The Textizen Blog

Author: Alex Yule

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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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 »

Filed under engagement, mobile, outreach
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 >>

Filed under analysis
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

Filed under news
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.

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Filed under news
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.

Filed under news
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.

Filed under news
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 >>

Filed under news
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!

Filed under news