PPF Blog

Donate to AskThem, Open-Source Infrastructure for Civic Engagement

Hi everyone, please find below a version of our year-end fundraising email for AskThem. Charitable foundations and philanthropists, please get in touch to hear more about our unique value as open-source web tools, AskThem’s impact on civic engagement in 2014 and our non-profit sustainability plan through Councilmatic – help us keep going in 2015. – David

AskThem is unique: a non-profit public resource for questions-and-answers with everyone who represents you.

AskThem is the only free & open-source version of the “We The People” petition platform for every U.S. elected official. We deeply believe AskThem should exist, for real public accountability in government.

AskThem is maintained by a tiny team – the equivalent of less-than-one staff person! – enabling you to raise any issue with people in power, not just the questions they want to answer.

Donate to AskThem today – it’s tax deductible, we’re a 501(c)3 organization - and clearly we’re incredibly scrappy, so our dedicated work is worth your small gift. 

Since AskThem launched publicly in February 2014, we’ve had a string of successes leveraging our non-profit reputation for building powerful and popular web tools:

  • Recruiting Chris Hayes of MSNBC, Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept, several major U.S. city mayors, and nearly 100 more elected officials nationwide to respond to public questions. Plus the bands OK Go, Tanlines and more celebrities.
  • Prompting NYC Council member Brad Lander to introduce new legislation, based on a real question from a Brooklyn constituent Elizabeth Adams about a race and social justice initiative in Seattle.
  • Running grassroots question campaigns on important issues such as net neutrality, immigration reform, municipal broadband, plastic bag bans, the 2014 midterm elections, and participatory budgeting in NYC. Free and open to everyone, with more to come in 2015.

We’ve never asked our AskThem members for a donation since we launched. We’re focused on developing open-source and open-data infrastructure for online public dialogue, as a component towards greater civic engagement.

Donate to AskThem today and help us deliver good questions to the people who represent you for an official public response.

It’s tax-deductible and makes a big difference to support our work – more info on the donation page of our non-profit organization, the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF), we’re using the Action Network website to take micro-donations.

Questions and feedback welcome! Let us know what you’d like to see on AskThem in 2015 - email us, we’re easy to reach and eager to chat.

Thank You and Happy New Year from our beloved Bushwick, Brooklyn.

– David & Maryam & Walter, the distributed AskThem team


Bonus, notes for follow-up post for the real heads:

It may seem like posting a news article on Facebook or signing a petition on Change is the same as asking a question to your city mayor on AskThem. Actually, those two services are for-profit companies (though Change is admirably a B Corp), and they aren’t open-source to remix in your locality or open-data for the networked public sphere. AskThem’s data on public support for questions and issues can truly be liberated to the open Web for remixing and analysis and distributed watchdogging and accountability, that’s PPF’s mission.

AskThem is early infrastructure for the new civic-engagement tools yet to be developed in your city or state, while Change and Mindmixer and others have a primary obligation to scale a business model by acquiring users and government clients – it’s a significant difference in our product priorities, though the platforms look similar in their experiences at this stage.

We’re still bullish that powerful new technology tools will evolve from open data on elected officials, open data standards for constituent communications and better visualizations of public sentiment, all enabling revolutionary peer-to-peer organizing. I’ve written recently on this as growing digital & civic engagement, and as a proposal for an open “X11” data standard for constituent communications – oh and our primary plan to fundraise to build Councilmatic in 2015, versions of OpenCongress for hundreds of U.S. cities – and I’m eager to connect more over what’s needed and how PPF can help build in the community. I’m email: david at ppolitics.org, hit me up, I’m easy to reach and have non-profit funding prospectus ready-to-share, we’re eager to keep building in 2015.

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