May 8th RI Capitol Notes

For my second observation day at the Capitol this week, I tried to talk to a few more people about the app and their work. But mostly I just watched people.

I think one of the most interesting things to note is which groups were there. Today’s focus seemed to be a children and developmental disabilities. I saw two press conferences, but there may have been more. One was on developmental disabilities funding. They had a press conference just outside the entrance to the building with several legislators and candidates present, including Sen. DiPalma (D-12) and Rep. Hull (D-6) (Yes, I did use CapitolBuddy to store notes on those two — I even made them public, so everyone can see).

I believe the other press event had to do with Home Care services. And some children’s groups like RIght Now for Kids had booths set up.

The most exciting piece of news is that CapitolBuddy will be getting a place in the State House Library’s info stand. Ask and ye shall receive.

I did watch the lobbyists mingle outside the door after the gavel rang to start the floor meetings, as I has planned. It’s not much to gaze upon — but it would be a good time to tap a shoulder and do a user interaction survey. So that’s my goal for next week, get some feedback and watch people interact with the app.

Home care press conference

Home care press conference

5/8 at the Capitol

5/8 at the Capitol


May 7th RI Capitol Notes

I spent the day at the Rhode Island State House. My goals were to observe the groups who were there doing advocacy and what kinds of things they were doing, how they moved about the capitol, and what legislators they were focusing on. As I learned in my prior visit to the building, things are generally very busy in the hour before assembly is called to order.

I saw the following groups working hard on their causes, but I’m sure I missed some groups that perhaps weren’t being as boisterous — or that maybe didn’t bring a big crowd that day.

  • Homeless Connect is there every Wednesday from RI Coalition for the Homeless. I love this service and the whole concept. They use the state house as a soup kitchen of sorts and provide bag lunches to the homeless, great way to bring homelessness to the front of legislators’ minds.
  • RI Association of Realtors had a press conference about several pieces of legislation, ranging from clean energy to independent contractor regulations. A shame they didn’t deal with the acoustics better (it’s always awful in the rotunda). I’ve seen groups have better luck with events that take place in a hearing room. Then I had a brief twitter-conversation with them afterwards, in which introduced CapitolBuddy.
  • American Heart Association was actually the first group I saw when I walked in. It looked like they were having a lobby day with several people wearing AHA buttons and carrying their folders of information. I really wanted to see what they included in the folders, because I bet ULobby could replace it!
  • Rhode Island State Nurses Association must have been there too, I saw several people with RN badges walking around, and they were honored during the session by having the second week in May being devoted to them.

Moving on to the actual legislating, I chose to watch the proceedings in the House from the balcony, but I may learn more about the advocates and lobbyists if I went to the main floor and observed outside the chamber door — I hear that they group up over there during the floor meeting. So I shall focus on that when I head over to the Capitol at 3pm, today.

I’ll post my notes from that adventure tomorrow.

Rhode Island State House


Applying to BetaSpring

BetaSpringI’m in the middle of applying to the most important opportunity that I’ve ever had with CapitolBuddy. BetaSpring is a start-up accelerator here in Providence that I’m hoping will give me some mentorship and resources to help the evolution of CapitolBuddy. They also provide some funding and a space to work.

I see what is currently just an iOS app of some states’ legislators transforming into the tool (perhaps the platform) where all capitol workers, from the non-profit advocates to the legislative assistants, can accomplish their work more effectively. Not only will they know everyone in the building better, but they’ll be able to collaborate more, take better notes, and then share those notes with clients and constituents just as easily as you share a Facebook post now.

Speaking of Facebook… please go “like” my application for BetaSpring and make me look impressive.

CapitolBuddy started because I was working at a non-profit advocacy group in Missouri where we spent much of our time talking to legislators at the capitol. Our main goal was usually stopping anything bad from happening to the state’s best renewable energy laws. Through all our efforts we always wanted a better way to take notes, share info amongst each other, and simply get the basic info like where a legislator’s office was and who their assistant was.

Eventually those struggles led to my creating the first version of CapitolBuddy. And my heart is still with those small and medium-sized non-profits that need to do work at state capitols to advance their causes.

“I want to help the local Sierra Club’s and the Environment America’s and labor unions and teacher associations. But even more  than them, I want to help the small non-profits I haven’t heard of yet.”

At the moment, I can offer these groups a sweet iPhone/iPad app with a lot of great info and functions. But eventually it will be much more. I plan to extend the service to a desktop web app, accessible from the (as you can see, this option is not there yet). Users will be able to sign up and add colleagues to their team so they can easily share info. And taking it a step further, clients and constituents will be able to access updates from the users that allow it via private access codes. I’d like to even offer live video feeds from the sessions, if I can get the states on board.

It’s all very exciting, and there are so many things to do. But right now, I truly want to focus on the basics of what these advocates need to succeed in their work.