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22 September 2017

Is Momentum’s M.app the future of political organising?

It has the potential to become Britain's answer to Field the Bern.

By Jason Murugesu

Momentum, the Labour grassroots activist group, has released its new app, the imaginatively named M.app (the M stands for Momentum).  It follows up on Momentum’s website mynearestmarginal.com which pointed activists and campaigners towards their nearest marginal constituencies in the last snap election. 

The app has been released in time for Momentum’s The World Tranformed conference in Brighton this week. 

The uses of the app of will be limited initially, used primarily like any other conference app, to help delegates know where and when the talks they want to attend are. 

However as a Momentum spokesperson made clear to The Guardian, they have bigger ambitions for the app, saying “If Caffè Nero has an app, political organising should have an app. Over the long term, the app will be repurposed to complement Momentum’s on-the-ground organising in key marginals across the country.”

Momentum’s last technological innovation mynearestmarginal.com was used by over 100,000 individuals before polling day. The website allowed Labour supporters to find their nearest marginal constituency in which they could join the door-knocking efforts. The website also let people find car-pools to help individuals get to their destinations inexpensively. All the website required was your postcode. 

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M.app is the natural progression from the website, and is the first purpose-designed app by a political movement, in the UK at least. Volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US developed an app last year called “Field the Bern” which bypassed a volunteer’s need for formal training before they could canvass. The app had sample scripts for potential canvassers, and promoted competition between volunteers to see who could knock on the most doors. The volunteers could then input information based on the people whose home they had knocked on which would be sent directly to the Sanders campaign.

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Whether M.app will incorporate such technology is yet to be seen, but the potential for an app that mobilises large swathes of motivated people so efficiently cannot be understated. 

Designed by the Polish company Meeting Application, Momentum first approached the company in July. 

The app has been in development for three months and utilises push notifications, beacons and interactive maps. Push notifications will be used to ensure members do not miss key votes at Labour’s party conference this Sunday in Brighton. 

John Solecki of Meeting Application says Momentum were heavily involved in the design of the app saying there were “a lot of calls during which we discussed the functionality and the shape of the app”. 

Joe Todd, Momentum’s press officer, expects that the app will be downloaded in the thousands.

It is early days for the app, and its true potential will only be realised after The World Transformed conference. A lot of work still needs to happen to make the app a success. Field the Bern, for example took volunteers 1,400 hours to design.