The civic engagement team at Facebook works to help give people a voice in government so they can be fairly represented in public affairs. People can’t have a voice if the representatives they are trying to get in touch with don’t listen and respond, but for various reasons, Facebook experience makes it hard for them to do so.
For Hack 62: Hack to Basics, an internal company hackathon, some members of my team got together to solve this fundamental problem of connection within this important relationship to make it easy for representatives to hear directly from their community and turn a hack they are already engaging in into a legitimate tool.
1 designer (hi there!), 2 engineers, 1 product marketing manager, and 1 policy outreach manager
While Facebook is an increasing share of how people try to engage with their government, representatives don't engage on Facebook because they don't believe people are their constituents, they don't believe people are authentic, and much of incoming communication is uncivil, hateful, or unrelated.
Our research with government officials and government agencies shows that representatives really value hearing personal stories from their constituents and that those stories are influential when they're making decisions. There is no easy way for reps to collect, vet, and curate constituent stories and package them in a way that's easily shareable and encourages others to participate.
Representatives like Kamala Harris were making a call for stories during the partial government shutdown, but without an easy way to do so.
Due to the time constraints of the hackathon, we had to make some assumptions to do a proof of concept, but needed to:
Allow representatives to easily aggregate videos into a single post
Provide a way for representatives and their staff to check stories before adding them to the queue
Work as both a normal post and a Facebook Story, both of which get good reach for representatives
During the hackathon we had three days to put something together to prove our concept. Rather than spend that time designing and never get to implementation, I did a round of design before we started and we ended up being able to demo a working coded prototype. The main idea during design was to lean heavily on existing systems, like the composer and Stories product.
The design ended up being the system, entry points, the representative aggregation experience, and the post format for constituent viewing.
Representatives use composer as they normally do coming in through the Community Voices entry point to create a video or text post call for stories. They use the existing share sheet to post the story call in Newsfeed, Stories, or both.
For ease of development, we focused on the Newsfeed entry point for constituents. As in, constituents see the video call for stories on Newsfeed and can submit from there.
Representatives can review stories and add them to the queue for display after vetting that they are civil and on topic. constituents can then watch the videos in a Stories format experience.
There are many use cases, constraints and a lot of polish I overlooked in order to prove this concept. The project will move forward because we showed how this idea could become tangible, so we’ll have more opportunities to fully form it before it launches.
Basic mechanics we’d like to look at
Entry points for representative creation
An actual content strategist’s eyes on the content
Clearer guidelines around video length for both representatives and constituents
Representatives or their staff often want to follow up with a person submitting a story to verify they are who they say they are, and there is no easy way to do this either. Moving forward we’d want
A clearer way for a constituent to select what method they would like to be contacted through for follow up
A review process for representatives and their staff that makes clear whether the submitted videos need follow up or have been followed up on
A clearer and more robust Stories product experience
A feature for closing submissions
Safety and integrity considerations
A permissions process for constituents and their content
Principles around whether this tool will have unintended consequences - providing a megaphone for stories over other decision-making tools may not be wise