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Civic Engagement Now One Text Away with Textizen

by Jane Susskind, published

textizenIn an attempt to bring citizen feedback into the digital age, Textizen has created a service that allows local governments to get in touch with their constituents with one simple text. Tweet

The website reads,

"Our platform for text-message surveys empowers communities to reach residents where they are. Now anyone with an opinion and a minute can join the civic dialogue." 

Traditionally, the only way for local governments and public institutions to gather voter sentiment was through a town hall or neighborhood meeting. Recognizing the challenges facing working American families in participating in the civil discourse at a designated time and place, the founders of Textizen created a platform to allow citizens the opportunity to engage in the democratic process anytime, anywhere.

Textizen began its approach offline by plastering the city with posters promoting citizen engagement. In Pittsburgh, the group targeted bus stops, parks, and community centers - places where people would likely pause and have a few minutes to pull out their phones and respond to the survey. Tweet

Next, they tailored their messages in creative and engaging ways in order to encourage users to respond as opposed to asking them to start from a blank slate. By asking citizens at a bus stop "Would you use rapid transit," or park goers "Where would you like to see another park in the city," Textizen can target those affected by such laws and provide them a voice in the decision-making process.

After texting a response to the number provided, users will get a follow up question via text. By mirroring the type of communication we use in everyday life with our friends and family, Textizen helps to forge a conversation with your city, CEO Michelle Lee explains.

As one of the grant winners of the Knight News Challenge, Textizen plans to expand its platform using the $350,000 award from Knight Foundation. And with 85% of American adults owning a cell phones, it's likely this approach will work.

What do you think? Would you use this service?

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