To Change a Presidential Election, a Young Couple Tests the Power of Their Personal Network (Rather Than Their Wallets)

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Frustrated by a political process that seems to require millions of dollars to make an impact, a young couple is testing the power of their personal network to swing the November election…Mike and Daphne Parker of New York City are using the Internet to build a "viral" phone tree to spread the word – from their friends and family, to their friends’ family, their family’s friends, and beyond – to get out on Election Day and vote against Bush/Cheney. The Parkers’ new website, NovemberCalling.com, is a free, easy-to-use organizing tool that helps people build private, complimentary networks of reminder-to-vote calls for what promises to be one of the most important presidential elections in our nation’s history.

Frustrated by a political process that seems to require millions of dollars to make an impact, a young couple is testing the power of their personal network to swing the November election…Mike and Daphne Parker of New York City are using the Internet to build a "viral" phone tree to spread the word – from their friends and family, to their friends’ family, their family’s friends, and beyond – to get out on Election Day and vote against Bush/Cheney.

The Parkers’ new website, NovemberCalling.com, is a free, easy-to-use organizing tool that helps people build private, complimentary networks of reminder-to-vote calls for what promises to be one of the most important presidential elections in our nation’s history.

"I'm tired of reading that the election is in the hands of ‘undecided’ voters and that because I live in a ‘blue’ state, the only thing I can do to make a difference is donate money for TV commercials,” says Mike Parker. “A phone tree is low budget and low tech. But the fact is, committing to make five phone calls can cause a ripple effect that delivers thousands of votes.”

“If you’ve ever thrown a party or organized a bake sale, you know that personal calls are the best way to make sure everyone shows up,” says his wife, Daphne Hawkins Parker. “Phone trees work. What would make you more likely to come out to vote – yet another attack ad, or a call from an old friend?”

In the 2000, election 11 states were decided by margins of less than 4%. "If our phone tree causes a few more people who share our viewpoint to actually go vote, and each one of those people calls five more people, it’s much more likely that Kerry will win this election," Mike Parker says. “In the last election more than 50 million registered voters never made it to the polls.”

The Parkers have an 8-month-old son and live in New York City. With his birth came an end to their participation in political events, and new strains on their wallets. They are hoping their investment in NovemberCalling.com far exceeds the impact of the small donations they previously made.

And while New York will likely go to the Kerry this year, the couple’s social network stretches into states still too close to call. “Living in Florida, I know my vote matters,” says Melissa de Leon, a Spanish-language television producer and long-time friend of the Parkers, “but what excited me about Mike and Daphne’s concept is that it made me realize I can have an effect here. I’m trying to make sure every Democratic voter I know joins the phone tree.”

Daphne Hawkins Parker is from Nashville, Tennessee, and while many of her family members are Bush supporters, she has reached out to a number of people who feel differently. She explains, “Tennessee is going to be a close election. My friends there care deeply, but many were uncomfortable working on fundraising for the campaign. Joining this phone tree is an easy, personal way for them to make an impact.”

The Parkers say they would have been happy if NovemberCalling.com resulted in a few hundred calls being made on the night before Election Day. Now, a few days after launching, the site has received pledges to make over 500 calls. With hundreds of friends opening up their Rolodexes and using the site to notify still more friends, this short experiment could prove to have an even larger impact. After all, social networking web sites like Friendster, and LinkedIn have shown that many people are only 3 to 6 degrees away from hundreds of thousands of other people.

“The last election was decided by less than 1,000 votes in Florida and New Mexico – we’re hoping our simple little web site can get more people than that to show up and vote,” says Mike Parker.

About The Parkers

Daphne, Mike and eight-month-old Dayan Bernard Parker live in downtown New York City. This election and the launching of NovemberCalling.com mark their first substantial involvement in the political process. Daphne, 35 is originally from Old Hickory, Tennessee, part of metro Nashville. She moved to New York City in 1996 to work as an artist and creative director. She is currently a full-time mom. Mike, soon-to-be 31, currently works with a family-run firm where he advises public transit agencies on business strategy and partnerships. He has also guided Internet and entertainment related projects and is currently supporting the launch of a new start-up. He serves as an Advisory Board member for the X Prize Foundation. Mike moved to New York in 2000. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up in Washington, DC.

What is NovemberCalling.com?

A free, easy-to-use, online organizing tool that Mike and Daphne Parker conceived to grow their personal network into a national phone tree. Participants will call likeminded friends and family members on the night before Election Day to remind them to vote against the reelection of Bush/Cheney.

How Does It Work?

Step 1: Get the Word Out

The Parkers are asking their friends, family members and anyone else who will listen to go to NovemberCalling.com.

Step 2: Promise to Call

People who come to NovemberCalling.com promise to call 5-15 likeminded friends and family members on the night before Election Day to remind them to vote against Bush/Cheney. (They provide names or nicknames rather than extensive personal information.)

Step 3: Grow the Network

Each person who joins the network can also use the website to invite the people they’re planning to call to join in the effort. Those people will make their own calling promises, and in turn invite other people to join. As the phone tree branches out, the compounding effect means that one person could result in thousands of new callers. Participants are being encouraged to call voters in swing states, but any call is helpful because of this network effect.

Step 4: Election Day Impact

On the night before Election Day, participants will receive a note via email or text message reminding them which friends and family members they’ve promised to call. Then they’ll make personal calls to make sure everyone goes out and votes. Nationally, more than 30% of registered voters never made it to the polls for the 2000 presidential election. (Only 51% of the eligible population voted).

Does It Cost Anything?

No. The site is free to use and does not solicit donations.

Why Was It Launched?

The Parkers have a 7-month-old son and live in New York City. With his birth came an end to their participation in political events, and new strains on their wallets. They are hoping that NovemberCalling.com far exceeds the impact of the small donations they previously made.

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Mike Parker