Ari Trujillo Wesler, a third generation engineer, got her start in organizing by banning non-organic grapes and raisins… from her elementary school. Before she was even old enough to vote, her first major campaign led her to Nevada in 2008 for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Since then, she’s managed several data projects at the AFL-CIO and NationBuilder, where she first met Emily Del Beccaro. Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC speech initially pushed Emily to get involved in politics. In 2012, she successfully helped elect Eric Garcetti as Mayor of Los Angeles, and went on to serve as the Data Product Lead at TargetSmart and as the Senior Data Organizer at NationBuilder. After Ari and Emily worked together to build a national voter file within NationBuilder’s infrastructure, they wanted to keep collaborating.
On the 2016 Sanders campaign, they discovered the need for a tool to help campaigns and advocacy organizations better manage deep canvassing’s unique structure and datasets. “Our organizing strategy in 2016 was not based on people-power or our ability to build capacity. Rather, it was dictated by the tech available to us.” Then in 2017, after wildfires burned down one-third of Ari’s hometown of Santa Rosa, CA, Ari supported a group of year-round deep canvassers who hoped to address the needs of the victims and ensure high electoral turnout in the community. They knocked constituent doors and recorded answers to open-ended questions about their political preferences and personal needs. But, it was clear that there were still many roadblocks to employing traditional listed canvassing and voter registration efforts.
From this experience, OpenField was born. OpenField strives to make the data compilation and analysis of these complex conversations a manageable and tech-enabled task for political clients. When Ari pitched the idea to Emily over brunch in 2018, the two were determined to rid campaigns and advocacy organizations of their tech-based critiques of deep canvassing and empower canvassers to pursue more meaningful conversations at every door.
Ari and Emily have always said that “the work of organizing is a dream and the tech is a nightmare.” Through building a product that is centered around the needs and experiences of organizers engaged in long-term grassroots work, they hope that OpenField will yield more lasting systemic changes to society. Ari and Emily believe they are helping achieve the promise of democracy through organizing – a process that requires equal parts authenticity, relationship building, empathy, hope, and data.