Changing Politics: From Campus to Congress

08/30/2010 08:14 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Being a student activist ain't what it used to be. Back in the day you'd flyer your campus, get people psyched, then write letters, sign a petition, have a march, or do something obnoxious -- all with the aim of drawing attention to an issue that otherwise would be ignored by the mainstream media and/or relevant decision-makers. And maybe, just maybe, an outlet other than your campus rag would mention your actions.

Now, the internet has changed the game, and effective student activism/slacktivism/clicktivism/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-ism, just might get your actions onto the global stage. That being said, most of the online actions being pushed out by national and campus groups alike are big on promise and short on delivery; heavy on goals but light on change.

Remember the CNN/YouTube debates in the run up to the 2008 presidential primaries? Like many of you, we (Personal Democracy Forum a cross-partisan outfit dedicated to exploring how technology can change our democracy) were swept away by the overwhelming public response to the debates. But we were also struck by the fact that, despite their novelty, the debates did not realize the promise of the online video and crowd sourcing technology they employed. With CNN filtering the questions and no one holding the candidates accountable for their answers, that particular formula for applying technology to improving our democracy was still more theory than theorem.

So we built It's an easy-to-use online platform that allows ANYONE to view, vote on, and submit questions for candidates running in 46 of the most competitive races nationwide. Basically, it is a vehicle for you to explain what you actually care about to the people campaigning to represent you in government. It's that simple.

On Sept. 21 the 10 highest-ranked questions in each race will be submitted to the candidates. They'll be able to answer each question (via video) at any length they want; we want to get past soundbites in the quest for substance (we're optimists here!). Then, come Oct. 15, ANYONE will be able to vote on whether or not the candidates actually answered the questions. The point? To create a feedback loop that rewards candidates for talking like normal people, not consultants' wind-up toys.

For campus activists, 10Questions can be your organizations'/issues' one stop shop for mobilizing your members, rallying them around a specific action, and most importantly, providing tangible results when the candidates speak on the record on the issues that matter most to you. Yeah, it's that rad. And we've taken it a step further by partnering with the largest and coolest media outlets where these races are taking place.  They're not only encouraging their readers to take part, but also showcasing YOUR questions and votes on their websites via our handy dandy embeddable widget (example here).

So, as you head back to campus, figure out where your classes are and who that impossibly cute babe is a few rows in front of you in your [insert boring class name here] lecture, I encourage you to take advantage of 10Questions. After all, we built it to cut through the noise and give voice in the political process to those not traditionally thought of as "mainstream;" I'm looking at you, college students.

Using this handy dandy widget you can view, vote on, and submit questions to the candidates in your state. Go on, give it a try.