The Textizen Blog

MAR 02 2016

Philadelphia RISE: Forging A Better Connection With Ex-Offenders

RISE client job interview

Each year, more than 30,000 citizens return to Philadelphia from federal, state and county prisons. Most return jobless, without stable housing, and lacking the skills they need to succeed. For too long, the challenges facing this vulnerable population were largely ignored. However, in recent years the issue has gained a new sense of urgency, thanks to a growing dialogue around excessive incarceration, a need for greater public safety, and the desire to reduce costs for taxpayers.

Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services, or RISE, was created to serve Philadelphia’s ex-offenders and help them get back on their feet. The program’s success relies on its ability to communicate with its audience. But with RISE caseworkers juggling almost 100 clients at a time, keeping up regular communication and serving everyone’s needs is a difficult task.

RISE needed a communication tool that could reach their clients wherever they are, even those who are highly transient and often without home Internet access. With over 90 percent of Americans owning cell phones, and 81 percent using text messaging – even among ex-offenders – interactive texting was the clear choice.

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OCT 27 2015

The Road to a More Connected Gwinnett County

Great Exchange Header

All images via The Great Exchange.

A major suburban county in the Atlanta metro region, Gwinnett County boasts a population of around 900,000 people, spread out over a vast area. As is typical in the suburban United States, cars are the dominant form of transportation in Gwinnett, and other options for getting around are limited. Long commutes and heavy traffic are a daily standard for some residents, leaving many wishing for alternatives.

In summer of 2015, the Gwinnett Village and Gwinnett Place Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) collaborated with area leaders to host a widespread dialogue on the future of transportation in the region, titled “The Great Exchange on Transportation.” They enlisted the help of design/strategy collaborative Aha! Strategy to design a massive outreach campaign, with a Textizen survey at its center.

Somewhat unusually, the effort was not designed to inform a specific project or proposal, but to get the entire community to paint a vision of the future of Gwinnett County. It was one of the most ambitious outreach efforts the region has seen, and resulted in tens of thousands of conversations, 1,400 web survey responses, and over 2,700 text survey responses in one week.

“The Great Exchange was a non-agenda driven initiative to get people to take a step back, provide broad feedback, and build the framework for a future transportation plan. We used this as an opportunity to let the people be aspirational, and it exceeded all of our expectations.”

Chuck Warbington
Executive Director, Gwinnett Village CID

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SEP 28 2015

New in Textizen: Inbound Voicemail and Notifications

Girl on phone

Image via Marjan Lazarevski (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Textizen powers interactive text messaging for all levels of government, but as we grow, we’re learning that some agencies have very personal relationships with the citizens they serve. For example, a human service agency that provides 1:1 or small-group services might be on a first-name basis with their audience. The individuals they serve may work with an assigned case manager to transition home from incarceration, or enroll in training or education opportunities.

By reaching out through text, these agencies are offering a convenient and universally accessible citizen experience. And it’s working: their participants engage up to 10x more than the average Textizen user — and not just in response to a specific survey or prompt.

Today, Textizen launches two enhancements: inbound voicemail and interactive notifications. Now, citizens can leave voicemails for Textizen users, and it’s even easier for administrators to see and act on noteworthy activity in their account.

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JUL 28 2015

Textizen Joins GovDelivery

Today, we are excited to announce that Textizen has been acquired by GovDelivery. Learn more on the GovDelivery blog.

Better together

More than 1,000 organizations worldwide use the GovDelivery platform and network to inform and engage over 80 million subscribers. Textizen’s strengths in 2-way messaging for action, engagement, and behavior change are strong complements to GovDelivery’s tremendous scale and experience with the day-to-day communication challenges of public sector organizations.

One of the biggest challenges government faces today is that communication is more fractured and dynamic than ever. By joining forces, we will be able to empower more governments to meet people wherever they are — on mobile, email, or both.

Meet people wherever they are

At Textizen, we built our platform and company around the idea that today’s governments must meet people where they are, using the devices in everyone’s pocket 24/7. This idea is core to GovDelivery as well, underlying 15 years of targeted, relevant messaging to connect people with their federal, state, and local governments. The greatest partnerships are found when two companies’ efforts can achieve a shared mission better than either could accomplish alone. We believe we’ve found that with GovDelivery and their remarkable team.

