The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

Keeping the organizers organized

Trade unionists talk a lot about organising, but how well organised are we ourselves? I've tried lots of tools over the years with the goal of being better organised, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), PC-based software, and most recently web-based tools. Most recently, I've gotten hooked by a fantastic service called Highrise.

Highrise is what one user calls a “Rolodex on steroids”. At its core is a contact manager. But it is also a task manager too, and an events calendar.

It's also completely free of charge, if you choose the simplest option. Otherwise, you pay a small monthly fee.

Because it's web-based, you don't need to be on your own computer to use it. Any Internet-connected device will do. Groups of individuals can share the same Highrise account, each one maintaining the information and updating it.

Highrise has a tremendous number of useful features, including the ability to add notes and entire documents to each of your contacts. Because of this, when you phone someone, you can have their details, notes about them, a record of what you previously discussed and much more in front of you on a single screen.

You can tag your contacts in an infinite number of ways, and sort and display them as you wish. You can export your data, or any part of it, to a spreadsheet.

The possibilities for trade union organisers should be obvious.

Union organisers can use Highrise to record all contacts, to note who has joined and what they've agreed to do, and who are potential members. Once a union exists in the workplace, Highrise could be used to maintain membership records and details of contacts between members and the union.

I'm sure there are loads of expensive systems out there which do the same thing. And I'm sure that people have hacked together ways to do much of this on an Excel spreadsheet too.

But to be able to access all your contacts from any Internet-connected device (including your cellphone) – that's extraordinary.

Highrise was not designed to be an organising tool. It's part of a suite of applications offered by a company which is probably the world's leader in web-based software, 37Signals. This company has written the book – literally – on how to design web-based software.

I think that any trade unionist who tries Highrise will instantly recognise the potential.


Shameless Plug

We thought the same thing, so we integrated our election software www.electionbuddy to Highrise to help unions associations and student group elect leaders and get feedback from their members.

Check it out in the highrise extras page