Inspiration

The political process is fragmented. Current methods of contacting one's Representative in Congress to express an opinion are dated and inconvenient, relying on phone calls, emails, and old forms (see https://gomez.house.gov/contact/) specific to each Representative. On top of this, just 37% of Americans can name their Representative. On the politicians' end, hours of manual data entry and analysis by staffers is needed to make use of the requests submitted by constituents. We believe a simple, non-partisan solution to this problem lies in Populace.

What it does

Using speech-to-text, sentiment analysis methods, and a simple web application Populace makes it seamless to learn about and voice grievances to the politicians who represent you in Congress and for politicians to more easily understand their electorate. Constituents can submit their views on issues over phone or web, and Representatives and their staffers can visualize the full data pipeline (which may contain thousands of requests), or examine specific concerns easily. This data is broken down to give politicians a pulse on their electorates, ranging from how they feel on certain issues to which issues are "trending".

How we built it

Populace is a web application built using a React and Redux front-end and Express back-end. We used Twilio for text processing and analysis, to provide more interesting insights to politicians.

Challenges we ran into

We primarily ran into issues with time, as we had ambitious goals for the demo and were not able to finish implementing all the features we wanted to.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We were able to brainstorm, design, and implement the idea in less than a day. Walking into the hackathon, we did not have a clear idea of what we'd work on, so brainstorming encompassed a wide array of ideas, but we felt hacking on a civic tech project could yield the most positive social impact.

What we learned

We learned a lot about how politicians interact with their constituents, and about how offices behind politicians functions after lots of online research and an interview with a graduate political science student. We were able to identify a lot of main points with the current processes in place.

What's next for Populace

Our hope is to use our proof of concept to get feedback from staffers, politicians, and all kinds of citizens interested in becoming more politically engaged. We can then factor this feedback into the next version of the application. We also want to implement more advanced data analysis features to provide more insights to politicians, using natural language processing and data science methods.

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