Most people find it incredibly difficult to talk about politics with people they actually know. Politics is a touchy subject, and it’s easy for a well-intentioned discussion to spiral into an emotional slugfest. Maybe that’s why the political conversations we do have typically involve venting with friends that already agree with us or arguing with strangers online. Unfortunately, both activities rarely create a change in anyone’s behavior. People tend to stay uninformed, holding onto their entrenched opinions. Creating a more progressive world requires motivating, informing, and talking with those around us. That means engaging with apathetic neighbors, conservative family members, and even our “woke” friends.
The problem is all of that is really, really hard. We might agree that discussing something like gun violence is hugely important, but the stress of doing so is an equally huge barrier. It’s hard to keep fighting the good fight if you’re always meeting resistance.
But what if it didn’t have to be a fight? What if you knew that each time you tried to engage someone on a political topic, you were doing it in the most intelligent, thoughtful way possible? What if you knew the conversation would result in the other person thinking about things differently, or being driven to act toward a shared goal? You’d probably feel amazing, like every little action you took or conversation you had was directly contributing to progress on something you cared about. Well, today we’re announcing a radical new feature to Blue Squad that will make all of this possible.
Introducing Personal Engagement Missions
Starting today, the Blue Squad mission feed will offer you a variety of new mission types, each of which asks you to perform an action on just one person at a time. We’re collectively referring to these new mission types as Personal Engagement Missions, or PEMs. With the introduction of PEMs, Blue Squad can now serve as your personal guide to talking with your friends and family about politics and civic activity in the most productive, positive way possible.
This is a big change to how Blue Squad works, so we’re starting small with what you can do through PEMs. Example mission types available at launch include:
- Making sure a friend is registered to vote
- Inviting a friend to Blue Squad
Over the next several months, we’ll introduce additional mission types, such as:
- Surveying a friend so you understand their political positions better
- Asking a friend if they’re aware of local issues on the ballot or candidates running in their district
- Sharing articles with a friend that are known to help someone learn more about an issue
- Inviting a friend to volunteer with a local candidate
- Reminding a friend to vote
As you complete PEMs, Blue Squad will learn which missions are having the most impact with each of your friends, constantly refining which missions it recommends so you keep becoming a more effective community leader.
Your Personal Guide to Progressive Political Engagement
On their own, each individual Personal Engagement Mission is like a tiny nudge on getting a friend more politically engaged. When they are strung together, though, they can make a massive impact. Let’s walk through an example series:
Note: The screenshots on the left show the mission previews as they would appear in Blue Squad’s home feed. The screenshots on the right show an example text conversation that would occur if required by each mission. For the sake of brevity (this is already a long post), we’re not showing the mission content themselves.
We always start with asking you to check your friend’s voter registration. As we’ve discussed before, doing this is a uniquely powerful way to build trust with a friend around a “political” issue without getting into any sort of drama. In this example, I’m not able to find Brian in the voter file, so I ask him to check. Like many people, Brian is thankful for me looking out for him. A week later, I receive another mission to learn more about what issues matter to Brian. I send him a survey, and he’s inclined to fill it out because I helped him out last week.
Now that I understand Brian’s political positions, I’m in a better position to engage him more directly on a particular organization or campaign I care about. In this example, I want him to support a candidate (Pritesh Gandhi) in an upcoming election. Before I make the hard sell, I first ask Brian if he has even heard about Pritesh. This is usually referred to as increasing “name ID”, and it has a bigger impact the smaller the race is. Most people barely know who their congressperson is, let alone their state senator or house rep. By just giving Brian a name he’ll recognize when he sees his ballot, I’ve already increased the chances of Pritesh getting Brian’s vote.
A little later, I check in with Brian again to see if he’s considered supporting my candidate. Again, I still haven’t tried to “sell” him on anything - I just want to know where he stands. Brian says he’s not sure yet, but that he’s thinking about it. I can mark that response in Blue Squad, which will then activate a series of persuasion missions between me and Brian.
Based on my earlier conversation with Brian, I already know what issues matter to him. Let’s say he’s really concerned about healthcare. That’s great, because not only is Pritesh a practicing doctor, he’s also got some interesting thoughts on healthcare public policy. I share that with Brian, giving him exactly the right information he needs to commit to Pritesh.
With Brian’s vote committed, all that’s left is to make sure he votes. Just before the election, I receive a final mission from Blue Squad asking me to send Brian a reminder. I do so, and the vote is on its way!
The above flow presents just one potential series of conversations. E.g., if Brian remained uncommitted, Blue Squad would have presented other missions to me, including asking to understand Brian better so it can provide better, more tailored recommendations. Whichever path the conversation takes, the result is an organic, two-way conversation that makes a positive, lasting impact.
Become the Change You Want to See
When talking about the concept behind Blue Squad, I often discuss the importance of the progressive movement not just growing within a person, but through them as well. In other words, it’s not enough to keep yourself informed, or even to remind only yourself to go vote. You need to help others as well. Personal Engagement Missions will help you help the people that matter the most to you. Use them to make sure your neighbor is registered, to get your friends to check out a local candidate, or to finally talk with your dad about politics in a way that will leave both of you feeling good. We can’t wait to see the change you bring to the world!