Time flies when you’re having fun

While we couldn’t be more excited to hit the ground running in this new chapter, we want to pause to thank the many people who have helped us along the way: our clients, to whom we promise to continue to deliver amazing outcomes; John Bracken and Ben Wirz at the Knight Foundation, who were among the first to believe that government would one day take mobile seriously; our friends and colleagues at Code for America, especially Jen Pahlka and Bob Sofman; and our families.

We are excited to join GovDelivery and continue to push forward our shared vision.

– Michelle Lee, Alex Yule, Serena Wales, and the Textizen team

JUN 15 2015

Kirkland Parks Opens Dialogue on Bold New Aquatic Center Plan

ARC artist's rendering

With a growing population including many young families, the demand for aquatic and recreation centers is high in Kirkland, Washington. In August 2013, Kirkland announced that city’s only public indoor pool would be shut down in 2017. The announcement sparked a public outcry, and the Department of Parks and Community Services began to draw up plans for a state-of-the-art Aquatics, Recreation and Community Center (ARC). As public debate continued, Kirkland still needed hard data about the support of the plan, and particularly where the plan’s supporters and detractors were located.

To gather the broad, quantitative data they needed, Kirkland Parks and Community Services Director Jennifer Schroder launched a Textizen survey for public input. In February 2015, Kirkland Parks sent out a community-wide mailer about the proposed ARC, with a Textizen prompt asking whether the project was a good idea. In total, 1,195 community members provided input by text.

“You can’t rely on everyone just reading the local newspaper or subscribing to a listserv for city news…. Asking a question gives us an idea of who’s reading what we’re sending out. I’ve been very pleased with the results.”

-Jennifer Schroder, Director of Parks and Community Services

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MAY 19 2015

Textizen Photo Messaging Is Here

Phone photography in action

Image via UltraSlo1 (CC BY 2.0).

Our clients have been asking, and today we’re pleased to announce we’ve rolled out Photo Messaging. This means you can now receive images within Textizen, directly from your respondents’ cell phones.

With Textizen Photo Messaging, case workers in human services can collect important documents from clients without a fax machine or a computer. Planners can ask citizens to text in an image of their favorite street corner or skyline view. And environmental reporting becomes faster, richer, and more accessible, as an illegal dumping site or idling vehicle can be documented in a snap.

Want to learn more about how photos can streamline your workflow, enrich your surveys, or improve your reporting? Get in touch:

MAY 05 2015

New York City Brings Budgeting to the People

NYC PB voting staff

Image via New York City Council.

In 1989, government reformers in Porto Alegre, Brazil had a brilliant idea to combat the city’s rampant inequality and uneven representation of the city’s poor. They introduced the world’s first full implementation of participatory budgeting, a democratic way to allocate public funds. Under participatory budgeting, community members develop and propose civic projects, which are then funded with taxpayer money based on public vote.

Since then, the participatory budgeting movement has spread far and wide, with adoption in over 1,500 cities across the globe. Four years ago, New York City launched its own program, now the largest in the U.S. This April, over $25 million in public money was allocated to locally-developed projects across 24 city districts, selected by popular vote. This year’s expansion more than doubles the number of participating districts, and represents a nearly 80% increase in funding allocated for participatory budgeting from the previous fiscal year.

Equal representation is a core goal of participatory budgeting, and New York’s City Council chose Textizen to inform and engage residents in preparation for the voting in April. The Council’s goal was to not only drive greater participation in this year’s voting, but also to stay in touch with residents over the long term and make this year’s process more representative than the last.

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APR 30 2015

Textizen Earns Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification

WBENC Certification Logo

We’re pleased to announce that Textizen is now certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Founded in 2013, Textizen has rapidly established itself as a leading provider of public engagement technology, meeting people when and where it counts: on mobile phones.

Since many local, state, and federal agencies seek out women-owned businesses as part of supplier diversity programs, this certification opens additional opportunities. Once we’re at the table, we’re confident that Textizen’s commitment to excellent technology will stand out. Supplier diversity promotes healthier competition and more options in public technology, and ultimately better technology for all.

Want to explore how mobile messaging can revitalize public engagement, reduce churn, or increase retention rates for your program? Contact to schedule a demo or consultation.

