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social sciences

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Hughes, Chris (b. 1983), and Sean Eldridge (b. 1986)  
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The genius of MyBO, wrote McGirt, was that it was "a surprisingly intuitive and fun-to-use networking Web site that allowed Obama supporters to create groups, plan events, raise funds, download tools, and connect with one another . . . and reach [the candidate's] most passionate supporters cheaply and effectively."

She further noted that over the course of the campaign "volunteers had created more than 2 million profiles on the site, planned 200,000 offline events, formed 3,500 groups, posted 400,000 blogs, and raised $30 million on 70,000 personal fund-raising pages."

Sponsor Message.

Peter Daou, the Internet director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, told José Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post that the initiative was "an operation that everyone will be studying for campaigns to come."

At the beginning of his association with the campaign, however, Hughes became somewhat frustrated because the architects of it were narrowly focusing on victories in the early-voting states rather than looking at the big picture. "There was no way I could walk into [campaign manager] David Plouffe's office and say I'd need ten people," he told McGirt. "He'd say, 'What for?' And I'd say, 'To create a national grassroots infrastructure of peers.' And he'd say, 'How is that going to help us win Iowa?'"

Candidate Obama did win in Iowa but lost to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire a few days later, and the importance of a nationwide strategy began to become apparent. "All of a sudden, it made a difference that we have 60 really organized groups in Kansas, a caucus state. And a hugely active Boise for Obama group," Hughes recounted to McGirt.

Marcia Carlyn, co-administrator of Loudon County for Obama, praised Hughes and his MyBO team for the victory in the Virginia primary in February 2008. "We couldn't have done this without the MyBO site," she declared. "When we first asked the campaign for resources, they said forget it. Everything was going to Iowa."

Such results were repeated around the country. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor tool helped create effective community groups for canvassing and calling, and the Vote for Change tool enabled a million people to register to vote.

Jeremy Bird, the state director of the campaign in Maryland, spoke to McGirt of the efficiency of Hughes's operation: "They had the entire thing set up—an office with seven computers, phone lines, a state structure, county chairs, and meetings every other Saturday. . . . Everywhere we went, we could plug in a zip code, and a list of really excited volunteers would pop up."

The efficacy of MyBO in tapping into people's interest and in organizing campaign volunteers was clearly unsurpassed.

After his involvement in the Obama campaign, Hughes began a new on-line venture, Jumo, which means "together in concert" in the west African language Yoruba, a site geared toward connecting potential contributors with charitable organizations.

Ever the "empath," Hughes stated to Jenna Wortham of the New York Times that "the more connected an individual is to an issue they care about, the higher probability there is they will stay involved over a longer period of time."

Jumo, launched in November 2010, began with over 3,000 issues and groups. Hughes accepted only those certified as tax-exempt in order to avoid fraudulent solicitations.

The causes being championed on Jumo are multifarious, but one issue that is especially important to Hughes himself is marriage equality. On New Year's Eve 2010, on a vacation trip to Thailand, he became engaged to his partner of five years, Sean Eldridge.

Eldridge, born on July 31, 1986, the son of two physicians, grew up in Toledo, Ohio. He excelled at the city's Ottawa Hills High School, graduating in the top ten percent of his class. He was also on the varsity track team, a participant in theater productions, and a youth representative on the Toledo Board of Community Relations.

After his graduation from high school, Eldridge enrolled at Deep Springs College, a small, highly-selective, all-male two-year institution located in the high desert of California. The college typically admits from 10 to 15 students per year; after Deep Springs, most students continue their studies at such institutions as Harvard, the University of Chicago, Yale, and Stanford. More than half of Deep Springs alumni go on to earn doctorate degrees.

At Deep Springs, which is founded on the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance, students must do farm chores on the campus ranch in addition to taking classes and participating in decisions about curriculum, faculty hiring, and admissions. Furthermore, they must abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking, and using narcotics, in keeping with founder Lucien Nunn's vision of training bright young men to become leaders at an academic venue devoid of the temptations of liquor and women.

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