Powerline

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Powerline: The Next-Generation Platform for Civic Engagement

Hoboken, United StatesHoboken, United States
Year Founded:
2012
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Powerline provides the missing infrastructure needed for civic engagement and democracy in the 21st century. Our app automatically connects individuals to elected leaders and civil society groups for prioritized, two-way interaction that enables leaders and citizens alike to break through the noise.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if every citizen was easily engaged in their democracy and connected to their leaders?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Current solutions do not prioritize the leader-constituent relationship nor do they work to systemically strengthen democracy in and beyond government. Too many focus on elections or on select pain points while siloed tools raise barriers to and between civic engagement, community, democracy, and leadership. Engaging communities and being engaged needs to be simpler for all. Purposeful, enabling technology must be accessible to more changemakers.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Powerline is a marketplace for connecting leaders and citizens. It simplifies civic engagement, strengthens civil society organizations, and enables participatory democracy in any kind of community. Designed specifically to empower leader-constituent relationships to break through the noise and make an impact, it is the simplest way to interact with the civic organizations and leaders in your life. Answer a poll, start/discuss a topic, start/sign a petition or micropetition (public or private), contact your elected leaders, or receive important alerts - all in one easy to use app. For leaders, increase your constituent engagement, build trust and deeper relationships, and simplify the actions you're asking your community to take.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

With Powerline, NJ Governor Chris Christie could have polled all of his residents immediately after Hurricane Sandy to identify hardest-hit areas. Citizens could respond to the pop-up question with the tap of a finger and responses could be visualized against a map. A citizen could provide feedback on funding relief projects where, if popular enough, the statement is auto-sent to the community to speak on with as little an effort as a tweet. Public dashboards show results of top-down questions along with bottom-up grassroots feedback. A social enterprise could crowdfund citizen lobbying efforts or a news anchor could send a daily poll and share results with respondents' elected leaders. Participation is as simple as a tap and/or a comment.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have raised $19,000 in online donations from over 200 supporters, secured a dozen early pilot partners, and secured initial impact angel backing. We are currently in alpha testing and 100% of our pilot users now know who their elected leaders are. Over 90% agree that our app makes understanding/contacting leaders easy and painless. While it has only been deployed in small pilots and alpha tests, the expectation is that leaders and members will report stronger democracy and engagement. It will also enable millions of groups to politically organize their members easily or use it for internal purposes for stronger civil society and simple civic engagement and participation. We expect these other metrics to improve: trust and faith in government; congressional approval; frequency of citizens giving feedback to leaders; reduced money in politics; and, a stronger Civic Health Index.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Powerline could be the most important tool for democracy and civil society since the voting booth. Leaders of all kinds will be able to use it, so we will pursue "bottom-up" (e.g. schools, local CSOs) and "top-down" (e.g. umbrella orgs) strategies to build the userbase before going to elected leaders. The freemium and open design provides accessible technology infrastructure for any CSO to achieve its maximum impact potential. Eventually, all of global civil society will be able to utilize Powerline for leader-constituent interactions, feedback management, easy activism, and organizing.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Powerline is based on a freemium revenue model. It's free (and ad-free) for citizens, and leaders are only charged for premium features they use (e.g fundraising). Also the media can pay for non-public advanced data analytics, and businesses can pay for commercial use. Political campaigns must pay a fee for advanced voter file integration. A proven market exists globally to easily sustain the technology's non-salary ~$25K annual operating costs.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Several dozen enterprises provide silo-ed civic functionality successfully in the marketplace, specializing in polling, community groups, petitions, alerts, discussions, fundraising, or constituent analytics. We expect this to continue and we hope to partner/integrate with some of them in the future (e.g. NationBuilder, Avaaz). However, we believe there is a clear need for a streamlined system for users and leaders that brings these functions into one accessible purposely-designed system and simplifies the citizen participation and activist processes into a more effective, engaging design.
Team

Founding Story

In April 2012, our founder was frustrated with US politics, so he came up with an idea for an app that just asked people political questions. He wondered why the smartphone couldn't be used to help strengthen democracy and connect everyday people directly to their leaders. Over several months, he conducted research with over 100 people of different political, business, and socioeconomic backgrounds to improve the kernel idea. The idea was democratized so leaders or citizens could ask questions of each other. Finally, inspired by his findings, he began assembling a team to build a powerful technology that could provide the missing infrastructure needed for civic engagement and democracy in the 21st century. Powerline was born!

Team

Our 9-member board includes experienced leaders, organizers, and technologists including a former White House advisor, a senior technology partner at Deloitte, and a former PAC leader. Technology strategist Jesse Chen is currently the only full-time employee with four contract developers under management. Full-time hires for technology, marketing, and sales will be made as growth allows by utilizing our vast network of qualified contacts.
Contact Details
Organization:
American Civix Technologies, L3C
About Your Organization
Organization Name

American Civix Technologies, L3C

Organization Country

, NJ, Hoboken

Country where this project is creating social impact
About You
First Name

Jesse

Last Name

Chen

Job Title

Founder

List additional team members who would be involved in this project:

Greg Boyd
Madeline Boyd
Kevin McCarter
Gerald Suarez
Joel Liebman
Dan Chen
Nikita Anikeev
Chris Pingel
Justin Braz
Adam Lowy

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About Your Organization
What are your primary products/services? Please describe all.

