Can a smartphone app increase civic engagement? Fuqua MBA and CASE Fellow Tim Scales aims to find out with his startup CivicRise.
Since 2012, CASE awards one Fuqua MBA student with a budding social venture the CASE Launch Pad award. The $10,000 grant also comes with one-on-one coaching with CASE Senior Fellow and author Dan Heath, known for his best-selling books Decisive, Switch, and Made to Stick.
In a time of increased political engagement, Tim Scales wants to make it easier for individuals to communicate with their representatives about the issues that matter to them. With the help of CASE Launch Pad, Tim has started the app CivicRise. The app partners with professional advocacy organizations to give them a platform to easily connect with users and give them notifications on ways to contact elected officials on issues. Users can then share the actions they’ve taken with their friends through the app or on social media.
We recently chatted with Tim about his inspiration for CivicRise and what he’s learned so far in the development process:
How did you come up with the idea for CivicRise?
The initial idea that became CivicRise was inspired by my personal desire to be a more engaged and effective citizen. This began during the buildup to the 2016 election when my Facebook feed consisted mostly of political vitriol and online petitions. We were in the midst of an extraordinary upswing in political activity and engagement but I didn’t feel that I was actually participating in an effective or meaningful way. I wanted to make my voice heard and to stand up for what I believe in but I didn’t know where to start. That’s where CivicRise comes in.
CivicRise is a smartphone app that mobilizes effective and sustained civic advocacy by creating a direct connection between advocacy organizations and individuals like me. To get started, I would download the app and subscribe to organizations that I believe in. The organizations then send me timely and effective action alerts – such as to call or email a legislator on a specific issue – that I can immediately complete through the app. By also providing some context, a sample script, and relevant contact info, the app makes it easy and rewarding to take immediate action. And because the alert is coming directly from an organization I trust, I can act with confidence that I’m making a difference.
How will the CASE Launch Pad help you start this venture?
The Launch Pad grant is doing exactly that – it’s providing the foundation from which we can launch our basic product. Before the Launch Pad, I had ideas and passion but no resources to begin building. With the support of CASE and the grant, I’ve been able to build a team, develop and launch the app, and begin recruiting customers. We’ve gone from zero to sixty in three short months and are continuing to quickly expand and scale.
The coaching and mentorship from Dan Heath is also proving to be invaluable. For example, a few weeks back I showed Dan a customer pitch I had drafted. He read it carefully, nodding throughout, then looked up saying, “This is a great start, I just have a couple of suggestions.” We then proceeded to completely tear it apart and rebuild it from scratch together, creating a much stronger, more concise, and more powerful pitch. This is exactly the kind of expert guidance I need at this stage and it will serve the venture well moving forward.
If people want to try out CivicRise, what should they do?
We launched the app last week, so it’s available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. However, during our staged rollout, one needs an invitation code to be matched with a partner organization. Anyone interested in learning more should visit www.civicrise.io and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
We’re also actively seeking organizer partners! If you send regular advocacy action alerts through an organization or informally, please get in touch to see you could increase your impact with CivicRise.
Want to learn more about the CASE Launch Pad and past winners? Click here.