New App “Brigade” Hopes to Transform Civic Engagement
By: Isabella Jaye
With voter apathy climbing to dangerously high levels in California and voter turnout falling to historic lows, it’s time for a new kind of civic engagement platform to step in. Brigade, due to launch in 2015, hopes to succeed where other politically-minded apps have fallen short by engaging users in a political dialogue that goes beyond traditional social media. The San Francisco-based company developing the app, Brigade Media, hopes to counteract the trend of political disengagement by creating a platform that makes, “involvement easy, effective, and enjoyable—and in so doing, restores political power back to where it should be: the people.”
Bridging the Gap Between Tech and Politics
The intersection of tech and politics is clear just by looking at the list of Brigade’s investors. Sean Parker, of Facebook and Napster fame, is the chairman of Brigade Media and has also invested extensively in the company. Tech power players Ron Conway and Marc Benioff are also investors and in June 2014 the company acquired Causes, the socially-minded app that harnessed the fundraising power of Facebook, and Votizen, a political advocacy company. Hopefully, the innovative app will channel the expertise of Silicon Valley into a political platform that will get citizens excited about politics again. With many voters unmotivated to even show up to the polls, Brigade’s goals of using technology to promote civic engagement and help citizens feel empowered to change their government are worthy ones.
Creating a Balanced Dialogue about Politics
Most of us see our Facebook and Twitter newsfeed inundated with political opinions in the weeks leading up to an election. While this dialogue is certainly valid, it is stunted by the constraints of social networking. With limited potential for feedback and interaction contained to the people we have friended or followed, these platforms are simply not enough in the push to create a greater sense of civic engagement and promote voter education. According to Matt Mahan, one of the entrepreneurs spearheading Brigade, “It’s not enough to just give people more information or to make things more accessible or more efficient. That’s helpful. But when we get to solving really difficult social problems, we’ve got to actually enhance the interactions between people.” Brigade hopes to create a communication medium in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that will encourage dialogue beyond just the election season and ultimately reengage voters.
Bringing Government into the Future
What the finished Brigade app will look like remains to be seen. The app’s developers have been featured at several tech conferences such as Netroots Nation in Detroit and CampaignTech West in San Francisco in preparation for a 2015 launch. With voter turnout rates hitting a historic low of 25.2 percent in this year’s California June primary, we don’t have to look further than our own state to see why we need an innovative means of engaging voters.
Here at Reset San Francisco we’re excited to explore this app’s potential for political change and finally see the developer’s plans for appealing to tech-savvy voters. Keep an eye on Brigade’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for up-to-date news and launch information.