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Thought Leader Uncategorized Philanthropy

Ideas Challenge winners aim to boost voter turnout

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By Jeff Romig

Earlier this year, the Center for Civic Innovation and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta partnered on the Ideas Challenge, an effort to generate and fund ideas to boost voter turnout for local elections. Romig is the founder of Five Points Civic Strategies and served as a coach for this year’s Ideas Challenge winners.

When you get close to Election Day, the whole name of the game is turning out the vote. Through the Ideas Challenge, three groups of dynamic women have been working to engage voters in innovative ways over the past few months. Their work amped up in the final stretch toward the general election.

Monica Campana of Living Walls, whose Signs of Solidarity project is creating visibility in 50 locations around the city of Atlanta, worked with artists, designers, arts organizations and even children to create signs to encourage and inspire Atlantans to use their voices at the polls.

“I hope that through art and messages of empowerment we can inspire a culture of civic engagement in our communities,” Campana said. “With 50 banners hanging from very visible places in the public space all over Atlanta, our hope is that, just like billboards, these messages will get to people in a way no political campaign is getting to them. We just don’t want to tell people that voting is important, we want for our community to take ownership of their right and feel empowered to take their vote to the polls.”

Kavi Vu and Phi Nguyen created “Wake Up Atlanta” as an interactive way to address some of the challenges they encountered trying to civically engage Asian Americans during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

“We often shared trending news videos with each other (like “Late Show,” “Today” show and “LastWeekTonight”) and realized that while those videos kept us in the loop with politics, it only informed us at the national level and not the local level, which is where we think most impacts our daily lives,” Vu said. “Producing five-minute episodes requires a lot more work than what you might imagine (and what Phi imagined).” 

Both women have full-time jobs, so creating this series has meant a lot of late nights for them.

“We actually joke that Kavi stays woke simply by never going to sleep,” Nguyen said. “We are proud when anyone thinks we’re funny! More seriously, we are proud to be creating something that didn’t really exist before for Asian Americans, and when complete strangers comment on our videos that seeing these makes them proud, it makes us really proud as well.”

Jenn Graham’s effort, Yes We Vote, was designed to engage 18 to 30-year-old voters through text messaging engagement to at least double the number of these voters from the 1,009 that voted in the 2013 municipal elections.

“So far we have sent over 4,000 texts to Millennials (based on the voter files we obtained),” Graham said. “I’m most proud of the 190 positive texts back we’ve received. Many have thanked us for the important information and one even sent us back a photo of their peach sticker saying they wouldn’t have voted if we hadn’t texted them!”

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