i3 - July/August 2017 - 9

By Cindy Loffler Stevens

a man who had a big vision for the city and
great to see how that vision has dramatically
changed the economy. Fifteen years ago the
city had a very different reputation and now it
has a vibrant community, especially in technology. That happened because of changes
that were made to make it more attractive to
millennials and professionals.

Q Is DC becoming a tech hub?
A DC is ranked as one of the best places
to work for women but also for technology companies. In the past the biggest
job generators were the government and
the embassies. This is certainly a hub for
government and politics but there is a new
emerging market for technology.

Q What are your views on immigration?
A The immigration debate has been highly
politicized and we have lost perspective
on the issue. One consequence has been
the increasing perception that there are two
types of immigrants: the good ones who
are the professionals with STEM skills and
the bad ones who work in construction or
the service industry. Immigration is a worldwide challenge and many governments are
responding to it taking into account their
unique geographic positions and economic
opportunities. We live in a world where
boundaries are being redefined by technology and where the competition for talent is
high. Our laws should take in consideration
the opportunity for countries to continue
to grow and compete with each other.

Q What mobilized you to
found Phone2Action?

A After I finished my work in the DC government, I joined a national education association and was traveling state to state talking
to lawmakers about education policy. I saw
a disconnect among constituents and lawmakers. I would ask constituents, "Have
you talked to your lawmaker?" They would
say, "I don't know who my lawmaker is and
I don't know how to contact them." The idea
for Phone2Action came because I saw a need
and came up with a solution that made it easy
for people to contact their lawmakers and
share their issues. My advocacy was always
making sure the kids would have a better
education. I felt that lawmakers have such an
important role in writing policy that improves
the schools but they actually knew very little
about the schools. I was shocked by the gap
C TA . t e c h / i 3

between people and those that represent
them. I realized that politics, or advocacy,
was not something that mainstream people
would do. It does not make sense that civic
engagement ends with an election when
in fact, that is when it should start. And in
2012, I also thought smartphones would
democratize civic engagement but I wasn't
trying to be an entrepreneur at the time.


Can one person
make a difference?

A Yes, the most interest-

ing aspect of advocacy
today is that one person alone can
launch a movement. Social media has
changed the game by empowering
people to share their opinions publicly.
Writing a tweet or Facebook post on
a lawmakers page can get the attention
of the legislator faster than a traditional
email. In the past you needed massive
numbers of people to get lawmakers
attention but today one person alone
with a powerful story can change the
view of a lawmaker about an issue.

Q How has social media
changed advocacy?

A We just launched SocialPulse, the
first advocacy tool that allows organizations to see all their advocates' social
media advocacy activities from our platform. It tells them who their ambassadors
are because they are taking action on
their behalf. Social media is changing the
game in advocacy. In the past, conversations with lawmakers happened via email
or behind closed doors. Now, 100 percent
of Congress uses Twitter and Facebook,
and it is unheard of for a politician to run a
political campaign without a social media
presence. Social media and technology have equalized the communications
between people and their elected officials,
making this a two-way interaction where
both are equally able to communicate.

Q What challenged you as a startup?
A The biggest challenge was to talk
about an industry that didn't really exist
yet. It was hard to talk about a new


type of product that wasn't defined,
especially talking to investors who
wanted to know what the market was
and what revenue model we were
going to use. Building a civic grassroots
technology application was new - there
wasn't anything like it in 2013 when we
launched that people could understand.
Civic advocacy is an industry that we
are still defining. Twenty years from
now people will say 2017 was the year
of advocacy. But three years ago, advocacy wasn't cool or mainstream.

Q What are the key issues
before Congress?

A To me immigration and the border
adjustment tax are two big issues.
If the border adjustment tax comes into
effect, many companies are not going
to be motivated to keep their businesses
here and we will lose the products, jobs
and innovation that those companies bring
to the U.S. Both issues put our national
innovative engine at risk.

Q What are your views on
the gig economy?
A The internet and smartphone adoption
are dramatically redefining how people
work. Employees see new income
opportunities and flexibility in the jobs
created by the gig economy but governments are challenged by the conflict with
old policies. In Washington DC, there is
a current battle between the city council
and homesharing lovers. DC has the
highest number of Airbnb guests and hosts
in the U.S. Many of those hosts are closing
the "hospitality gap" in parts of the city
where there are only a handful of hotels.
DC residents are frustrated about this
because DC's economy benefits from
welcoming tourism. In 2016, there were
20 million domestic visitors who spent
$7.3 billion. In general, the gig economy
is just an example of the transformation
the workplace is going through. Fostering
the right ecosystem for the jobs of the
future is challenging for lawmakers but
constituents can help by sharing their
stories and educating them on how these
issues play out in their districts.
GO ONLINE: Read the entire
interview at CTA.tech/i3.


http://phone2action.com/products/socialpulse-social-media-advocacy/ http://CTA.tech/i3 http://www.cta.tech

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