blast email, e-cards and e-newsletters. The list goes on and on.

We'll work with you to integrate the right solutions at the right price. Working with us, you will get what you need, when you need it. It doesn't make sense to pay for functionality that you cannot use.

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