Be The Change
Civic Accountability Platform
UX Design, Government Innovation Fall/Spring 2020
Be the Change is a civic accountability app that uses real-time community input to empower issue advocacy, direct outreach to elected officials, and meaningful community action. November 2019, I joined the beamdata team
to create the logic and visual flow for our flagship digital product. Now, I am the lead designer handling design, product management, and marketing for our launch.
Be The Change is piloting in Pittsburgh for in the App Store August 6th, 2020.
Adobe Xd, Figma
Initial Problem Discovery
Young, low-income, and minority citizens have lower political efficacy and community involvement because voting and other forms of civic engagement are often viewed as non-essential due to other stressors.
According to a Pew Research Center study, they found that young, low-income, and minority citizens don't vote because it's considered a low priority compared to maintaining finances, having food to eat, and other social stressors.
Is this really the problem?
Yes, but there's more!
Technology is adapting, but government services and products aren't. Without an online presence, people often aren't aware of who their elected officials are and what they stand for.
The civic tech space is changing. According to another Pew Research Center study, 69% of all adults believe social media is important for getting politicians to pay attention to issues and create long-lasting movements. Pittsburgh is also a mid-sized city with many out-of-state students who aren't as involved in local issues.
Digging into the Landscape (~1 hour)
I conducted six (3 females, 3 males, all out-of-state students) semi-structured interviews with Carnegie Mellon students to understand their perspectives and test out this new problem space framed around voting.
To understand student activism and civic engagement experiences
To understand where the pain points were in the process
To learn general service fixes from a macro viewpoint beyond voting
I'm registered to vote in PA but I have no idea who the candidates are and I don't know where to look.
I usually just ask someone more informed than me to give me a quick-and-dirty elevator pitch for each candidate.
I have registered and tried to do research on the candidates, but the website was hard to navigate and I eventually just forgot until election day.
It's "easy" and "comfortable" activism because of how fast you can repost something, but does it ever lead anywhere? I'm not sure about that one.
Social media spreads the news quickly, but there's a lot of fake sources nowadays so I take it with a grain of salt.
The Student User Persona
Developing the Elected Official Persona
Based on the data and first-hand interviews conducted by the BeamData team to understand the needs of elected officials, I began to understand their goals and constraints.
Current Pain Points:
Difficulty gathering information on neighborhood issues
There are challenges in keeping the community updated
Poor allocation of resources
How might we leverage current resources to encourage civic engagement between younger constituents and their local elected officials?
Turning Pain Points to Opportunity Gaps
How might we create a centralized source of information that is transparent and isn't subject to falsified information?
How might we build agency and progress in one's community and make it more tangible to citizens?
What if users could report problems and get real-time updates from district leaders, allowing elected officials to see what type of issues are being reported most in their area while directly communicating with their constituents.
Ability to create
reports on community
Dual interface for
elected official and
to connect w/ district
Ability to view elected
official's viewpoints &
Same Information, Different View
Users preferred a flatter layout and smoother transition between the filters and the reports. They didn't find the resolved issues as helpful and often wanted to see the data in different formats to contextualize the information.
Citizen Setting Options
Because the app is focused on self-reporting, rather than having traditional settings that are focused on post actions, the settings open up other page options such as legislative updates and events with the reports as the predominant feature.
Cleaner Menu Manager
The first option felt a little clunky and broke the visual flow with various icons already on the page, it can be distracting to have multiple options. Instead, we opted for a cleaner interaction that scaffolds to creating a new post or new message as a constituent.
Before: Focus on GenZ and millennials with onboarding focus on
advocacy and political protests for civic engagement.
Users and stakeholders felt this concept was more anarchist than educational due to imagery and color options of the fiery orange color palette. The primary focus of the app is to act as a facilitator for political engagement for all ages and also for the older generations and elected officials
After: Illustration-focused to prevent partisan bias, acting as a
friendly facilitator for all ages (constituents and elected officials)
Users and stakeholders felt this concept was more anarchist than educational due to imagery and color options of the fiery orange color palette. The primary focus of the app is to act as a facilitator for political engagement for all ages and also for the older generations and elected officials.
1. Dual Interface for Elected Officials and Constituents
Elected officials and users have separate features tailored to their needs. Elected officials can post legislative updates and events on top of reports whereas users can make new posts and messages.
Resolved Pain Point
It'll be easier to differentiate who's an elected official without the clutter of excess features that rarely get used by certain user groups.
2. Browse Elected Official Information at Your Fingertips
For accountability, elected officials have a public dashboard where the public can use to view their stances, causes, committees, district, and about page.
Resolved Pain Point
Government websites with relevant information often are overcrowded and dispersed crossed the web. Be the Change consolidates this information in one place.
3. See What Causes Your Neighbors Care About
See what other issues might be in your neighborhood and make your contributions. Filter by category, distance, and view in a list or a map view
Resolved Pain Point
Resolving the vocal minority issue: people are often afraid to speak up about an issue, so by being able to see other people in their neighborhood making reports, then they too might be more willing to make a report about what they care bout as well.
4. Message Community Members and Your Elected Officials Directly
Discuss new legislation and organize all in one place
Resolved Pain Point
Instead of having to exit the app to discuss and ask questions, it can happen directly in app.
Launch with Us!