MAR 31 2015

City of Reno Opens Dialogue on Virginia Lake Improvement Project

Virginia Lake

Photo by Alana Reid. Used with permission.

An oasis in the middle of the city, Reno’s Virginia Lake is a popular place for strolling, picnicking, and observing the abundant waterfowl. But in recent years, the lake has suffered from declining water quality and overgrowth of algae.

In the summer of 2014, Reno’s Public Works department decided it was time to act. The City of Reno embarked on a water quality study to identify contributing factors, and potential solutions. They invited the public to weigh in on four options related to the condition of the lake.

To include a broad range of voices in this discussion, Reno deployed a Textizen survey and promoted it through social media, newspapers, the City’s e-newsletter, and flyers posted around town. The survey offered the chance to vote on the proposed options, as well as share favorite lakeside activities and where in Reno (or outside the city) the respondents live.

“People who couldn’t make it to the public meetings were thrilled that they could still make their voices heard. We were amazed at how citizens responded to being included in the process.

-Monica Thompson
Digital Engagement Program Manager, City of Reno

It seemed like a lively, but fairly typical, public feedback effort. But as the Textizen survey brought more people into the process, and word-of-mouth spread, something interesting happened.

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MAR 23 2015

Mobile Engagement in the Era of App Overload

iPhone home screens

These days, there seems to be an app for everything. Voice-enabled pizza ordering? Check. An app that says “Yo?” Check. As of today, Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store are home to over 1.4 million apps, each!

If these numbers seem overwhelming, you’re not alone. In 2012, mobile analytics company Adeven (now Adjust) reported that 400,000 apps on Apple’s store had never been downloaded at all. At the time, this was nearly two-thirds of all iPhone and iPad apps, completely ignored.

Since then, the total number of apps available has more than doubled, but recent usage trends aren’t any more encouraging. Of the apps that are downloaded, one in five is only opened once, and people spend the majority of their app time using only their four favorites.

In our work at Textizen, we talk to countless people working for governments, service providers, and businesses, who are passionate about public participation. Many believe that deploying an app will solve their participation woes and unlock the power of mobile engagement. But there’s a problem: not everyone has a smartphone (only about 58% of U.S. adults), and those who do are already drowning in app overload.

The fact is, “if we build it, they will come” works better for amusement parks than for apps. Unless you think your app will join the elite few that see downloads and repeated use, it may be time to rethink your mobile strategy.

Read more on PBS Idea Lab »

FEB 04 2015

Real-Time Feedback Guides Construction in Palo Alto

Palo Alto construction site

Home to parts of Stanford University as well as several high-tech companies, Palo Alto, California prides itself on being a hub of innovation. In this same spirit, Palo Alto’s city government strives toward greater efficiency and better public service through technology.

One of the areas Palo Alto initially targeted for technological improvement was construction permitting and inspection. Long waits and laborious back-and-forth with multiple city departments were frustrating and expensive for developers, business owners, and architects. Palo Alto’s upgraded Development Services office was created to address these issues, establishing a single office for all construction-related processes. Developers and architects were relieved.

However, construction often affects the lives of nearby residents and commuters as well, so Palo Alto Development Services also wanted to ensure that citizens could easily provide feedback about construction projects. They launched a pilot program using a Textizen prompt on signs at construction sites, allowing passersby to learn more about and offer feedback on the project

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JAN 28 2015

4 Tips for Creative Outreach Techniques

Header image

This post is Part 2 in our series about improving your outreach techniques to drive more responses to your campaigns and make the greatest impact possible. In Part 1, we examined outreach material design, and how visual layout can increase the effectiveness of your posters. In this post, we’re going to give four tips for getting the public talking—and texting—about your campaign.

Tip #1: Understand Placement Fundamentals

Before you start to dream up creative and out-of-the-box approaches to outreach, it’s important to consider the two fundamentals: visibility and attention.


Needless to say, your materials need to be where people will see them! For posters, consider high-traffic areas like coffee shops, transit stops, or onboard trains or buses. For smaller flyers, consider car windshields, elevators, or bike racks—just be sure to get the appropriate permission, of course.


Visibility alone will not ensure success—every bit as important is whether people who see it will take the time to engage. For advertisers, 1000 people taking a passing glance at an ad may be a success, but if you want people to take specific action, 100 close examinations is worth more than 1000 glances. A coffee shop window may be a great place for your posters, but not if it’s inside a busy train station where many people are rushing to their next destination.

