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We are living in unprecedented times. To ensure safe physical distancing, public commenting has been restricted at borough council meetings and town halls are less frequent. As we recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, ensuring voters have access to accurate information and the ability to provide input on legislation and community development projects will be a challenge for elected officials. It will become more important to broaden communication methods to facilitate constructive dialogue and feedback loops between local and state representatives and residents.

With the recent increase in avenues for participatory democracy, it may not be as difficult to lean into this new digital reality presented by COVID-19. The shift in democratic power has becoming increasingly open and engaging. Social media movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter underscored this shift towards collective action and organized democratic response that brings local government and community leaders together.

Now more than ever, empathy for voters and their community-level challenges must guide how the future of citizen engagement looks. The Yankelovich Democracy Monitor research revealed Americans support measures that create more interaction between citizens and elected officials and give more decision making power to citizens through avenues such as participatory budgeting. It’s evident the strength of participatory democracy depends on governments adopting digital tools and providing people with access to useful information. This is our chance to create tools at a pace that prioritize the depth of community input and respond to the needs, ideas, and wants of who they’re intended to serve.

Be the Change elevates voter voices

This is why our team at beamdata launched Be the Change — civic action app that connects you to your elected officials to take meaningful action on issues that matter to your neighborhood. Be the Change facilitates civic action through issue advocacy, direct outreach to elected officials, and digital community-building.

People are connecting and sharing concerns on social media platforms but they’re limited in their capacity to leverage this information for policy change. With Be the Change, you can quickly share details on poor air quality, lack of public transportation, isolated food deserts and more. Receive an action or response from your elected official. See nearby reports and organize around shared concerns with your neighbors to build healthier and safer communities.

Be the Change encourages people to discuss and share the most relevant issues impacting their communities, while making it simple to take meaningful action on issues that matter to their neighborhoods. In turn, elected officials would be better equipped with information on social and economic trends within the geographic boundaries of the political District they serve.

Sustaining participatory culture will require finding ways to build trust in the democratic process, which is at an all-time low. Most people feel they don’t have a meaningful voice in public decisions. Be the Change humanizes government in the era of COVID-19 by ensuring governing decisions by elected officials are made with residents to solve specific human problems.

You can learn more about Be the Change and download the app at www.beam-data.com or follow our journey on Twitter.