In Part One, the need to move rapidly on data-analytics is discussed with the admonition that we need to leap frog the Democrats, not just catch up.  The new RNC Growth and Opportunity Project Report hammers the importance home and suggests policy, most of which make sense.

However, there are glaring problems with the RNC report.  It is top down—while saying all the right things about the grassroots— and it seems to this shoestring activist to be over-larded with money.

Let’s first discuss what the “G-rowth and O-pportunity P-roject” report (GOP, get it?) got right.

In Section 1: Generating Better Data

“The data platform must be accessible… Application programming interfaces (APIs) should be open to Republican candidates, state and national committees, friendly third-party organizations and supporting vendors/consultants/ developers in primary and general elections.”

Translated: distributed, accessible data for everyone to use.  But a page after talking access and low user cost the RNC wants to “… convene extensive listening sessions for all high-level GOP data users and contributors… Recruit and competitively compensate… long-term data staff at the RNC… [create] staff resources available [for] all 50 states… [and] Conduct a national road show…”  Many of the recommendations are bureaucratic and decidedly old school.

In Section 2 the report calls for a Data-Analytics Institute.  An excellent idea!  Based in Silicon Valley.

In Section 4: Digital (the report suffers from category overlap and excess length) the RNC says:

“the “digital divide” [resulted from] the Obama campaign’s significant commitment to building an in-house tech and digital team and sharing data resources across multiple entities within the campaign…  Our challenge is less of a technology problem and more of a culture problem.” Italics added.

This is an important message.  We need in-house staff—not highly paid vendors.    We need to change our culture of outsourcing to a culture of in-house promotion of those who work cheap to begin with and at moderate cost as they gain experience… and who actually win.

But there are deeper culture problems.  Top down is a culture problem.  And money has become a culture problem.

The RNC report is top down while promoting bottom up.  On the fourth page an infographic shouts about 52K contacts, 36K online surveys, 800 conference calls, etc. to “listen to the people.” Yet this activist never heard of the project.  That’s because the word went out from on high through the existing hierarchical network and only those embedded were listened to.  The GOP has a fundamental disconnect from the grassroots, of which the RNC report is symptomatic.

And, the RNC report is positively gleeful on the amount of dough raised to elect Romney.  Only the money had little effect, as the report admits.  The RNC report— which lurches almost into Occupy rhetoric with a call to “blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare”— doesn’t see a problem with the legions of high paid party technocrats it proposes to hire.  The wish list is in the tens of millions of dollars, but what will the money bring?

Who will get the job done for us on data-analytics?  Skunk works, like the Obama nerds who did 24 hour shifts in the Cave and the Alley, ate pizza and bad takeout and slept under their desks.  Money attracts consultants and technocrats.  Glory and pizza attract the passionate young with the startup mentality the GOP needs.

While I wouldn’t throw out the RNC report, if the national party marches forward dispensing largesse, the CRP should insist the Data-Analytics effort be based in the SF Bay Area—future home of the GOP Data-Digital Institute—that the institute be staffed by local grad students and the still-hungry venture community and that an appropriate level of funding be supplied, neither too much nor too little.  Remember, Obama assembled his team from Silicon Valley where a skunk works culture is alive and well.

And—as one of the prime users— the grassroots should be involved in the gathering of the data.

Modest but appropriate funding should flow to organizing grassroots volunteers at the CRP central committee level for the kind of deep and granular voter contact and outreach the Obama team achieved.

Those who read the articles on the Dems data-analytics will note constant references to the richness of data that can be accumulated when each and every voter contact—phone calls, GOTV visits, mailings, social or volunteer events, tabling, rallies, etc.—is logged into a database record for each unique voter.  It is from these human, one-on-one contacts that a deep, abiding relationship between a party and its voters develops.

Bringing the grassroots into the data collection process motivates and trains them in data, closing the circle between Party, volunteers and voters while reinventing precinct work for the digital age.  The tiny SFGOP has a homebrew data project in the works already.

The database architecture must be created by geeks.  The predictive modeling algorithms will be designed by social mathematicians.  But the human contacts should be made by party volunteers rather than by paid quasi-telemarketers or polling firm employees.  Here, money is poison.

The volunteers should be paid—as volunteers.  We will need to design a system that truly honors the grassroots volunteers by rewarding them with a panoply of escalating, non-monetary perks like access and recognition.  A renewed national and state party must put the grassroots back where they belong— dead center.

The GOP can catch up technically with geeks and surge forward politically with grassroots data collection, leap-frogging the Dems.  We can come roaring back.