Now that you’ve got the fundamentals, read on for 3 more tips on creative outreach techniques.

More >>

JAN 20 2015

New Sending Improvements

Follow-ups, check-ins, and longitudinal research just got a lot easier: This past week, we rolled out several improvements to Textizen’s sending capabilities. These new features allow you to easily send the same poll to new cohorts, or resend past surveys to increase completion rates. You can also setup all your monthly surveys for a research study in advance, or send a weekly check-in to clients.

Click to enlarge.

Canceling or editing scheduled messages is as easy as clicking either icon in the poll editor!

Have any questions about this new functionality, or want to put it work for you? Get in touch:

JAN 15 2015

3 Tips for Writing a Great Survey Hook

Survey hook header

Welcome to the first post in a new series about improving your survey design for more effective outreach! Today, we’re going to give three tips on how to make the first question of your survey – the “hook” – as strong as possible to draw more responses.

Tip #1: Be direct

With a typical text-in survey prompt (on a poster, flyer, etc.), you have just a few seconds to grab people’s attention and compel them to text a reply. Your visual design is crucial for this, but it’s equally important that your prompt be clear and concise.

  • Weak hook: “The City is considering a new business development initiative for this area. Text YES to participate in a survey about this effort.”
  • Strong hook: “What business would you like to see here?”

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JAN 07 2015

Philadelphia LISC Embraces Text Surveying for Community Building

LISC header image

Starting December 2014, Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit community development organization and catalyst for community change, has adopted Textizen to support its work with community partners to strengthen neighborhoods and improve the lives of residents for a better Philadelphia.

As LISC brings people and organizations together to revitalize neighborhoods, Textizen will serve as a robust community engagement tool, improving each community partner’s capacity to reach and engage residents. LISC’s community partners have more than 25 planned uses for text message outreach and communication in 2015, including programs already underway in West Philadelphia and Eastern North Philadelphia.

Although the planned uses vary widely, there is a common theme: text surveying will streamline the delivery of services, while also establishing a platform for continued engagement. The ability to reach out to entire groups of program participants at once will not only make routine communication easier, it will also help organizers develop new programs or refine existing ones in response to community interests or needs.

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DEC 22 2014

Textizen Partners with Philadelphia RISE to Fight Recidivism

RISE header

Image via Joshua Davis (CC SA 2.0).

With the U.S. having the second-highest incarceration rate in the world (707 out of every 100,000 people) and a rearrest rate of 67.8%, many voices are calling for solutions to reduce convictions and to improve prisoners’ reentry into society. Last summer, the City of Philadelphia decided to turn to the tech world for innovative solutions, inviting companies to offer their technology through the FastFWD pilot program. Now, Textizen has joined the City to improve outlooks for those returning to society.

Textizen will be contributing to the effort against recidivism through a partnership with the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services, or RISE. The agency will use Textizen to help case workers better serve their clients, while using data gathered in the process to evaluate the program’s effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

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DEC 18 2014

Philly Mayor’s Office of Education Launches Connect2College with Textizen

Mayor Nutter talks Connect2College

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaking at a press conference about Connect2College. Via @DCSphila_org.

The mission of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education PhillyGoes2College initiative sounds simple enough: increase college attendance by ensuring all college-seeking Philadelphians have access to the information they need. However, finding communication methods that reach youth is a serious challenge for many organizations.

For their new outreach initiative, the Mayor’s Office was determined to construct a system that would truly engage their audience. The program, called Connect2College is a set of 3 coordinated services designed to reach youth wherever they are, and help Philly-area students in their college search and application process.

“We believe these three coordinated interventions — labs, an online tool and a texting app, offer unprecedented and holistic services, which will encourage more Philadelphia residents to attend and complete college.”

— Leana Cabral, Director, PhillyGoes2College

A key component of the program is the Connect2College interactive text message service, powered by Textizen. Using the service is simple: students text in anytime and answer a series of questions about their college-related needs. Through the course of the conversation, students are automatically directed to relevant resources, such as loan information or steps to getting a GED.

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DEC 10 2014

Happy 30th Birthday, SMS: Why Text Messaging is Ready for Community Engagement

Construction workers texting in a park

Construction workers texting during a break. Via [Duncan] under CC BY 2.0.

