New Year’s Resolution: Bridging the Gap Between Politics & People

As 2014 comes to a close, Brigade President James Windon shared some thoughts in The Huffington Post this week about what the New Year should hold for public participation in our democracy. An excerpt:

“By the time the 114th Congress convenes next month, the midterm election will be a fading memory. On Capitol Hill, attention is expected to turn to a range of issues from international trade and immigration, to healthcare and energy. And when statehouses gavel in, they’ll also get down to business proposing, debating and voting on laws that will impact hundreds of millions of people locally.

While it’s true that elections capture the national zeitgeist and mobilize tens of millions of people to be politically active for a single day, the vast majority simply don’t know what their elected officials are doing (or in many cases not doing) in the 23 or 47 months between casting ballots.

And this is a problem. Ongoing political disengagement throughout the year (aside from election time) leads to a clear disconnect between the people and their government. And that leads to an anything-but-virtuous cycle of incumbents getting re-elected at shockingly high rates as their public approval ratings sag at near-record low levels.

A big part of fixing this broken system is empowering people to take direct action on issues that matter to them and encouraging them to hold politicians accountable while they’re in office, rather than waiting for the next election to roll around. We can bridge this gap by creating tools that facilitate informed conversations about important topics as well as simple but meaningful actions between citizens and their elected officials.”

Read the full column here.

Staff Spotlight: Alex Ng

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Alex Ng:

Alex Ng     Alex Ng

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?
A: As a recent college graduate, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Not only do I get to work with some of the smartest and coolest people I know, I also get to help make a product that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I’m a Software Engineer on the Messaging Team. Everything that deals with sending messages such as emails and push notifications is our responsibility. At the moment, we’re in the middle of combining with the Data Team to form a new Growth & Engagement Team where our focus will be bringing new users to Brigade when it launches and keeping them involved by giving them engaging ways to interact with other people on the platform.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I’ve always wanted to build giant robots to fight giant monsters. I’m still working on it.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: Work hard. Play hard.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: My coworker Anika said that my hidden talent is that I can make “the most sarcastic remark at the drop of a hat.” She’s wrong though. It’s not that hidden.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I recently started boxing! So if I start forgetting how to do my job it’s probably because I’ve been hit in the head too many times.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: I cannot live without the people who mentor and inspire me. My parents have always taken the time to make sure I had a good home and education. My friends have listened to my awful jokes and in turn made me laugh. And of course, I have to mention the coworkers who made sure I write nice clean code, no matter how many times I have to rewrite it.

Want to work with Alex and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Staff Spotlight: Nick Magel

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Nick Magel:

Nick     Nick

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?
A: Having worked on campaigns that were driven not only to influence decision makers, but to do so in a way that illustrates the breadth of a movement and empowers individuals to self-organize, working at Brigade — where we’re trying to amplify these essential components with the goal of bringing about a less complacent, more accountable democracy — is really exciting. Some of the stuff we’re working on really feels like uncharted territory on the campaigning front. I think we’re challenging a lot of assumptions about where online organizing works (and doesn’t work) and how you leverage that for real results.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I’m a Senior Strategist at Brigade. I joined Brigade as part of the Causes acquisition, where I was working with non-profits that incorporated Causes.com campaigning and fundraising tools into their strategies. For seven years prior to joining Brigade I helped lead a number of human rights and environmental campaigns with a handful of non-profits. A large part of my job right now is connecting with organizations that will be able to utilize Brigade for some new and savvy campaigning. The work that is already being done out there is inspiring and knowing that we can build on those efforts is exciting — and it’s a big reason I feel fortunate to be part of this team.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: When I was a kid I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be. Too many “jobs” seemed way too cool. I had a hard time picking just one. What I did know is that I didn’t want was to be in an office with cubicles. Once I do grow up, I hope to find a little mountain town that has rivers to tackle on the weekends and trails to run on the weekdays.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: I have a hard time imagining living in a world where I see little progress toward justice and human rights. With everything people face (some more than others) from open democracy to police brutality, it’s the communities that continue to lead and individuals that line up in solidarity with them that gives me hope. That hope is rooted is a history of transformative movements. Hope can be an immeasurable motivator if not leaned on as a crutch for inaction.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: I’m not sure if this is a talent or a problem, but I can run pretty far distances at a pretty good pace. I recently finished my first 50-mile ultra-marathon. I also have a trick I do with peanuts. It’s amazing, trust me, but it must be seen to be believed.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I can usually be found running trails up in Marin or riding my bike out to Point Reyes or Alpine Dam. I’m a tad obsessive about getting outside and doing things on the weekends. Since I hail from Ohio, I’m a Cleveland sports fan — but that’s usually asking for disappointment. Finally, as a Northern Californian, I feel obligated to know wine. I’m trying to learn but failing miserably (which is a blessing in disguise for the wallet).

