Textizen wants to make civic engagement as easy as texting with a (really wonky) friend

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Wherever you live, it’s likely your local government makes big decisions without you. Should the city sell the old fire station to a condo developer? Where should the light-rail stops be located? In any given month, city councils, planning boards, and other committees make decisions that impact a community, and often with minimal input from residents. (Be honest: Did you want to take time to attend that committee meeting Tuesday night after a long day of work?)

Textizen, one of the winners of the mobile round of the Knight News Challenge, wants to give a boost to civic engagement through a suite of technology tools that allow residents to give feedback on community issues. Using its $350,000 award from Knight Foundation, Textizen will expand and begin working with cities around the country.

Textizen is a hybrid of the physical and the digital that gives people in a community real-world prompts to answer questions about important issues in their city. But instead of asking people to mail in a survey, responses are handled through mobile devices.

So let’s say your local planning department is trying to figure out what to do with a problem intersection. Using Textizen, the planning department could craft a series of short survey questions using a web interface. Flyers throughout town would direct residents to a number to text responses to the survey. Using Textizen’s web dashboard, the city would also be able to track and graph responses.

Web surveys aren’t new technology, but Textizen takes an interesting mobile-centric twist by turning the survey into a kind of chat. After texting their initial response, users are sent a new question, and the survey begins to resemble the kind of texting back-and-forth you might have with a friend who is really into public policy.

Read more at NiemanLab.org

 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.