Text messaging has been around for a long time – the concept dates back to 1984, and the first text was sent in 1992. Texting use is now at an all-time high in the United States, across all ages and income levels. Even with smartphone ownership rising, texting remains dominant.

Businesses have taken notice, using text messaging for everything from flight status updates to real estate. These companies take advantage of texting’s longevity and ubiquity to reach people across all age groups and demographics.

Meanwhile, citizens feel increasingly disconnected from their government, while civic institutions and nonprofits struggle to reach the people they serve.

How can we be both so connected, yet disconnected at the same time? It’s time for those in community engagement to learn what marketers figured out years ago: text messaging is a widespread technology with unprecedented reach.

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NOV 20 2014

Clean Air Council Partners with Textizen to Reduce Harmful Idling

Clean Air text reporting in action

Field reporters sending idling reports via text.

From its beginning in 1967 as a two-person effort with a shoestring budget to its present-day status as a regional powerhouse, Philadelphia headquartered Clean Air Council has shown that hard work and efficient operation can be just as powerful as vast resources. Now, the Council is offering a prime example of how a lightweight and widely-used technology can be employed in a novel way to address local pollution and create change.

One key effort for Clean Air Council is fighting excessive vehicle idling, a common preventable cause of air pollution. The Council is no stranger to boots-on-the-ground activism: in early 2013, members David Lukens and Logan Welde earned a reputation for confronting idling drivers by knocking on windows and citing the city’s anti-idling laws.

By 2014, Lukens and Welde had decided to take the Council’s anti-idling efforts to the next level. Lukens forged a partnership between Clean Air Council and Textizen, and the two persuaded multiple Philadelphia agencies to test out a unique anti-idling initiative.

“Before Textizen, it was not easy to report idling vehicles in Philadelphia, nor was it possible to get those reports to the people that could help reduce idling. Now, reporting idling to our participating agencies is as easy as sending a text.

-Logan Welde
Staff Attorney, Clean Air Council

How does it work? Trained volunteers who spot idling vehicles send in reports via text message, using a simple protocol to submit information in a matter of seconds. These reports are automatically forwarded to agency officials who have the power to shut down idlers in real time and enact internal policy changes.

Already, the new text message reporting system has helped Clean Air Council and its partner agencies collaborate on stronger anti-idling policies, improve enforcement, and reduce harmful pollution.

More >>

NOV 13 2014

5 Tips for Creating an Effective Outreach Poster

Outreach tips header

For many would-be participants, your poster, flyer, or pamphlet will be their first point of contact with your project. As a result, great visual design can make the difference between a trickle of responses and a flood of press and public participation.

Hiring a pro is the most reliable way to get results, but here are 5 tips for creating compelling outreach materials on your own:

  1. Start with the basics: Good color and font choice is the foundation of an effective design. This tutorial offers an excellent overview with some key takeaways: select a fitting color scheme with 2-4 hues, with the brightest or most contrasting color set aside for special emphasis. Choose one primary font for the text, making sure it is clear and legible.
  2. Give your main prompt center stage: Your primary message should be big and bold, so that the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the text. As you design the poster, be sure to consider the maximum viewing distance to ensure legibility.
  3. Avoid unnecessary text: Your may feel inclined to explain the full context, but the more you write, the less likely it is that people will get the main idea (e.g., texting in a response, attending a meeting, joining your research study). Stick to the essentials.
  4. Establish trust: Use agency branding to indicate who you are, and briefly explain why you want their participation. Official branding will also make it clear that involvement will lead to real action.
  5. Consider a human face to draw attention: Cognitive psychologists have demonstrated that pictures of human faces are very effective at capturing people’s attention.1 2 Viewers will also follow the gaze of people in the image, so you can use this to draw attention to your message (arrows have a similar effect).3

While posters are a popular way to get messages to the public, these tips are applicable to any materials: mailers, postcards, flyers, live presentations, and anything else with a strong visual component.

Below, we’ll break down outreach materials from two recent Textizen campaigns and discuss what makes them so effective.

More >>

OCT 30 2014

Visualize your Data in Minutes with Textizen and Esri Maps

We are excited to announce that Textizen is now an official Esri Business Partner! You may know Esri as the industry-leading provider of Geographic Information System software, which makes it easy to collect and analyze geographic data.

