Frontier

Bug Your Congressperson About Vital Issues With This Simple Widget

A Brooklyn arts organization set up a tool to call your representatives on repeat so you don't have to.

by Aaron Barksdale
Aug 22 2017, 10:15pm

Photo via Pioneer Works.

A New York-based cultural center is helping to shape political dialogue by facilitating direct outreach to congressional offices with phone calls from constituents. Pioneer Works is a non-profit community arts organization located in Red Hook, Brooklyn where the worlds of political engagement and creative expression collide. The center's newest initiative is Hope Floats, which launched online on August 13, 2017.

"In the wake of shifting politics, [the] Pioneer Works Technology Department developed Hope Floats as an aid to Americans who have ever questioned how they can actively engage in the political process," said Christina Daniels, Pioneer Works Marketing and Development Associate. "Hope Floats simplifies engagement by helping exercise the right to representative democracy."

People can access the program either online or use the Hope Floats kiosk located at Pioneer Works.

"Hope Floats simplifies engagement by helping exercise the right to representative democracy."

According to Hope Floats' site, congressional offices log each call that they receive which means that one of the most effective ways to influence the political climate is by repeatedly calling your elected representatives. Few of us have the time for that, so rather than keeping your congressperson's number on speed dial Hope Floats will call your representative for you.

Here's how the process works: On the website, or in the widget below, put in your street address and zip code and the program will automatically detect the congressperson for your district. Then choose what issue you want to contact your representative about.

The options listed by Hope Floats are Health care/ACA Repeal, Immigration policy, Travel Bans, Trans Rights, Women's Reproductive Health Care, NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Advocacy, or Other.

From there you can put in your personal information, if you wish, and then record a message for your representative that Hope Floats will send on your behalf once a day every day. According to their website, this gives you the luxury of constant attention to your government regardless of your relationship to free time.

"Initially we were concerned that people would lose their political fervor after the election," Daniels said. "That hasn't been the case, but we are excited about the opportunity to help people continue to engage as their voice is heard."

According to Daniels, the program lasts indefinitely so there's no cap on how long you want to keep the pressure on your policymakers.

There are a few drawbacks to calling your rep ad nauseam. For instance, high call volumes means that you may get a busy signal. Also, voicemail inboxes can fill up if calls go in faster than they can be received. It's possible to work around these obstacles by sending an email, directly reaching out via social media or showing up in person—a seemingly lost art in today's virtual landscape.

"We are excited about the opportunity to help people continue to engage as their voice is heard."

Still, there's something unique in making a call. Politicians can block you on social media and emails can bounce out of inboxes or wind up in spam never to be seen, but a persistent phone call is hard for elected officials to ignore.

Pioneer Works also has future plans to work this initiative into future programming for the center. On September 30th, the organization is presenting the third annual Red Hook Regatta where a crowd of hundreds will gather to watch DIY miniature boats haul cargo across the New York City shipping harbor. That day the Hope Floats robotic raft, an automated calling device, will journey a further and more symbolic distance from the Red Hook Waterfront to the Statue of Liberty and then to Washington DC. The voyage of the Hope Floats raft will kick off this year's race and ties in political activism with community building.

If you're interested participating in the regatta here's how you can get involved. If you're not able to attend the event the Hope Floats initiative is accessible nationwide. Click the widget above to get started today.