“The Open Supporter Data Interface specifies an API and data structures for interoperability among products in the progressive cause-based, campaign and non-profit marketplace.”
Imagine the difficulty if every one of your electrical appliances had its own version of the power socket. It’s not impossible, it’s just very impractical. You’ll be spending more money and time than you have to, not to mention you’d be lugging around a bunch of different adapters wherever you go. This impracticality that comes without a standardized power socket also arises when we don’t have a standard for sharing data between software tools. It’s not impossible and companies have been doing it for quite a while, it’s just very impractical.
The OSDI initiative seeks to give customers greater flexibility with choosing their technology products and to use multiple products together without being constrained by technical roadblocks. This idea to standardize data sharing took form after the 2012 US presidential elections when current OSDI Chairman Josh Cohen realized the common pain points campaigns faced when trying to make different software tools work together. The open-source software movement has now evolved into a coalition of 40 to 50 progressive vendors and organizations as well as non-partisan and mainstream industry vendors.
What is the OSDI standard?
By setting a standard for how different software application share data, OSDI connectors let multiple campaign tools seamlessly work together and share data with each other. It reduces customer costs related to moving data across multiple systems, lowers integration costs and enhances the entry of new and innovative products into the marketplace.
This means that your CRMs, email marketing services, canvassing tools, donation management systems, social media tools, volunteer management tools and voter engagement tools all coming from different vendors can work in unison with each other to handle your data, keeping it updated and available across multiple platforms.
As of now, keeping campaign data consistent across different platforms is an arduous task that requires frequent manual importing and exporting of data via CSVs and then as with all manual actions done on scale, dealing with the loss of data during the process.
The problem arises because different systems handle customer data (contacts, addresses, donations, events, social actions) differently. This difference merely serves as a cost to customers in the form of added complexity, data loss during transfer, and extra staff and volunteer time. This makes it hard for customers to justify the costs that come with migrating to a new system even when a vendor is not providing adequate features.
The benefits of a standard connector
Vendors currently have to maintain a number of different API integrations to support their customers. With OSDI in the picture, the scenario will change allowing implementers of the OSDI standard to integrate or share data with each other at a fraction of the development costs and time to market. Till date, the organizations that have implemented OSDI in part or full include Action Network, NGP VAN, CiviCRM, CallHub and others.
The OSDI standard will let developers focus on their product rather than spending resources on making platforms and tools work better with each other. With the standard OSDI connector, data becomes more seamlessly consumable across devices and platforms, and of course more interchangeable across vendors.
Finally, campaigns can spend less time entering data onto spreadsheets and more time actually putting the data to use.
Source 1: http://opensupporter.org/
Source 2: https://github.com/opensupporter
Source 3: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/01/13/meet-the-former-microsoft-employee-who-wants-to-liberate-liberal-data/