Political engagement with the click of a button.
Involved, which was named a startup to watch by StartHub Boston, is a service that allows civic and government representatives to create micropolls to gain feedback from their community on different issues. Involved lets these representatives send out questions that can be as simple as just requiring a yes or no answer.
Users who sign up will either respond to these questions through the app, or by responding to emails sent through the representatives’ emailing lists.
The idea for Involved was conceived by founder and CEO, Jake Dansey, while he was in high school.
“I was this very average person. I couldn’t tell you who my state representatives were, I couldn’t tell you what issues were going on, I was very disengaged with politics,” Dansey said. “What I cared about was solving problems, and my community. I care about local stuff.”
Dansey knew there should be a way for people like him to get involved in these types of issues without the polarization of politics, but he knew it would have to be as easy and accessible as possible for people to use it. However, he let the idea sit.
After high school he went to Boston University to play on the lacrosse team and study mechanical engineering, and was paired with his random roommate Caleb McDermott. The two developed a friendship that eventually turned into a business partnership.
“I found ways I could help [with Involved]. Initially just because I wanted to see his idea succeed, and I believed in the vision,” McDermott said. “I fell in love with the idea. Our friendship only strengthened because of it.”
In his junior year, Dansey switched his major to computer engineering, taught himself to code, and got to work with fellow founder John Knollmeyer to develop Involved, which began as just an app. The app was officially launched in August 2017.
Then they realized it could be made even more accessible.
“How do you get the average citizen to download a political mobile app?” Dansey said. “The answer we came up with is ‘you don’t.’”
To compensate they added the ability for representatives to send the same questions to their email lists in November 2017. They can also post on social media. Involved hopes for a texting option in the future.
They have already seen the kind of response they were hoping for. This winter, Newton councilwoman, Emily Norton, used the app to gain hundreds of responses about a common New England issue: residents not shoveling the snow on their sidewalks?
She gave the options that there should be a fine for people who don’t shovel, it should be the city’s responsibility, or the policy should remain the same. She received over 500 responses.
“It was our first validation as an idea, and as a tool to get that kind of feedback,” Dansey said. “It really blew away the engagement numbers of anything else.”
Since then the app was approached by the Boston chapter of the NAACP about getting on board. Dansey said that they are looking to add more non-profit sectors and advocacy groups to their network.
Involved raised $56,000 in a crowdfunding campaign in August of 2017 looking to expand their team and continue to advance their technology. Dansey said that they hope to raise a seed round soon.
Involved is also hoping to open a clearer dialogue between voters and the government this season before the midterm elections in November.
“I think next six months for us is really about working with candidates and campaigns and building these cases and through that really making micropolling the standard,” Dansey said. “Let people know that you can communicate with your representatives in this manner. It’s really changing the people’s relationship with government.”