Blogging for America

Race for Reuse: Textizen

“A gateway drug for civic engagement..” That’s how Michelle Lee, 2012 CfA Fellow describes Textizen, a SMS-based community feedback tool, that’s now been deployed to over a handful of cities across the country, and is part of our Race for Reuse Brigade campaign to bring it to even more.

Textizen takes a one-two punch to citizen engagement, pairing offline and online mechanisms. First, organizations (e.g. a city planning department) decide on what questions they want feedback on and put up giant posters throughout the city to meet citizens where they are; second, citizens can simply text in their responses, saving the hassle of coming to community meetings or City Hall. On both sides, however, it’s proving to be addictive. We’re seeing organizations put up poll after poll — and even start to deploy other engagement tools — and citizens aren’t just answering the first questions, but responding to the followups as well.

The key to Textizen is having a real decision you need real input on. In Philadelphia, the city needed input on the Philly2035, the city’s plan for future development and zoning; Salt Lake City is using Textizen to shape the city’s new comprehensive plan, Plan Salt Lake; and City of Monrovia deployed it to allow citizens to recommend a new business in a local shopping center. Real issues, actual decisions, meaningful engagement.

Of course, those are just some of the many ways in which you could use Textizen. How else could you use it in your city? Let us know on twitter @CodeforAmerica, sign up for an account, and join the Race for Reuse now.

Code for America Labs, Inc is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization. Content is licensed through Creative Commons.