Date Awarded
Grant Period
01/01/13 to 01/31/15
Focus Area
Media Innovation
Knight News Challenge

Project Links

Grantee Contact

  • San Francisco, CA

Featured Media

For a platform that helps governments design surveys and feedback campaigns powered by mobile phones and text messaging

Textizen is building software to transform the citizen feedback loop. Across the country, a growing number of civic leaders are looking for new ways to connect with constituents. Neighborhood meetings are costly to run, and attendance isn’t always representative. By placing questions in physical places and inviting residents to respond from their mobile phones, Textizen creates new ways for meaningful civic participation. Started as a Code for America pilot project in Philadelphia, Textizen identified early best practices by experimenting with several types of campaigns. One, for example, asked for feedback on public transit changes by posing a text-to-vote question at a bus stop. Building on these pilots, the team will license the software to cities seeking to create new open, engaging channels for civic participation.

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Project Team

Michelle Lee, Serena Wales, Alex Yule

Michelle Lee is the Chief Executive Officer of Textizen. She brings 8 years of experience in user-centered design and research, most recently at Google where she created Google Forms and worked on Google Maps. Previously, she designed online trust and safety tools for eBay, cars for baby boomers, and studied human-computer interaction at Stanford University’s Symbolic Systems Program.

Serena Wales is the Technology Officer for Textizen. As a 2012 Code for America fellow, Serena worked with the City of New Orleans to build Blightstatus, giving residents accurate and up-to-date information about their neighborhood. Previously, Serena worked at Purpose, Inc. building online campaign tools and web applications for nonprofits and corporations, and developed interactive projects for the High Museum of Art and the Davis Museum. Serena graduated from Wellesley College in 2009 with degrees in Media Arts & Sciences and History.

Alex Yule is the Chief Operating Officer for Textizen. Previously, Alex built interactive web mapping experiences on the Mapping Center team at Esri, an industry leader in Geographic Information System (GIS) software. Alex graduated cum laude from Middlebury College with a degree in Geography. An avid writer and photographer, his technical skills include application planning and design, web development, data analysis, and visualization.

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