Why Grassroutes.us Represents the Future of Civic Engagement

Over the years I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make civic engagement easy & ubiquitous which is why when I saw Grassroutes.us instant feedback app I was both awed and bummed.

Awed because they nailed the key components to making finding & engaging your congressional representatives easy. Bummed because they beat me to it.

Today, if you read an article or go to a Website and are inspired to engage your representative, you then have to go somewhere else to figure out who your represetatives are and then find their contact information. And then you have to go to three different places, your two senators’ and congressman’s sites, to give your feedback. Grassroutes eliminates that. They’ve built a super simple app you can drop into your site so someone can read something, and then instantly engage right from your page. Their app uses your IP address to identify and display your rep with their Twitter, Facebook, email & phone info so instead of taking 5-10-15 minutes to engage, you can do it in 15 seconds.

And by making it a simple widget you can drop into your site with no programming required, every advocacy group in America will be able to not only tell their audience why they should get involved but provide the civic engagement tools required.

One of the lessons I’ve learned as the founder of MyRepresentatives.com, a site that enables you to easily find and engage all your elected officials in the Memphis area, is that any time you require people to go elsewhere that the probability of them doing that drops dramatically – so having something that can be easily embedded and used where people already are is critical.

Ultimately, this same basic functionality needs to be tied to a global database of all your elected officials so people can instantly engage their state and local officials as well. This is a significantly larger challenge, particularly at the local level because there is no single repository of local city, county and school board electoral districts. The census Tiger files provide state, county, city & school boundary information but don’t provide electoral district information within a county, city or school district. Here in Memphis we had to gather that information from multiple different sources which was quite challenging.

Regardless, my hat’s off to the Grassroutes team for creating a kick-ass offering. You can see just how easy it is to use by taking a few moments to contact your congressional representatives and tell them to vote for the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act will help kids who through no fault are here illegally. As someone who has worked closely with many undocumented children, they view themselves as 100% American – just without papers – as this is the only country they’ve ever really known. And more importantly, it’s the country they love and want to contribute to. These DREAM Act will give them that chance so tell your representatives to vote for the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation ‒ pioneered by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL] will give these kids a path to citizenship and enable the US to benefit from their talent. Under the provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.

Contact your representatives and tell them to vote for the DREAM Act

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