We often stumble across an inspiring headline, skim the article, and are left wondering what we could do to help a family in need or a refugee in crisis.
Speakable is a tech company that’s trying to bridge the gap between education and action. It’s launching its first product Thursday that it hopes will make civic engagement easier and more accessible.
The “Action Button” allows people to instantly donate, sign petitions, send emails to congressmen or policymakers, or tweet at a local decisionmaker so they can impact the outcomes of the stories they read, Jordan Hewson, founder and CEO of Speakable, told Yahoo Finance.
She first started beta testing the Action Button with The Huffington Post, and Thursday is teaming up with two additional publishers, Guardian US and VICE Media.
The button is powered by a matching algorithm that connects digital content to a relevant action so readers can find the best opportunities to have an impact.
Hewson founded Speakable last year after three years as founding editor of GlobalCitizen.org, a social action platform that has the lofty goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. The organization puts on an annual festival in NYC where artists like Rihanna, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Pearl Jam and Carrie Underwood have performed. General admission tickets are free but you have to do a social activism scavenger hunt of sorts, accruing points by signing petitions, reciting scripted letters to congressmen and posting pre-written tweets.
Because there is the possibility of winning free tickets to a festival in Central Park, the model can be interpreted as superficial and barely skimming the service, as undoubtedly people may be motivated by a free, star-studded concert, and not by their fervent civic engagement.
Take, for example, these generic tweets that I sent out leading up to the Global Citizen festival in September. I gained enough points to win two free tickets to the concert.
SEAMLESS & SIMPLE SOCIAL ACTIVISM
Hewson says there’s so much appetite to be engaged with global issues and she created Speakable in an attempt to translate that curiosity into action while eyeballs are on an article.
“I was very inspired by my three years at Global Citizen. It was my job to figure out how can we get people to take more action in support of global issues,” she said. “People are inspired by the content that they read. People are already engaging with the refugee crisis, issues around gun control, climate change — so how do we capture them in the moment that they’re inspired and make it faster and easier for them to impact those issues?”
The tech-savvy millennial generation, in particular, desires to be informed and inspired by the content they read, according to Hewson.
“Millennials are the perfect demographic for this,” she said, noting that many consider themselves to be social activists and donate to charities. “They have new expectations of digital content. They want to do more than just share on social or email a link to their friend. What we’re hoping with this product is that we can really change how we read news and how we think about our civic ability,” she said.
Speakable is partnering with several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Amnesty International, International Rescue Committee, and Planned Parenthood. It’s also partnering with ONE, an organization that’s taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease that was founded by her father, U2 lead singer Bono.
When asked about whether Bono has a role at Speakable, Hewson said she tries to keep him uninvolved but cites her family as her source of inspiration.
“I’m not sure I know many people who would want to go into business with their father. But I do come from an interesting family of activists who have definitely inspired me to be more aware around global issues and really taught me that advocacy is a part of human expression,” she said. “That’s why we called the company ‘Speakable.’ It’s about connecting people to the power of their civic voice.”
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.