I’ve written a longer piece about my initial encounters with Momentum. Momentum describes itself as a network of people and organisations that will continue the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy [Corbyn]’s campaign for the Labour party leadership. That piece looked at Momentum from the perspective of a Labour member. I was concerned at what I found.
There’s another, more fun, way of looking at Momentum: they’re a tech startup that launched its product too quickly.
Momentum was founded by people who didn’t like the service they were getting from legacy products.
Image of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from Getty via Telegraph. Other legacy products might exist.
The team did a quick pilot to check if there was market demand for an alternative.
Image of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corby and Liz Kendall during the Labour leadership campaign from AP via NorthJersey.com
There was heavy use of modern tech to automate tasks.
The tales of two people from the Jeremy Corbyn team.
There was a major advertising campaign.
Image from leaflet posted to all Labour members during campaign.
The pilot was successful.
Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Get used to it. It’s called democracy.
The team were so excited they took the pilot straight to a live mass market product.
Buzzfeed story on Momentum launch.
Unfortunately this quickly led to bad headlines.
Clips come from various stories. I recognise some Momentum people won’t think of all of these as bad headlines. Unfortunately I think most of the population will.
To paraphrase my longer piece in far fewer words one of the issues seems to be that Momentum’s pilot was with a particular group of people, i.e. the Labour electorate. [There are other issues with the design of the product, eg use of data, but let’s stick to Momentum’s grasp of people’s needs for now]
There wasn’t the recognition that even as you stay focussed on the core problem that you’re trying to solve that when you scale up to mass market that other types of people (yes, people not users) might have needs that need to be considered. In fact the live product risks narrowing its market even further by allowing in some of the far left groups and thinking that I experienced. Imagine a tech startup that builds a capability which ends up being used for unhelpful purposes by unintended users. If you chase after these users (some product managers think all customers are good customers…) then you risks drifting ever further away from the actual needs and purpose whilst generating more headlines, and wasted effort, like those above.
A group that engages with the non-political community, which is what I understand Momentum is/was trying to do, needs to reach out way beyond the base of engaged, left-wing political activists. The language of political theory simply doesn’t work. You need to build with existing communities and they want to see results.
Video from Facebook Momentum feed showing the Westway 23 campaign by Notting Hill residents. Great example of community activism. It is a shame that it is the Momentum post with the fewest “likes”.
Both Momentum, and other people who think of themselves as Labour, certainly need to avoid descending into political infighting. That really really doesn’t work.
Now the Momentum team might recover from this launch and build a better product that reaches this wider group of people, the People’s PPE idea is great, but there is a reasonable risk that something else will happen.
Momentum will take out some of the competition, the legacy products that Momentum wanted to replace, but in the process discover that bigger, hungrier competitors have already taken over the mass market.
Image of George Osborne by Gareth Milner CC-BY-2.0