Powerline is a mobile technology that provides leaders and citizens with the ability to communicate through simple, integrated polling, petitions, discussions, alerts, messaging, social, and analytics capabilities. It automatically links citizens to their specific elected leaders providing them with a two-way communications channel as well as relevant background, contact, and voting information. Powerline is an open and freemium technology.

Who is your primary audience, customer or beneficiary?

Our users are citizens. Our customers are elected leaders, CSO leaders, businesses, and the media (i.e. schools, clubs, non-profits, unions, and other leader-constituent organizations). The beneficiary and primary audience are communities looking to strengthen democracy and citizen participation.

How do your products/services benefit this population?

Leaders are guaranteed to break through the noise directly to their constituents while citizens can easy be involved in their communities or groups with unprecedented ease and effectiveness. Leaders and the media can better understand any community or leader's constituents. A dedicated, open, and free platform enables more meaningful leader-constituent relationships. Powerline's transformative design improves the health of the overall system.

How many staff do you have (full and part-time)?

1 full-time employee, 1 full-time contractors, 3-part-time contractors, 20 part-time volunteers, 9 board members

Impact and Sustainability
Organization Mission: What problem is your organization committed to solving? In particular, describe what is innovative about your approach.

Current solutions do not prioritize the leader-constituent relationship nor do they work to systemically strengthen democracy in and beyond government. Too many focus on elections or on select pain points while siloed tools raise barriers to and between civic engagement, community, democracy, and leadership. Engaging communities and being engaged needs to be simpler. Purposeful, enabling technology must be accessible to more changemakers. Powerline streamlines civic engagement and democracy processes into a simple, beautiful, open platform with broad applications for a stronger civil society.

Impact: What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We have raised $19,000 in online donations from over 200 donors, secured a dozen early pilot partners, and secured initial impact angel backing. We are currently in alpha testing and 100% of our pilot users now know who their elected leaders are. Over 90% agree that our app makes understanding/contacting leaders easy and painless. While it has only been deployed in small pilots and tests, the expectation is that leaders and members will report stronger democracy and engagement. As an open platform, Powerline will also enable millions of groups to internally or politically organize their members easily for simple civic engagement and participation. Importantly, it provides access to enabling technology to changemakers to grow their impact.

Impact: What is your projected impact after receiving consulting support from American Express?

The challenge of establishing brand clarity for a systemic solution like Powerline is developing complementary messaging for citizens, elected leaders, the media, and other organizations in the ecosystem. Powerline is in critical need of this messaging and brand clarity so that it can communicate its value proposition to the market and the public more effectively. In short, American Express' support would directly impact Powerline's ability to grow. Powerline's growth inherently strengthens civil society by engaging more citizens in their governments, in their civil society organizations, and in civil society at-large. Helping these changemakers in their work could literally change the world through the numerous organizations that have already signed up for our beta, let alone the broader potential market that American Express' support would help us access more effectively.

Sustainability: Do you currently have the financial and human resources to implement new strategies or recommendations offered through this partnership, or would implementation be dependent on receiving additional funding? Please describe.

Although resources are limited, financial and human resources will be available to implement new strategies and recommendations. Of course, it's possible that some of the recommendations may require additional budget in which case we will have to re-prioritize our budget appropriately or make fundraising decisions in order to fully implement them. With that said, the team is currently pursuing a capital campaign that makes the availability of additional resources highly probable. Strategic messaging and brand clarity are core priorities for 2014 and necessary for our public launch deployment strategy. Once the Powerline Beta program is complete, the ideal plan is to have these key messages clearly defined and ready for market consumption.

Project Selection
Select your first choice project

Strengthening Key Messages

Select your second choice project (Optional)

Are you or an assigned project manager from your team able to commit 3-5 hours per week over the 10-week consulting period?

Yes

Strengthening Key Messages
Why did you select this specific project type?

Powerline is a systemic, pattern-changing solution - it's designed to address several intricately-related pain points within our current democratic infrastructure. Consequently, we have the challenge of communicating value clearly and succinctly to customers and the general public (and even here).

What brand challenges are you facing?

We recently introduced the Powerline name and we are aligning our assets accordingly. The primary challenge is communicating the value proposition of such a multi-faceted system succinctly to the many markets and communities that Powerline can be used by and useful to. It must be easy to understand!

Are you interested in reviewing your organizations overall brand or for a specific product/service? Please explain.

Our product is our DBA name and website. In aligning these together, we are interested in making our organization and product one in the same. We would like to review our overall brand since 1) we have only one product that will be enhanced over time, and 2) we are a technology social enterprise.

What are you trying to accomplish through improved branding?

We are looking to 1) clarify public understanding of our value proposition, 2) establish a strong enough brand that can grow with us over time, 3) improve market perception of our core offering, 4) (tactically) improve customer-leader acquisition and user-citizen acquisition to expand our impact.

If you were to receive support, what is your expected outcome at the end of the consulting period?

We would like to make progress on the above 4 items, but specifically we would look for 1) recommendations on how to strengthen the brand in realistic and actionable ways, 2) improved language/copy for our website and marketing materials, and 3) better brand positioning for our social mission.

How will support in this area allow you to deepen your impact?

Improved messaging means more people can understand our value and join the Powerline ecosystem. Ever additional user is a citizen automatically connected to their elected leaders. Every leader/community/group that utilizes Powerline allows even deeper systemic impact at the civil society level.