Purple America

Bringing students together from "Red America" and "Blue America" to have online political discussions.

Photo of Purple America
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Instagram: @purpleamericainitiative Website: www.purpleamericainitiative.org

Date You Started Your Project Started

04/03/18

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Politics in the United States has become increasingly polarized. Local communities tend to sound more like echo chambers, because communities can be homogenous in nature. For teenagers like myself, our political awareness began at a time when these extreme ideological differences are amplified by social media. This is a critical problem since a polarized society is detrimental to a healthy democratic society.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Purple America’s approach is to solve this problem by engaging high school students from across the geographic and political spectrum in meaningful discussions on current political issues. The goal is that by bringing students together from conservative, liberal and all other political backgrounds, we create the space for students to hear the many different perspectives that their peers have. In doing so, we remind students to see others for who they are instead of just members of a certain political party. Students also learn the skills necessary to have empathy for and to try to understand people whose opinions they may fundamentally disagree with. Each session we arrange has a small group of participants over group video conference (Zoom), discussing a specific current affairs topic of the month. The topic has been pre-selected and a write-up has been provided by Purple America. Purple America student moderators are trained to encourage an open dialogue while maintaining an atmosphere of respect. By bringing students from “Red America,” “Blue America,” and all other colors of America together, we hope to build a more tolerant and productive political future for the US.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The 2016 presidential election was the first one which I meaningfully followed from the beginning to the end. I read up on candidates, engaged in discussions with family and friends, and attended the primary caucus in my neighborhood. Throughout this process, I was bombarded with media outlets, social media accounts and people around me, many of who were attacking the candidates and supporters who they disagreed with. I observed that in almost all the cases, people didn’t understand other opinions, and did not seem interested in doing so. In some cases they even went as far as dehumanizing those from other parties. This combined with the fact that I attend a liberal-leaning school in Seattle, it became nearly impossible for me to hear perspectives different than my own. I wanted to better understand different political opinions. That was the inspiration for starting this initiative.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Every student begins by registering online, during which, they answer questions asking their opinion on a variety of current political issues, as well as their regular weekly availability. Based on this, an algorithm sorts them into groups, based on common schedules and ensuring ideologically diverse groups. These groups are created monthly and meet once or twice during the month. Before a session, all participants are sent a fact debrief on the topic of discussion, created by us, from a variety of sources, so everyone starts the conversation with a basic level of information. Each discussion group is around ten students from around the country with two student facilitators. Students also have opportunity to get involved in local school chapters or take on state and national leadership roles needed to keep the organization running and growing.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

It is a combination of three factors which together make Purple America different. The first is we are non-partisan and actively seek students from all backgrounds to participate. The second is we are fully online and free. Because of this, we are accessible to and able to engage all high school students from the US. This allows students from urban and rural areas from across the country to directly participate. And lastly, we are high school student focused. Although high school students can’t vote, this is a critical time for us to be engaged in politics to build a foundation for tomorrow.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

The goal of Purple America is to build a more tolerant and productive political future for the US, by directly engaging high school students from across the country. So far, over 400 students have registered, and more than 300 have participated in at least one of these small discussion groups. We have established chapters and leadership teams in these states: California, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, and are in the process of adding more state teams this school year. In post-discussion surveys, students have said that they had the opportunity to understand perspectives they had never heard before, and that they are much more involved with politics on a personal level because of Purple America. In my own school community, I have seen the excitement and continuing conversations that are sparked in the days following the discussions.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

There are three ideas to take the project to the next level this year. The first is to increase the number of students participating, particularly from states and counties we have not reached so far. We are looking into how to do this effectively. The second is to build an online community platform where people can share short podcasts, articles and videos on topics related to our discussion topics. We hope that this type of facilitated platform can help to further the goals of the discussions and allow for more creative ways of meaningful communication. The third is to host a weekend-long physical conference to spark energy, discussion and ideas for both our organization and the greater mission of what we’re trying to do.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

8 comments

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Spam
Photo of Aiko Ma
Team

I feel that empowering the youth to take part in our country's politics will be crucial to the future of our country. I really love that you are facilitating the involvement in politics and bringing more high school students to communicate on issues that directly affect us.

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