Pavani Peri | December 8, 2020
Politicians want to understand their constituents. Often, they use surveys to figure out what voters think. But how do voters feel? Do certain policies or changes in their towns make them angry, happy, or anxious? Acta Solutions has a tool that can help politicians understand what is really on their constituents’ minds.
Acta is a political tech startup that helps campaigns, governments, and advocacy organizations listen to their constituents at scale via a text analysis platform. They believe in the power of qualitative feedback to reveal voter opinion and drive progressive change. Acta asks voters open-ended questions about their priorities and concerns in their district and analyzes the relationship between words and sentiment to pick out trending stories, experiences, needs, and ideas from the voters’ language. Their methodology can help political candidates identify and address citizens’ needs for more effective campaigns and eventual governance.
Acta’s focus on qualitative feedback is unique. Though pollsters and consultants say that closed-ended surveys to gauge voter opinions are insufficient, many politicians are still unwilling to recognize the value of open-ended voter feedback. Acta came to the LabStorm group for advice on analyzing and presenting qualitative data in a way that accurately reflects voter opinion and drives value for politicians. This is what LabStorm attendees had to say:
- Keep the data human. Since many political operatives are focused on quantitative data, Acta has felt pressure to deliver insights in a numerical way. LabStorm attendees encouraged Acta to lean into their unique value proposition of qualitative insights. In fact, attendees felt keeping the human element of uncompressed data was essential in the platform. Whether that means including video or voice clips of constituents sharing their opinions, or simply pulling out key quotes, the platform should present at least some data in its pure form.
- Embrace nuance and slang. Acta’s platform is designed to adjust sensemaking to the local context. For example, if there is a certain vernacular language in one area, the platform will analyze responses relative to other responses from that vernacular. LabStorm attendees noted that getting representative samples will be essential in order to accurately reflect voter needs. They offered suggestions for ways to connect to local community groups to collect voter responses, and shared ideas for how to navigate those relationships. Attendees also noted that Acta could go beyond embracing nuance in their feedback collection and actually reflect that nuance out in their insights. Rather than marking opinions as “positive” or “negative”, Acta could pull out categories like “fear” “anger” “security” “confusion”. These nuanced categories allow opportunities for rich storytelling and may be interesting to political operatives.
- Make insights shareable to close the feedback loop. As usual, attendees brought up closing the feedback loop. After constituents share their opinions with Acta’s platform, how do they know if it led to anything? Attendees recommended that Acta share out the insights from their work with political operatives and the local community itself. That way, constituents will see that their voice has been heard and something meaningful was done with it. Beyond sharing insights in a digestible format, attendees noted that Acta has a unique opportunity to make their insights interactive. One attendee suggested that the platform feature a place for comments, that prompts visitors with questions like “Your neighbor said x… do you have anything to add to that?”. Such interactive features could increase buy-in and participation from community members.
This LabStorm brought home the importance of qualitative data for social change. But it also reminded us of the challenges of working with qualitative data. It may be hard, but it’s worth it to authentically reflect constituent voice. If you have an idea for Acta, reach out to us at [email protected].