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: There’s not anything more important to me than the people I get to share my life with. The one thing I’d have a hard time living without is community.

Want to work with Nick and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Staff Spotlight: Joe Lencioni

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Joe Lencioni:

Joe     Joe

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?
A: I see a lot of problems that could benefit from getting people more excited about and involved with our political process. If people were able to more easily understand how their candidates align with their worldview, and if elected representatives were able to more easily understand their constituents, I think that our country will move forward to a much better place. I’m most excited that Brigade has an opportunity to tackle these issues head-on, with technology. The fact that I get to work with great people is icing on the cake.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I am the engineering mentor of the Web team which means that besides coding I work with my team on long-term skills development. My favorite part of the job is working with a great team to build an important product. I have been building websites professionally for 13 years and my work was featured in “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 3rd Edition” (O’Reilly).

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: My mom tells me that I wanted to be a punk rocker because they have colorful hair. I also remember considering being an architect or a composer, but since I was at least 14 years old I wanted to be a software engineer working on the Web. I love abstract thinking, problem solving, and creating things, and I see building Web apps as the perfect intersection of those three things.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: To not be afraid to make big bets and take the right risks to live a great life. We all only have one shot, so we better make it count.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: I’m really great at not being able to see the thing I am looking for when it is right in front of my face. My secondary superpower is setting something down and not remembering where I put it. I have yet to figure out how to effectively exploit these talents for anything useful.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like hiking with my dog, cooking and eating delicious food, and exploring. In a past life, I brewed beer, baked bread, took lots of photographs, and painted.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: I would be totally lost without my wife, Samantha.

Want to work with Joe and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Staff Spotlight: Shira Brosbe

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is the first of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Shira Brosbe:

shiraa     shirab

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?
A: I’m thrilled to be at a company whose product will encourage people to discuss the issues that matter in their everyday lives. Those discussions will lead to actions, which will lead to change. I’m grateful to witness this development from the beginning.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: Office Manager; I manage the day-to-day operations of Brigade HQ, assisting in HR, finance, events, and lots of little things in between. I love being able to help make the office a place where the team can be happy, healthy and productive!

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An astronaut, outer space always fascinated me.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: That at the end of the day, the people I love are the most important thing in my life, and to really be grateful for having them in my life. Also, I’m constantly reminded to not sweat the small stuff.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: If I reveal them then they would no longer be hidden :)

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I love discovering new local places to eat. A few months ago my boyfriend and I stumbled upon Nick’s Restaurant in Pacifica. The gorgeous view and delicious food quickly made Nick’s a Sunday brunch tradition. On weekends I’m watching the Giants or Niners, depending on the season. I’m a Bay Area native so I love cheering on my teams whether it’s in person, on the couch, or hanging with friends at a sports bar.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: Good music! Songs have the ability to instantly connect me to a person, place or memory. I love how a good song can brighten up my day, no matter how busy or stressed I am. My “go to” songs to pump me up? Michael Franti’s “I’m Alive,” Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and really almost anything from Bob Marley.

Want to work with Shira and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Recap: Brigade’s Matt Mahan at SIME MIA

Matt Mahan SIME MIA

This morning, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan joined SIME MIA host Ola Ahlvarsson and Knight Foundation President & CEO Alberto Ibargüen for a conversation about how technology can improve our society. During the keynote, Matt talked about his early exposure to a nascent Facebook as a student at Harvard University, and how his passion for combining technology with activism led him to where he is today. “The world of organizing and community empowerment and social networks actually go hand in hand and can be a very potent combination,” he said.

Matt discussed two key challenges we face as Brigade and others attempt to reenergize public participation in our democracy: the complexity of the political system and the cynicism that has taken root and made people feel more disconnected from their government than ever before. Social technologies are well-suited to help parse that complexity, create opportunities for people to understand that others share their values, and unlock the potential for collective action, he said. “The way that we interface as citizens — with one another and with the political system — has to evolve to catch up with the way we live life in other realms,” Matt said.

Click here to watch the entire conversation (beginning at 02:58:00).

TechPresident Interview: Brigade’s James Windon

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.35.23 AMTechPresident‘s Alex Howard caught up with Brigade President James Windon on the sidelines of the #FusionRiseUp conference in Washington, DC last week for a lengthy, free-flowing discussion about what we’re building and where we’re headed as 2015 nears. In the interview, James explains why he thinks there’s ample opportunity — and a demonstrated need for — for a civically oriented social network. Click here to read TechPresident’s edited transcript of the interview.