Public Wise is an organization that supports equity in democracy by fighting to secure a government that reflects the will and protects the rights of the people. Following the January 6th insurrection, Public Wise sought to hold insurrectionists accountable, especially elected officials and candidates for public office. They hoped to do this by identifying all individuals and organizations in positions of public trust who participated and creating and promoting a visible index of them.
The work came at a critical time – insurrectionists in states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were running for office and/or held positions of political power at the local, state, and national level.
While Public Wise had a strong vision and vast collection of data, they needed a partner that could not only help bring their idea to life, but also do it in a way that was sustainable in the months and years to come. Blue State partnered with the group in late 2021 to build what would become the Insurrection Index and ensure a successful launch of this critical resource.
Our experience in electoral mobilization and political campaigns helped us quickly align on and shape not only the visual and messaging approach for the website, but also the right data model. The new database launched on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection and garnered over 23 national press placements before and during launch.
At the start of the project, it was understood that the site would need to prioritize findability and discovery, but also be adaptable so that their team could easily update the insurrectionists’ data as litigation evolved.
Public Wise and its partners identified more than 1,114 individuals and 392 organizations in positions of public trust to include in the Insurrection Index for the launch. To effectively display all of that data, we needed a system that could showcase the information to the user in a digestible way. And because our team had a breadth of experience building similar people-first data structures for progressive campaigns, we hit the ground running to migrate, categorize, and organize the vast collection of information. Ultimately, we wanted users to interact intuitively with the content.
We built the search interface to support both power users and casual explorers — supporting both a full text search and the ability to focus on key points of public interest (e.g. type of occupation, elected status, and litigation status).
On the homepage, we provided multiple points of entry into the database, including a state-level interactive map, a media center where specific individuals are tagged in images and videos, and a featured profiles section.
To encourage further exploration of the database, Blue State worked with Public Wise to develop any connections between individuals and organizations they were affiliated with. Rendering this relationship information directly on profile pages prevented users from hitting dead-ends and helped highlight the extent of coordination that went into the January 6th attack.
Visually communicate the mission
The site and brand design for this project could have gone in many directions, but understanding how this resource was going to be used in the political landscape was important to consider. We needed to position the Insurrection Index as a credible, nonpartisan database and ensure its design was straightforward and easy to navigate.
We created a visual brand for the Insurrection Index that communicated the gravity and urgency of the insurrection and unified audiences to take action to hold insurrectionists accountable.
The public launch
By working collaboratively, our teams were able to design and build the Insurrection Index in two months, launching on the first anniversary of the insurrection.
In preparation for the launch, our strategic communications team built key relationships with press and established Public Wise and its executive director, Christina Baal-Owens, as leading experts in the world of voting rights, democracy, and the insurrection.
Supporting the Public Wise team with media training and messaging support, we worked to further develop the Public Wise brand and reputation, independent from the Index, and secured key features highlighting Public Wise’s ongoing work and mission at CNN, Associated Press, PBS Newshour’s Amanpour & Co, the Associated Press, and KSQD’s Talk of the Bay.
Due to the groundwork our teams had laid with reporters to build up the authority of the organization at large, we were able to secure 14 pieces of launch coverage surrounding the Index – including an exclusive from The Guardian and stories from Inside Philanthropy, Common Dreams, Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American, The Daily Beast, and an interview with their executive director on BBC World News.
The work was also nominated for a Reed Award and is a finalist for a Webby.
Holding insurrectionists accountable
We’ll continue to support the Public Wise team to make sure the Insurrection Index serves as a living, breathing resource and collaborate on media opportunities that highlight the value of the Index and Public Wise’s ongoing work.
As the January 6th House Select Committee begins to release their findings and insurrectionist court cases ramp up, the role the Insurrection Index plays is more important than ever. It will continue to shed light on the individuals and organizations who attempted to dismantle our democracy and ensure those bad actors are held accountable.