The Institute for Social Engagement (ISe) develops, promotes and distributes, free of charge, all of its programs to the public.
Through this “open source advocacy” we ensure that all citizens have an opportunity for effective, 21st century tools and strategies regardless of demographic, location or financial constraints.
Vote Remote is the ISe flagship initiative dedicated to remote and disenfranchised voter accessibility and registration. Like other online sites, Vote Remote allows voters to pre-register, register, a request a mail-in ballot, but Vote Remote goes past an invitation to vote, and instead offers active, online and in-real-life support.
Vote Remote’s College Tour specifically targets out-of-state college voters, encouraging them to vote in their home states. Current and upcoming features of the program include:
• Voter registration and pre-registration
• Check to see if you’re registered
• Request an online ballot
• What are my state’s remote voting requirements
• Alerts and reminders leading up to mail-in deadlines
• Vote Remote College Ambassadors: Students from each college’s student group interested in participating, providing resumé-boosting training in real life, real-time organizing, outreach, and student leadership experience.
• Campus liaisons from the community offering support to Vote Remote College Ambassadors.
• Empowerment of students through ongoing contact with their Vote Remote College Ambassadors, who act as on-the-ground support and facilitators, providing everything from information and reminders to stamps and an envelope.
In addition to the fully supported registration and voting access, Vote Remote builds on nationwide enrollment to inform voters of key races, contested seats and potential flip districts.
Vote Remote can be customized to specifically target and reach different groups traditionally harder to engage.
Vote Remote High School Nation engages our youngest voters, offering education on fact-checking, civil discussion of differences, pre-registration and all of the upcoming election information included in the College Tour.
Vote Remote Accessibility focuses on those less easily able to get to the polls. Along with all of the technological benefits and input of the College Tour, Vote Remote Accessibility will also utilize community outreach partnerships, direct mail and phone tree campaigns to support early voting and partnerships with free ride to the polls initiatives.
Part of ISe’s playful aim at engaging younger voters (as well as many older ones), Fweedom challenges citizens to donate in order to protect their civil liberties, and to advocate for all rights, including the right to legalized marijuana.
Fweedom begins to answer the, “what’s in it for me?” question that leaves some citizens feeling powerless and apathetic. By focusing on one seemingly simple, passionately held issue, the campaign engages people in that first step toward civic participation.
Research shows that donation has a substantial and robust effect on the probability of voting in presidential elections. Those who vote in presidential elections are more likely to vote in local elections than those who don’t. Generosity, in other words, increases participation.
Research on younger donors also shows greater comfort in giving when a tangible item is attached. The Fweedom campaign offers donors a choice of donation strategies, from simple, one-button giving, to T-shirts, bags and other items.
By offering small donation amounts associated with a specific, personalized issue, Fweedom engages voters in a light-hearted approach to a serious issue: having each eligible citizen engage in the political process.
That FU Button!
Gamification is a crucial aspect of any serious push to engage voters today. Through That FU Button, we combine many of the factors shown to be instrumental in converting and engaging people into becoming active participants in the political process.
And it’s fun!
That FU Button is an app and a text-to-give campaign. Tailored for news hounds and social media devotees who often find themselves angry or frustrated by the news of the day, users simply text “FU” to a designated number, or push the FU Button on the app, and donate $1 to ISe.
Feelings of helplessness and a lack of ability to control what’s going on are a major factor in voter apathy and disengagement. When we hear news that’s frightening, enraging, or intolerable to our sensibilities, we’re more likely to build anger while moving farther away from feelings of “doing something” in a way that will be effective and beneficial.
Hitting that FU Button give immediate relief, and accomplishes several things at once: it gives back some control (There! I’ve donated to help fight this injustice!), it releases anger (I have to DO something!), and it brings humor back where it’s most needed.
This acts on the same impulse that “sharing” on social media does – a wish to just ACT, even in small ways, only this time that action will also be contributing to real work being done to support our nation, our neighbors, and our concerns.
IRL and Online
While ISe focuses many activities on remote and online projects, the community of ISe is what inspires and nurtures our creativity. Our many gatherings, working retreats and community work hours fuel our ability to maintain the energy and drive needed for ongoing volunteer work.
Our members give their time and expertise with generosity and good will, developing, iterating, and collaborating with each other and with other groups in the community.
We welcome those with no experience at all, and those experienced in everything from activism to tech, education and graphic design.
Our on-the-ground “labs” – committees finding innovating, effective activism – include Outreach, recruiting, welcoming and matching new volunteers with projects that match their interests and time available; “EE” actively promoting and educating on local and national policies, legislation and initiatives concerning energy and environment; Media, tasked with ongoing development and production of communication material and strategies ranging from podcasts and a newsletter to social media campaigns and videos; Creative, managing and producing all of the design needs for ISe and its partners, from logos to banners to websites to signs and branding; It’s Our Call (ItsOurCall.org), a work in progress which gathers legislator’s stances on important, upcoming votes. It helps activists call their own legislators, and spread the word to their friends with uncommitted legislators; and several other labs including Songwriting and Family.