What does this partnership mean for you? As we build out our geographic capabilities, Esri’s best-in-class platforms are powering Textizen behind the scenes. This means you will soon be able to collect geographic data from your participants and visualize those responses on a map as they arrive.

In the meantime, however, geocoding Textizen data using Esri is an easy way to gain insight into your results. In just a few minutes you can create an intuitive visual representation of your data to share with your team, your clients, or the public!


The power of Esri: survey responses grouped by ZIP code, color coded by score, and scaled based on response volume.

Here’s a map we made using data from Buffalo Niagara’s One Region Forward initiative. In one of their polls, Buffalo asked residents how easy it is to access healthy, affordable food. (Poll results here.)

Read on to see an interactive version and learn how to make your own geocoded maps!

More >>

OCT 20 2014

Fort Collins's Transfort Gathers Public Input via Text Message

Fort Collins image

Image via Transfort

Located along the Cache La Poudre River and bordering the Rocky Mountain foothills, Fort Collins, Colorado boasts beautiful sights and surroundings, and is a hotspot for bicyclists. The League of American Bicyclists even named it a Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community — one of four in the United States. Yet Fort Collins struggled with the same tension as many cities: how to provide public transit access that worked for both bikes and pedestrians?

After the launch of their rapid bus service MAX this past year, Transfort decided to start a public conversation to learn more about their ridership’s views on bikes and transit, spread awareness of how Transfort accommodates bikes, and identify new ideas for dealing with bikes in the transit system. They set up an online discussion board and scheduled a public meeting, but knew that these would not reach most riders.

The ideal survey would be completable onboard a short bus ride, yet allow for targeted follow-ups with people who wanted to participate further. With many riders already passing the travel time on their phones, text messaging was an ideal solution. Transfort partnered with Textizen and launched a cascading outreach campaign.

More >>

OCT 09 2014

"Give Kids Sight Day" Tracks Outcomes with Textizen

Sight Day happy child

Image via Eagles Youth Partnership

Each year, the nonprofit Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership holds a “Give Kids Sight Day” event, providing free eye exams and glasses to more than 1,000 children in need. The event provides services regardless of insurance or citizenship, and has been a boon to thousands of kids in Philadelphia who are uninsured or whose parents can’t afford to replace lost or broken glasses.

The community’s reaction to Give Kids Sight Day has been overwhelming each time, but the event organizers had no way to truly measure the impact of their efforts. Since the glasses are mailed to schools for distribution, there was no way to confirm that children received them, or to gather data on the effect they had on kids’ lives.

This past summer, Give Kids Sight Day organizers realized they could solve this problem using accessible technology. They needed a way to reach out to families across all income levels, without requiring smartphones or home Internet access. Textizen’s ability to reach almost everyone (90% of U.S. adults have texting capabilities) made it a clear fit for the project, so we got to work measuring outcomes.

More >>

OCT 06 2014

Philly Bike Share Crowdsources Station Locations with Textizen

Bike Share art with bicycle

Image via temple_sea on Instagram

How do you ask for local input on bike sharing infrastructure that doesn’t exist yet, and generate excitement and anticipation for the arrival of this new mode of travel? Call Textizen, give us a week to get organized, and open your doors to hundreds of comments from soon-to-be riders.

With the help of our friends at OpenPlans, a local mural artist, and an energetic street team, Philly Bike Share and Textizen launched a mobile engagement and smart map outreach scheme that demonstrates what is possible with 21st century outreach technology.

“We’re the first bike-share system in the country to take this approach to public outreach,” said Andrew Stober, Chief of Staff at the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. “We really wanted to do this in a way that would be much more active in engaging the public.”

More >>

APR 03 2014

Textizen in the Granicus AppStore

Often the trickiest part of launching new software tools in Government is the purchasing process itself. We’re excited to announce that thanks to a partnership with cloud services provider Granicus, it’s now easier than ever for more than 1,000 government agencies to get Textizen up and running.

Granicus AppStore

To date, the Granicus platform serves more than 63,000 government staff users and 8 million citizens per year, making our platform the perfect place to centralize cloud identity management for participating agencies. With all trends pointing to a digital strategy being a must-have plan for every government agency, we believe that our AppStore can and will serve as a key component in the digital government roadmaps of forward-thinking government agencies across the country.

