A Revolutionary Campaign Model
Candidates across the country spent $7 billion during the last election cycle. Yet, if Teddy Roosevelt visited a typical modern campaign headquarters, he would we feel right at home with the antiquated processes. Campaigns spend money on siloed activities - polling, media, communications, field, fundraising, and mail - rather than using a comprehensive and cohesive operation that houses all of the activities in one outfit. Each cycle, candidates assemble, dismantle, and reassemble professionals from all over for each campaign. In short, everything is largely built from scratch by each campaign every election and then abandoned or wasted.
Because the apparatus is only reassembled every 18 months or so, campaigns invest in all new technology infrastructure and methods or reuse outmoded and obsolete technology. In the worst case campaigns lose valuable time determining deficiencies and upgrade midstream. The cyclical nature of campaigns confines the creative processes to the “on-year,” completely wasting the time in between campaigns to stay on top of advancements in technology or to be creative with communications tools. Continuity and institutional knowledge are also often lost in the cycle-to-cycle shuffle.
This traditional campaign model is rigid, stifling the free flow of innovative thinking present in successful start-ups. Campaigns are too formulaic, slow to innovate, top heavy with costly consultants, and Washington-centered in their thinking. As campaigns raise more and more money, these resources continue to reinforce and support a costly and outmoded business model. As a result, the current system limits competition and prevents disruption to the accepted campaign formula. First-time, minority, and female candidates – even the most innovative and qualified ones – struggle to break through.
Welcome to the Blue Lab
The Blue Lab is a political incubator that is revolutionizing progressive political campaigns and the next generation of candidates and campaigners. Started in 2012 by Scott Ferson and Sean Sinclair, both veterans of local, state and national campaigns, the Blue Lab is a progressive campaign infrastructure incubator. The lab's mission is to cultivate the next generation of progressive campaign leaders, to provide a unique educational experience, and to lower the barrier of entry for first-time, minority, and female candidates. A successful Blue Lab helps to level the playing field and create a true land of opportunity for candidates and future campaign leaders.
To achieve its mission the Blue Lab provides permanent campaign capacity for progressive office-seekers, incubating multiple efforts at any given time. It is staffed by college students who work collaboratively on the tasks assigned and are overseen by political professionals. The Blue Lab draws heavily on the start-up model, applying it to an industry that largely runs campaigns as they were run 100 years ago.
Blue Lab clients have included numerous first-time or female candidates, including: Congressman Seth Moulton, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan, State Representative Tram Nguyen, State Representative Liz Miranda, State Representative Maria Robinson, State Representative Andy Vargas, State Senator Cindy Friedman, and City Councillor Lydia Edwards. The Blue Lab also supported races in Maine, New Jersey, and Nevada.
We assist in voter engagement, research, fundraising and advocacy when creating and structuring a campaign. The Blue Lab makes running for office easy and possible to even those who have no experience in state politics. Described by the Boston Globe as “the next big thing,” we are gaining traction in political advocacy and will help make the campaigning process easy.
What Makes The Blue Lab Successful
The heart of any successful local campaign is the core volunteer effort. Volunteers provide bandwidth to execute the campaign’s strategic plan. This is the power of the Blue Lab.
The vision is simple. From the start of a campaign – even for a first time or outsider candidate—an office-seeker walks into a fully functioning, optimally staffed campaign headquarters without the costly upfront expenditures only well-heeled and incumbent candidates can afford.
The Blue Lab structure is also simple. College students from area schools are recruited, vetted, and work together during fall, spring, or summer semesters for academic credit. A paid academic advisor oversees the program. A fellow, who is paid a stipend and is a Blue Lab graduate, oversees the work under the supervision of the Blue Lab’s professional staff and with the direction of a number of political consultants hired by various campaigns. The Blue Lab’s infrastructure is shared among many campaigns and constantly and efficiently upgraded as campaign methods and needs change.
The Blue Lab’s student “associates” work with the experienced campaign consultants and the candidates themselves to craft and execute a strategic campaign plan for each candidate. The associates get to see the campaigns just as the strategists do. They are in the room from the first meeting. Unlike traditional campaigns, where young volunteers are assigned a task that is necessary but oftentimes menial – knocking on doors, stuffing envelopes, robo-calling voters, and running errands – Blue Lab associates learn the rationale and strategy behind the entirety of the campaign working in each traditional discipline like fundraising, video production, and communications. They are active players in the campaign’s overall strategy, not just helping hands for piecemeal tasks. They receive direct experience operating a campaign from start to finish and learn which tools achieve success across the traditional silos. Most days associates will work on different projects in different disciplines for different clients with unprecedented access to and collaboration with candidates and strategists.
In addition to the student experience, candidates and strategists from multiple campaigns also have the unique opportunity to share ideas, methods, and experiences, creating a hotbed of cross-fertilization missing from the traditional individual campaign model.
To the consultants hired by each campaign, the Blue Lab provides incredible capacity in support of our efforts by increasing the amount of output we generate for the clients we serve. This allows the consultant to be prepared with any and all research that he or she needs to do the job, but does not require him or her to dedicate painstaking personal hours to tasks that are vital but time-consuming. The Blue Lab takes this burden off of the consultant so that the consultant may focus directly on client and campaign needs. It is a true partnership between the Blue Lab associates, the consultant, and the candidate. Consultants, in turn, are able to provide candidates with much more context and creativity than every before.
Associates exit the program with a breadth of knowledge and experience that is completely unique. Graduates of the Blue Lab depart from the program equipped to handle their first campaign job head-on because of the Blue Lab experience. Graduating Blue Lab associates are incredibly attractive job applicants to political consulting firms after having this firsthand, well-rounded experience while only in college. The skills they learn will serve them well in any career they choose.