What does it mean to empower your community?

Seam Social Labs is on a mission to empower communities through technology. For us, this means providing equitable and ethical public interest tools, designed for and with the people who need them, in order to achieve more equitable outcomes. In short, empowerment for us means putting the right tools in the hands of the people who need them the most. 

So rather than saying welcome to co:censuss, we say Welcome to A New Model for Community Empowerment. With our SMS tool, you are going to engage your community in new ways. Now, you can communicate with them on their bus ride home; on a walk down the block; and early in the morning or late at night. 

Keep in mind, none of this is intrusive and we adhere to strict ethical models to ensure transparency and trust to our community users. On this page, you will find our guiding principles, outreach frameworks, and customer support options.

Let’s start with our guiding principles:


  1. No demographic data. We do not ask age, race, identity, or any other questions that you will be able to pull from the U.S. Census. Through research, we have found that asking these questions to marginalized communities does not work in anyone’s favor and can even deter engagement.
  2. Data is not for sale. We do not sell the data we collect, nor do we keep it for the private sector. We ask that you do the same. All data is collected to be launched in an open portal system accessible to ALL. To reaffirm this, our business model is based on using AI-driven Insights with this public data to provide reports and toolkits for the private sector that are built by our team.
  3. Decolonize Tech. A decolonization model means we move away from the model of speed, surplus, intrusiveness, and privacy. We are focused on public interest, moving at the speed of trust, and creating open data systems for all. This also means all surveys are opt-in so users will have to text message first to engage.

Now that you reviewed our guiding principles, we ask that you commit to these as well. You are now a part of our community; a community aimed at using public interest technology to foster deeper socio-economic impact for those who need it the most. As you wait over the next couple of weeks for your SMS survey, this is an ideal time to start preparing an outreach campaign. 

Outreach Frameworks

Prior to launching co:census, our team completed 18 months of user research. This research included interviews, focus groups, surveys, and observations to determine what are some of the best community outreach methods that can work for this tool. Remember, co:census is not an airdrop tool. People must opt-in and engage directly by text messaging the word “Hi” and the survey starts from there.  

To further support your outreach plan, we designed a matrix to determine some outreach frameworks that would be ideal based on your budget and expected outcomes.

Grassroots organizing is like starting a movement. One of the first ways we tested this method was by creating promotional materials and attending public meetings to get people engaged in Inwood, Washington Heights, and Long Island City. 

When we tested this program, we worked with volunteers, local colleges, and universities to onboard students who wanted to get their community civically engaged. This framework worked in getting the most youth onboard and yielded in responses from their family, friends, and networks. This program includes creating an Ambassador where volunteers join in order to spread awareness about your survey.

Read more here about Ambassador Programs & Marketing.

Do this if: 
Your grassroots and organizing power is high. 

Long term data collection, need data over time (cross longitudinal study), need data in different regions, seeking comparative data.

Steps to Launch Your Grassroots Outreach Program:

  1. Create an online form where people can sign up to be an Ambassador. 
    See a sample form here on Jot Forms. Jot Forms is free. up to 100 monthly submission.Google Forms and Airtable are also great and free tools to create this form.
  2. Write and design an email campaign to your volunteer list. 
    Be sure to set up a campaign to send at least three emails with your signup form to get enough Ambassadors signed up. Get some inspiration here.
  3. Educate Your Ambassadors. 
    Host a brief webinar to tell your ambassadors about co:census why you are using this tool, and why you need their support. Advise them on how you want to engage with their networks. Engagement can be done one of these ways: 
    -Text their networks an outreach message
    -Engage people during public meetings
    -Posting fliers locally


  4. Get to Promoting! Once you have educated your ambassadors let them start spreading the word. We suggest quarterly meet ups with your ambassadors to ensure they are engaged. Most importantly, this prevents your reports from having spikes in engagement in the beginning and then limited engagement afterwards. All movements require gear so we suggest our Grassroots Kit to equip your ambassadors with some giveaway or incentive tools. 

Network outreach is like a 1-step tool for organizations who are great at communication viral messages. The efficiency of this program is messaging one person to get them to message the next person and so on, so forth. 

Do this if: 
You have an immense network you can activate with one message and you have a cap on how many people you need to respond. ie you need only 100 responses.

Collecting quick data samples, need data for impact or annual reports, collect data before and after programs, user experience research.

Steps to Launch Your Network Outreach:

  1. Craft your message with limited characters. 
    Create a shorthand, emoji friendly message that captures someone’s attention. Share the text message number in the message.

  2. Forward Your Message.
    Forward the message to 10 people you want to respond to the survey. Ask that they respond, and send the message to 10 more people each. 

It’s as simple as that. The downside of this is somewhere along the line you may have to reactivate this network to ensure responses don’t decrease after a week. 

This is a standard for most surveys, where there is compensation or a reward for completing the survey for community members. In some cases this is ideal because it expedites responses, but not every organization has a budget for this.

Collecting quick data samples, need data for impact or annual reports, collect data before and after programs, user experience research.

Do this if: 
You need responses ASAP. This also conditions people respond in exchange for something so we only recommend if you have the ongoing capacity to incentivize your community.

Implement this outreach campaign by using any of our listed frameworks and including message about the incentive. Incentives can include:

  • Tickets to events 
  • Gift Cards for shopping
  • Discount coupon small businesses
  • Branded items (see our Ambassador Kits)

We highly suggest items that align with your mission ie education organizations offering free study kits or school materials

Do this if: 
You have a strong following (over 2,000) with high engagement (above 8%) on Instagram. You can expect a response rate of 2% on average. Also requires you to have a business account on Instagram.

Long term research study on initiative outcomes, socio-economic policy study, user research, completing a cross functional (quantitative & qualitative) study since Instagram gives socio-demographic data. 

Steps to Launch Your Digital Campaign:

  1. Create content for Instagram.
    Use free graphic design tools like Canva to create graphics to promote the survey. We can also create these graphics by request. 
    See our content samples here.
  2. Change Text Button to SMS Number.

    On your business account, you can adjust you call-to-action and contact information in order to highlight your survey. Adjust bio by highlighting the survey (see image) and then Edit Contact Information. Change the phone number to your SMS phone number and this will connect the number to that button. When users are on your page, they can now click Text and immediately text your survey.

    Read more on Instagram’s help page.

  3. Schedule content to post.
    Schedule your content to post. We suggest posting at least three times per week but this depends on your regular content schedule. 

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