Lib Dem tip#9: Use MiniVAN, the Lib Dem canvassing app

Rob Blackie canvassing with MiniVAN. Photo credit: Yee-Liu Williams.

Welcome to my series of tips and advice for Liberal Democrat members, which appear first in the excellent email bulletin run by London Region’s Pete Dollimore for party members.

There’s a free app available for Android and iPhone/iPad* which makes canvassing much easier and quicker, as used widely in the Parliamentary seats the party won at the last general election and the councils the party won control over in this year’s local elections.

It’s called MiniVAN and works with the party’s Connect electoral database. Using the app cuts out completely the need to print off canvass cards, write down information as you go around (hoping it isn’t raining and making the paper go soggy) and then have someone type up the results (hoping they can read your handwriting successfully).

Instead, you download a list of names and addresses to call on at the start, have a handy map to guide you around, and all your data is safely stored, needing just one upload to the database at the end. Easier, more convenient and saves anyone having the job of having to do manual data entry afterwards.

It works well in areas without mobile reception too as you only need to be online beforehand (to download the canvass lists) and afterwards (to upload data).

The three steps to get started with MiniVAN are:

  1. Install the app on your phone.
  2. Get a login for it from your local party.
  3. Get a “list number” (list of people to call on) from your local party too. This will include the script to use when canvassing; i.e. what questions to ask and what data to record.

Happy canvassing!

And if you go to install it, there’s as second Lib Dem app it is well worth getting at the same time – the conference app.

Top tips for using MiniVAN

  1. Use it – the app is much better than using printed canvass cards both for keep data secure and also for cutting out the laborious task of typing up the results from printed canvass cards.
  2. You don’t need to be online when canvassing – just at the start (to download a list of people to call on) and at the end (to upload your data). That means you can use it in very rural areas, in tower blocks etc. all without problem.
  3. Doing a long canvass session? You can extend your battery life by turning off data, e.g. by going into flight mode (see #2). And battery packs such as these are really useful.
  4. You can mark a whole household not a home in one go: from the household list view either (iOS) swipe right or (Android) tap and hold down on the household.
  5. Check out my canvassing guide for how to make the most of canvassing.


* The app is listed in both app stores as being from NGPVAN, the company which supplies both the app and Connect. It’s an American firm, also used by Barack Obama’s two Presidential campaigns as well as our sister party the Canadian Liberals.

You can read the full set of tips for Lib Dem party members here.

11 responses to “Lib Dem tip#9: Use MiniVAN, the Lib Dem canvassing app”

  1. I hated Connect, it marked the death of “informal” canvassing. As a councillor, every time I delivered Focus, I’d get 20-30 bits of data for every 500 homes o delivered . This data would be “I voted for you, but I’m not LubDem” or “I’m a lib Dem but I don’t like the coalition”, etc, etc. In EARS it was so simple to back-full old data so you could record that someone was Tory or in 2010 but LD in 2011, etc. In connect, it was so ridiculously difficult in comparison.

    People kept banging on about how much it could do, and whilst I could see it’s flexibility for a by-election campaign, in a simple ward based campaign with perhaps two canvassers & a small team of deliverers, it was a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    • That’s interesting, as on that point I find Connect much better than EARS, because you can record people under a ‘past support’ question which is nice explicit way of noting that you’ve just found out some information about the past. I guess our minds work differently…!

  2. Just tried to download minVAN for a trial. Usual Apple nonsense, finally found a password, then it wanted another one and round we went in a complete circle. Why not put it on the party’s website – that might reduce the point when you give up!

    • Having Apple Apps downloadable from the App Store is much safer in many ways, as Apple puts a lot of effort into checking apps for security and safety – so people using the App Store know they can trust them more than an app from a ‘random’ website.

  3. I have a nice new Windows 10 tablet but now I see minivan seems to be available for apple and android only. Any suggestions?

  4. I’ve downloaded the mini van app Mark & put my action I’d in but it’s now asking for codes and the download button is greyed out where do I get my area codes from

    • Do you mean you need a list number? If so, you can get that from whoever is organising the canvassing – they set up the lists in Connect and issue the list numbers.

  5. Do you have any statistical analysis of the success or otherwise of campaigns using Connect, Ears or traditional paper only systems? Such evidence might help to convince some of the more conservative Lib Dems of using Connect with Minivan.

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