Civic Tech Platform Turns Social Media Time into Advocacy

Magnify Your Voice is a platform and mobile app that facilitates micro-volunteering in communities, allowing residents or nonprofit organizations to find volunteers for everything from in-person work to email campaigns.

A new civic tech platform aims to let busy people make a difference in their communities, even if all they have is a few moments to send a quick text or email.

That platform is called Magnify Your Voice, and at the core of it is something called micro-volunteering. In simple terms, micro-volunteering means taking those quick minutes you spend browsing social media and instead putting them to use to help create change or accomplish goals in your community.

While so far the folks behind Magnify Your Voice have largely worked with nonprofit organizations, community groups and even some political campaigns, one of its founders —  Betsy Sinclair, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis — said they hope to start working with government soon.

“This is a way in which people can do something to make the world a better place by using little moments of time here and there to help,” Sinclair said.

In a promotional video online, Sinclair describes Magnify Your Voice as “a free civic action network that leverages the frontier of social science research to make civic engagement fun, easy and social.”

To date, the platform has been part of more than 200 projects, which range in nature from urging cities to fill potholes (a foundational element of a majority of civic tech projects) to helping a farmers market find volunteers. One nonprofit group was looking for affordable office space, and so it used Magnify to collect advice, recommendations and leads, presumably from people who may have otherwise been browsing around on social media. 

It’s not just for focused actions like that, though. Magnify can be used by members of communities to post announcements and events, or they can start their own grass-roots campaigns to orchestrate change without belonging to a larger organization or group. 

This is a type of citizen engagement tool that has become increasingly widespread in recent years as local governments and other public organizations across the country seek to harness new technologies to better serve their citizens.

In fact, Sinclair has a story about someone using the platform to advocate for better crosswalk management in front of a local middle school. Their approach to achieving this was to have residents email the local government. Sinclair said this led to a dozen messages being sent to the city, which might outwardly seem small but is practically a major movement in terms of feedback given to local government. 

The platform itself continues to evolve, with technical touches such as gamification that aim to foster more interaction and engagement from its existing user base. Just this week, the developers of Magnify Your Voice finished building an all native mobile app, one that will be available soon for would-be users.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine