Following the 2020 presidential election, a team of students from BOW — the Babson, Olin and Wellesley three-college collaboration — have worked towards combating political issues such as low voter turnout, increased polarization and echo chambers, relevant information being filtered out of news feeds. Many of these issues were first seen in social media and are being addressed by the students through their mobile application, Our Voice.
Our Voice is a Gen-Z focused app that strives to encourage students to become more civically engaged and educated about political and social issues. A major goal of the application is to encourage students to exercise their voices on issues they are passionate about. Our Voice achieves this goal by connecting high school and college students with political organizations, nonprofits and campaigns across the country.
Our Voice was founded by Wellesley student Emily Pattison ’21 and Babson student Anandita Jha ’23, who were joined by Peyton Wang ’22 from Wellesley College, who serves as the chief of development for the project. Pattison originally got the idea for Our Voice at Innovate for BU, a Boston University hosted entrepreneurship summer program, and worked on the project over the fall 2020 semester as an independent study.
Pattison and Wang also worked on developing low and high-fidelity prototypes — rough and interactive models of their application’s interface — in Human-Computer Interaction, a computer science elective that Wellesley offered this past summer.
“Our team was inspired to leverage online platforms to encourage activism and bolster democracy for a brighter future, with values rooted in democracy, community, unity, equality, integrity and growth,” Wang said.
Our Voice aims to connect students with political organizations and other resources to engage in further social action. In order to do this, the application provides features to facilitate communication between users and like-minded activists. These features include a news feed of recommended opportunities, such as pre-written phone scripts to call representatives, as well as additional opportunities to find and follow new political organizations or movements. There is also the option to share these interactive opportunities with friends and invite them to join the app.
“Our focus is to have features such as a news feed populated by verified organizations so that misinformation is not spread on Our Voice’s platform,” Jha said. “As so many amazing resources for taking actions already exist, we will act as a bridge to connect Gen Z to these resources easily instead of them having to scour the internet to find these resources.”
To make it even easier to create change in the issues their users care about, Our Voice breaks down goals for users into easy, actionable steps. Larger collective goals show users how far away they are from achieving a certain milestone like user engagement.
Over the summer and throughout the fall semester, the team worked on developing the first iteration of their web application. In the upcoming semester, they hope to recruit new members to join their team, specifically BOW students with experience in mobile application development, social media and marketing, and public relations.
While Our Voice has been a success, there are still some political issues that the team finds difficult to address, including inaccurate polls and fake news. Among Gen-Z, these issues have stemmed from low civic engagement and performative activism.
“It won’t be an easy journey, but we hope our application will garner enough attention among young adults and college students, motivating them to stray from the herd mentality on social media and instead engage more in real-life activism,” Wang explained.
When reflecting on the project, Pattison is both enthusiastic and hopeful. She explained that she owed a lot to Project W’s Project Pods, a semester-long project-oriented program hosted by Project W, BOW’s community of student entrepreneurs and innovators. This program taught her how to become an entrepreneur and how to start a business. Without its guidance, Pattison does not think she would have been confident or brave enough to pitch her idea.
“I needed a push,” Pattison recalls. “Honestly, without Project W and having a community of entrepreneurs to pitch too, this idea would have stayed just that … an idea.”
The Our Voice team recently launched a website for BOW students to engage with and learn more.