-Javier Muniz, CTO, Granicus

Read more about the launch here

JAN 16 2014

¡Hablamos Español!

Need help reaching Spanish-speaking populations?

We are happy to announce support for Spanish language surveys, making it easier than ever for you to reach people where they are.

Sample Poll Prompt

Try out this sample poll designed to collect feedback for economic development (carrier charges may apply). Imagine you’re walking down a city street and see this sign (above) in an empty storefront.

More >>

JAN 09 2014

Happy 2014 & Welcome Todd Baylson

Happy New Year from Philadelphia and San Francisco! 2013 was an incredible year for Textizen and we’re looking forward to an exciting 2014.

Todd Baylson Joins Textizen

We are thrilled to welcome Todd Baylson as Textizen’s Sales and Business Development Lead.

Photo credit: PlanPhilly

Immediately prior to joining Textizen, Todd was Policy Director for Philadelphia Councilman-at-Large Bill Green. His love of green space, civic engagement, and technology and innovation in the civic space was cultivated through a number of years working for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He also guides kayak trips on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.

Please get in touch and say hello via Twitter (@toddbaylson) or email (!

Textizen on the Road

We had the pleasure of meeting many of you in person in 2013. Whether at the American Planning Association, National League of Cities, or Code for America Summit, or during breakout sessions at Planning Camp SF, we had a great time hearing your stories and discussing the future of public engagement. This winter, we hope to cross paths at these events and more:

  • Transportation Camp DC · Washington, DC · Jan 11 Panel: “Public Participation is Broken… Can Technology Help?”
  • NJ Planning Conference · New Brunswick, NJ · Jan 14 Panel: “Engagement 2.0”
  • New Partners for Smart Growth · Denver, CO · Feb 13-15 Panel: “Tools that Empower: Leveraging Emerging Technologies to Dramatically Increase Public Participation”

Will you be there too? Join us at these sessions, or drop us a line.

OCT 31 2013

Thanks for the Good Times

I jumped into my civic engagement internship with Textizen nearly four months ago. Although I didn’t know exactly what to expect, I came into the position seeking an innovative, fast-paced, and public-serving environment. Textizen provided on all counts as a startup in the Code for America building.

Textizen is located in the SoMa part of San Francisco amidst a myriad of tech giants and startups. You can find an army of coders and entrepreneurs here often exchanging ideas over a cup of coffee or the next culinary delight. Many of them also came to the CfA building for meetups, hack nights, and other similar events.

Textizen boasts a similar culture characterized by straightforward feedback and latitudinal interaction. As a result, top-down hierarchy is virtually nonexistent. Instead, there’s a strong emphasis on interdependent collaboration.

I was thrown into the deep end from the beginning with coding languages, software, and computer terms no one outside of tech could possibly know. I learned to identify and keep only the bare essentials during those first weeks since time and a growing list of tasks simply wouldn’t allow for more. Luckily, as a matter of habit, everything you really need sticks.

By the end, Alex, Michelle, and Serena brought me in on a variety of projects to design surveys, perform statistical analysis, write blog posts, provide feedback on client calls, conduct market research, and assist on a bucket load of other tasks.

Working with Textizen opened my eyes to the growing industry connecting civic engagement with technology. I’m excited to see how this sector evolves and imagine great things in the future for Textizen. Many thanks to everyone at Textizen for the good times!

OCT 29 2013

Text, Talk, and Act for Mental Health: A Pilot for Scaling Microcommunities, One Text at a Time

Photo: Some of the student participants

Last week, Kelley Marchant’s students at Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie, Oregon, kept checking their phones.

After all, that was their class assignment. In groups of 4-5 students, they shared stories and viewpoints of how mental illness affected them, their friends, and their families, and what they could do to bring mental illness out of the shadows. Periodically, a text message arrived, bearing the next discussion topic.

This was a pilot jointly developed by Textizen and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, as part of an effort to scale the Center’s previously successful work in enabling face-to-face discussions about mental health. In the past, the Center shared discussion guides and trained facilitators with schools across the country.

