Looking to the future

What is the future of Voices? Leveraging the power of collective action.

After looking at the different ways that Americans can participate in their communities, we believe that organizing collectively is the most effective way to participate.

There is no better way to organize groups of individuals than by leveraging the benefits offered by smartphones. This short blog post provides an example of how organizing online can be incredibly effective, followed by how Voices can help achieve this.

In early 2012, Congress tried to pass a bill called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA). The bill presented a serious threat to the fundamental way the internet works, and it looked like it was going to pass. SOPA had a lot of support from wealthy lobby groups representing the entertainment industry. Here’s a video of the MPAA chairman, Chris Dodd, threatening to pull campaign donations from any Democrat who opposed SOPA. So the bill had tons of establishment support and money behind it, why didn’t it pass?

Because people organized to stop it! Internet advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight For the Future helped to organize more than eight million phone calls, four million emails, and more than three million tweets directed at Congress. Dozens of Senators and scores of Congressmen pulled their support for SOPA and the bill died nearly overnight.

So what does this show us? Organizing together is effective, really effective. One person calling their representative is not particularly impactful, but when we call together in an organized fashion, we can melt the phone lines. This is precisely where Voices comes in.

Voices has the potential to reduce the barriers that prevent organizations from unlocking the full potential of their membership. By working with advocacy groups, users could stay up to date on direct actions going on in their community.

Here’s how the SOPA protest could have went down if it were 2016:

Using the Voices app, users would subscribe to interests groups that reflect their values. In this example, our friendly user is named Chuck, a 23 year old with a good job and plenty of friends. Chuck genuinely cares about the world around him, but doesn’t always have the time or info to participate in his community. He cares deeply about digital rights issues and ensuring a free, open internet, so Chuck decides to follow the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) on Voices.

Among the pieces of legislation that the EFF tracks, a bill appears that threatens digital rights online, “SOPA 2016”. The EFF recognizes that they can beat this thing if they have the support of their members. So the EFF uses the Voices platform to notify all of their members that they need to call, tweet, or email their representatives about SOPA 2016. Chuck receives a push notification and pops open the Voices app to find his representatives, with their contact information already displayed.

Our friend Chuck also happens to live in the district of the committee Chairman who is currently holding the SOPA bill, this grants him another opportunity to participate in his community. The EFF could target Voices users in the chairman’s district to attend a rally outside the Chariman’s office. This kind of targeted activism can produce media coverage and visibility for the issue, and ultimately help to apply significant pressure on a representative's decision making process.

With all of this smart, targeted community activism, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and its members are able to successfully defeat the SOPA 2016 bill. Their success is built upon the reduction of barriers to participation that Voices enabled.

The potential use cases for community participation are nearly infinite with Voices. The app enables advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to unlock the real potential of people who care about their communities. If we were able to organize to defeat SOPA in 2012, there is no doubt that we can organize to accomplish even more in 2016.