Data Capture for the SEIU Helps Move Dignity Campaign Forward

October 10, 2013 by Jennifer Cobb

Just before the start of school every fall, the SEIU in Los Angeles hosts “Fresh Start,” an event to help give the members of their community and their families a great start to the new school year.  The event includes free backpacks for all the kids, free haircuts, face painting, health screenings, and food and drink.

Picture1The event, which was co-sponsored by the LA Dodgers this year, has become a huge draw, and the union gets the word out widely over radio, through their internal call center and via ads on local television, including Univision, the Spanish-language network.

This year, the IT department decided it would make sense to create a web signup form, so they could get a sense of attendance and capture critical membership and community information that they need for the campaigns and services they run.

20,616 people attended the event.  Only 234 pre-registered on the web.

This somewhat startling statistic points to the realities of serving a broad community of primarily low-wage workers, who often have little ready access to technology.  At the same time, the SEIU was interested in devising faster and more effective ways of collecting the data they depend upon.

“We are very membership driven, and we collect a lot of information about our members in order to serve them better,” commented Yohan Ruparatne, Director of IT for the SEIU.  In particular, they were interested in capturing information for their “Dignity Campaign,” which focuses on lifting up communities by increasing access to healthcare, creating good jobs, and improving overall quality of life.  A key to this campaign was data collection about jobs, healthcare and affordable housing, and the Fresh Start event was the perfect place to collect this information. However, the IT group needed an efficient process to make it work.

Captricity proved a critical element of their solution.

The IT group began by designing a simple form, asking for basic demographic data and four additional questions that focused on their employment and health insurance situation and whether or not they wanted information about affordable healthcare and would they be willing to receive a text message from the union.

Volunteers and outreach workers met every incoming bus of participants and collected the information.  The forms where passed to a central, on-site location where scanners were set up to scan the forms that were sent to Captricity for processing.  By the next morning, all of the data collected from 5,000 forms was ready for the organizers to use.

The ability for the eight directors working on the Dignity Campaign to have the data from a Saturday event waiting for them on Monday morning was unprecedented.  And it was critical to the momentum of the campaign.

Ruparatne commented, “One thing that was clear to me is that paper is not a bad thing.  It is the least common denominator.  There are too many variables with technology solutions.  With paper, you can remove all the variables.  Everyone can write.  Everyone has a pen.”

He continued, “My first instinct was to go paperless.  But that does not work for this population.  Using a paper form is not as sexy, but it works.  So a tool like Captricity makes a big difference.”


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