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The Resistance Just Got Smarter

by Stacey Leasca

April 5, 2017

It may be hard to believe, but we’re only 75 days into Donald Trump’s presidency. That means there are 1,385 days left in his first term—and any scenario that suggests otherwise is too far-fetched to take seriously. Meanwhile, politics-related stress is spiking: In January, a Harris Poll survey of 3,500 people revealed that nearly 70 percent of respondents were stressed about the future of America, with about half citing the outcome of the election and the current political climate as major sources of their concerns.

But one of the most effective ways to alleviate that tension is to stop feeling powerless. Luckily, technology has made it easier than ever to take control, get organized, and resist effectively, with  5Calls.org nudging email subscribers to call their representatives and ResistBot allowing users to directly send messages to politicians via a text-to-fax tool.

If the election showed us anything, it’s that we have the numbers. The question is, how do we make our numbers count?

But calls and faxes are just two modes of action. Now StayWoke, a nonprofit digital accelerator group born out of the Black Lives Matter Movement, is essentially a one-stop shop for a variety of protest tools.

“We don’t want to duplicate any work,” says Samuel Sinyangwe, co-founder of StayWoke, whose fellow co-founders include activists Deray Mckesson, Johnetta Elzie, and Brittany Packnett. “But people shouldn’t have to go to eight different organizations and eight different websites to find out about policy and issues that impact their lives.”

There are four collaborative projects currently hosted on StayWoke: Our States, a program that tracks legislation in individual states; Advocacy Tool, which helps people find local, state, and federal representatives, view bills they are considering, and hold them accountable; the Resistance Manual, a crowdsourced platform filled with information and tools to resist the Trump/GOP agenda; and Make Democracy Matter, which connects constituents with their electoral college voters.

Users also have the power to start a new project or help improve an existing one—it’s as easy filling out a simple form and signing up. From there it works like this: A person can go on and flag an issue in his or her state on Our States. A policy expert will then review it, an academic will synthesize the issue, and a designer will take the issue and illustrate it in an easy to consume way. In all, more than 25,000 people have signed up to share their skills in some way.

Screenshot of the StayWoke website.

“It’s really a broad cross section of talent,” Sinyangwe, who also works as a policy analyst and data scientist, says of the diverse group of people both volunteering and working with the individual projects. Those talented people have varied backgrounds—from policy researchers and analysts to former civil rights attorneys, designers, and developers. “And we also have everyday people. People who are cashiers, people who work from home.” 

Ultimately, Sinyangwe says, traditional organizing and making phone calls to state representatives or senators is still incredibly valuable. It’s just that digital tools can make it easier to find out what’s at stake, exactly who to reach to fix an issue, and when is the smartest moment to reach out, to make sure you’re making the most effective use of your time and energy. And tech solutions like form surveys or website builders are cheap and simple to use, while social media makes it possible to a mass of people quickly.

“If the election showed us anything, it’s that we have the numbers,” says Sinyangwe, referring to the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. “More people believe in justice and equity than who voted for Trump and all that he represents. The question is, how do we make our numbers count?”

For the StayWoke team, that means reaching out to a diverse cross-section of people who, until recently, didn’t have the option of making their voices heard.

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The Resistance Just Got Smarter