How We Create Live Maps to Power Movements

By Anna Zhang, David Park, and Wendy Yin

The mission of Phone2Action is simple—to help constituents make powerful connections with their legislators. Our platform helps people who want to make an impact contact their legislators, with over 25 new connections every minute. This can be done through a wide variety of methods, including texted links, emailed messages, or shared Facebook posts. However, one of the most effective ways to spur passionate people into action is through live event tools. These gatherings allow groups of advocates who share a common interest to mobilize together.

However, spurring people into action isn’t always easy. That’s why Phone2Action has developed innovative software to make campaigns as engaging as possible. In particular, the live map feature absorbs the audience’s attention and indicates that their actions have a real effect on the overall campaign. They can watch their individual pin drop onto the map, showing that they matter and have an immediate impact. In the link above, the event coordinator was also able to call out certain states and motivate them to take action through the visual information provided by the map. In addition, the scale of engagement shown by the map sparks hope. If so many people are speaking out, then there is a real chance for change.

The Kauffman Foundation launched a call-to-action with a live map at their annual State of Entrepreneurship event.

Power your next advocacy event with our live engagement tools. 

This impact is all made possible through the implementation of open source software. In particular, Leaflet was instrumental in the map creation of the live event web page. Leaflet is a JavaScript library with simple, easy to follow instructions and powerful code. Because it is an open source, there are many niche features built by other developers that can drastically increase the capabilities of Leaflet maps. For example, a wide variety of tiles can be used to create unique maps. Our favorites include the watercolor tiling and NASA night view tiling, but many more styles are also available.

Leaflet maps can also support many other features, including pins and popups. This way, the map user can zoom in to a particular area to see the pins there, and click on the pin to see the popup information. These pop ups can provide valuable information that would otherwise clutter the map. Other notable features of Leaflet include compatibility with GeoJSON data, a wide variety of zoom controls, and categorization of geographic locations using polygon shapes. That last feature is especially useful for defining regions, such as the 50 states in the U.S.

Drawing on the success of numerous live events run by Phone2Action, it is clear that visuals, such as the live map, play a critical role in communicating and motivating advocates. The map can be used in numerous ways by the event coordinator, the event participants, and Phone2Action. All three groups draw upon the quantitative and visual information provided by the map to make campaigns more efficient and successful. After all, that is the goal of Phone2Action: to draw out the advocate in all of us in a quest to pursue meaningful political action. Live maps are just one tool that allow us to pursue this goal.

Want to hear more about what the Phone2Action engineering team is working on? Head over to the Phone2Action Engineering blog.

About the Authors

Anna Zhang is a student at Vanderbilt University who enjoys reading, music, and taking care of her many succulents. She is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and plans on majoring in computer science and economics, while continuing to explore her passions in the humanities and arts. At Phone2Action, she is on the engineering team as a Civic Tech Fellow. When not glued to a laptop, you can find her running outdoors – both to exercise and to admire all the cute dogs in her neighborhood.

David Park was born in South Korea, but he grew up in McLean, Virginia, where he developed a strong interest in computer science and mathematics. Having attended the Hill School, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, David was a co-founder of the school’s Math Team, as well as a member of the Robotics Club and the Eco-Action Team. He also played violin in the school’s Orchestra and taught competition math at a local elementary school. Having had the opportunity to take part in Machine Learning research under a professor, David plans to continue to pursue his interest in this field at Carnegie Mellon University. At Phone2Action, he is an engineering fellow, working on various improvements to the platform.

Wendy Yin is a recent graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In high school, she was a member of her school’s Varsity Math Team, Quiz Bowl team, Korean Culture Club, and Varsity Gymnastics Team. She is also actively involved in piano, dance, and community service. She has a huge passion for STEM, particularly for mathematics and computer science, and she plans to further pursue them at MIT, where she will be a student starting this Fall. She is currently a Civic Tech Fellow on Phone2Action’s Engineering Team. 

Learn more about our Civic Tech Fellowship Program from Phone2Action’s cofounder, Ximena Hartstock. 


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