Textizen and DDC’s Matt Leighninger worked together to adapt the previous discussion format to the text-message medium, while keeping it open, welcoming, and educational. Facts such as “1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in any given year” and “Half of all adult mental health problems begin at age 14” introduce the topic and helped participants understand its breadth. Then, discussion prompts explore why it’s difficult to talk about mental health; how this issue affects students, friends, and family, and what steps we might take to help address mental illness.

At the end, more than 75% of students made action commitments, ranging from organizing a bigger discussion to helping a friend who’d previously been denied medical attention.

Facilitating these dialogues by text lowers the burden on organizers, allowing the program to truly scale. With the Text, Talk, + Act pilot, not only is Textizen connecting individuals with organizations, it’s also a chance to build face-to-face microcommunities, one text at a time.

OCT 15 2013

Activate, Engage, and Sustain: Announcing Textizen Campaigns

Over 25,000 texts across 40 cities later, Textizen is a proven, powerful way to activate and engage communities. We’re excited to introduce a way to sustain those conversations, with Textizen Campaigns.

Launching Fall 2013, Textizen Campaigns are a revolutionary way to turn lightweight action into long-term engagement. Once you’ve built an initial audience, it’s easy to stay connected through our automated text platform. Share project updates, collect additional input, or segment audiences based on past responses — it’s up to you.

Textizen Campaigns

Other new features:

  • Textizen en Español: Support for surveys in spanish
  • Multiple phone numbers per survey: segment results across response channels
  • And more!

Learn more, and sign up for early access now.

OCT 14 2013

Textizen at the Code for America Summit

Code for America Summit

Are you, or anyone else from your city, attending the Code for America Summit this week in San Francisco? If so, come meet the Textizen team. We’d love to show you some spiffy new features and talk about bringing civic engagement to people, wherever they are. Can’t make it to SF? We’ll be posting here again tomorrow, so check back!

More >>

OCT 10 2013

"Does this look like a good idea?" Hyperlocal Input in Tampa, FL

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has long debated a number of roadway systems to decrease traffic congestion along the 1¼-mile stretch of Gandy Blvd. in Tampa, Florida. One of these proposals, an elevated tollway called the Gandy Connector, aims to reduce traffic congestion and provide evacuation routes between Dale Mabry Highway and the Gandy Bridge.

The Planning Commission chose Textizen to reach out to residents, neighborhood organizations, and the business community within a 1-mile radius of Gandy Blvd. The focus on hyperlocal input was a divergence from tradition and we were excited be a part of something new.

More >>

SEP 24 2013

3 Best Practices for Text-Based Civic Engagement

After delivering over 20,000 responses for communities across the country, we’ve learned a lot about what makes for successful civic outreach by text message.

These lessons are all included in our Best Practices guide (free for Textizen subscribers), which guides you through the process of launching a successful outreach campaign. Read on for 3 tips to supercharge your civic engagement.

1. Start Backwards: Define Your Goal

When kicking off a campaign, start with the ultimate goal and work backwards.

Are you focused on gauging the impact of near-term local development projects, or long-term master plan adoption? Preparing for school budget cuts, or trying to raise participation in programs? Or are you most interested in collecting demographics to better understand a particular audience?

What types of data, information, or engagement would be most useful for influencing decision-makers?

Examples: ranking of service preferences, support or opposition for a proposal, broad generation of ideas, contact information to bring people to in-person events.

Once your goals are clear, and you’ve identified the types of data you’ll need, all that’s left is getting people hooked and asking a few followup questions.

More >>

JUL 30 2013

Citizens Guide Chicago Public School Improvements

We helped Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plan facility and service improvements with two city-wide surveys from March through April. Our surveys’ attention-grabbing posters appeared in local trains and buses thanks to a partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority. Over 2,000 people participated in the surveys and, even though they’re officially over, eager citizens still send input our way.

More >>

JUL 29 2013

Welcome to the Textizen Blog!

Textizen is a platform for civic engagement. We use SMS surveys to democratize outreach and engagement, allowing decision-makers and community organizers to reach and hear from everyone they serve. We’ve run dozens of surveys in communities across the country, and have more in the works.

Besides building a web platform that is seamless, elegant, and easy to use, we’re also working hard to understand how to craft and launch successful outreach campaigns. This blog is for us to share what we learn along the way, including case studies of past campaigns, best practices in crafting survey-based outreach, and interesting pieces of data analysis.

Stay tuned for more exciting things from Textizen!