A collection of community engagement experiments in Washington DC
Project Type
Civic Tech, Community Research, In-Person Events, Hackathon, Web App Prototype
October 2017 - July 2018
Washington DC
Bloom Labs
Catherine Carlstedt, Mychal Sterling, Kevin Colao
Stephen Jefferson,

Bloom Labs is curious to learn how the public's interest in their community influences their local news interest. We formed ACT with a small team to conduct research and experiments that explored the role of community engagement for journalism.

Here is a timeline of activities that took place:

  • In late 2017, we worked with Amy Schmitz Weiss, Associate Professor of Journalism at SDSU, to conduct a nation-wide survey of community engagement habits and preferences. The study consisted of a short survey about the resident's interest in community participation, local topics that appeal to them most, and technology they use to stay informed. Out of 979 respondents (U.S. residents), we discovered that most (over 75%) are aware of opportunities to get involved and voice their opinion in their community. However, 75% did not see it "very important" to take action and participate in their community.
  • Bloom Labs then began testing new types of community-oriented call-to-actions for local news with an interactive map and local newsletter for D.C. and NYC residents.
  • Our experiments led to the development of a website that paired a variety of community engagement activities with current local news stories around the Washington D.C. region. People could explore the website, select a news story and activity, and earn points for completing activities.
  • We took the experiments offline by organizing two grassroots events inspired by two local news stories to learn how to bring residents together and discuss the current local topics. The first event was related to National Poetry Month, which invited residents to write inspiring poetry with chalk in a popular local park. The second event was related to the Potomac River's environmental report card, which invited residents to create a river mural.
  • After the events, we entered into Techstars' Startup Weekend (Social Impact) Competition in DC to bring our insights together into a more formal presentation and prototype called ACT. ACT was formed by four team members during the event and was awarded 3rd place out of 40 total projects.
  • The team continued to conduct research and design with a web app that experimented with how local news stories could be matched with volunteer opportunities in the nearby community.


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