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Incubator

Call for Applications: Equis Digital and Tech Incubator

 

The Equis Digital and Tech Incubator is a home for ideas that use digital and tech innovation to create a more active Latinx electorate, but have not yet found the support they need to launch or reach scale. Accepted applicants receive seed funding (or other support needed to get to proof of concept), leadership development and fellowship, and a space to experiment.

Individuals, organizations and firms are welcome to apply. Applications for the first round will close at 11:59 PM EDT on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

Click HERE to apply.

The problem: Old modes of thinking about Latinx voters, and outdated infrastructure to engage them, leaves many in the Latinx community disconnected from the political process—leading to lower rates of participation and less power. As a result, often our voters aren't being targeted; when they are targeted they are not being reached; and when they are being reached it is with approaches and messages that aren't connecting. Too common are the tales of culturally inept content, whether mail that was run through Google Translate or a tone-deaf digital ad touting a progressive candidate as "a real American." This leaves our voters at a deficit of information and motivation.

Meanwhile, it is no mystery where to find Latinos. Digital and tech adoption is sky-high among Latinos, creating an opportunity that has been so far under-developed. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics use social media. About half are on Facebook. We massively over-index on WhatsApp. We are more likely to own a smartphone, a game console or a smartwatch than other groups, and more likely to stream video on a phone or tablet.

Our solution: We are looking to solve old problems in new ways, by using digital tools, tactics or platforms to expand the scale of our outreach, increase its efficiency, and/or improve the effectiveness of current tactics.

Equis is committed to being a home for leaders in the Latinx community who have ideas with the potential to create a more active Latino electorate but haven't found yet the support they need to launch or reach scale. We offer funding, leadership development and fellowship, and the space to experiment.

Our goal is to get to a more active, informed and progressive Latinx electorate—as defined by voter turnout, participation in other democratic activities (volunteering, political giving), and/or support for progressive causes or candidates.

Our Grantmaking Approach: We are focused on proposals with a clear vision for engaging a segment of the Latinx community at scale and/or in great depth—especially a segment that might otherwise not be engaged in this way, if at all.

An Equis-supported project will represent a new approach, fill a real-world need, and demonstrate a profound cultural understanding of the community it seeks to engage.

While we look to voter turnout as a key metric, we encourage solutions that emphasize connection on a broader set of interests—culture, identity, issues, and/or current events, for example. (While we are open to better GOTV tactics, we are more interested in efforts that make a voter more receptive to existing GOTV tactics, by helping them discover a reason to care about the election or feel more confident about making a decision at the ballot box.)

We want to encourage alignment, integration and critical feedback loops with field programs and in-person organizing, where relevant.

While we value long-term thinking, we will prioritize projects that can get to proof-of-concept in a short timeframe (over 2-6 months) and have the potential to show significant growth in a 12-14 month period beyond that.

Click HERE to apply.

 

Key Categories

Below are key gaps and opportunities we have identified in the Latinx-focused digital space. Equis’ grantmaking is NOT limited to these categories, but they are our starting point.

  1. Online Audience/Community Building and Content Distribution: Building large, organic, authentic communities online is a way to engage key groups in a manner that results in more responsive audiences and a higher likelihood of action.

  2. Message and Content Creation: There is always the need for more content that is being developed by and for a Latinx audience. "Content" is a broad term, necessarily so, and includes the production of videos, images, or writing in its variety of forms, across platforms and purposes, and encompassing the highly-polished long-form video essay on YouTube as much as it does a funny user-generated video on TikTok.

  3. Message Testing and Refinement: Digital tools allow for the testing and segmentation of a large variety of messages, to identify the approaches that best resonate with different subgroups of Latinx voters for purposes of advocacy/action, political persuasion, or electoral mobilization/motivation.

  4. Modernizing Organizing: Connecting Offline to Online: There is no substitute for in-person, offline organizing, but there are ways to complement, augment or improve existing methods. From new ways about thinking about data that does not currently exist on voter files, to innovative, proven ways to do texting and relational organizing tech tools—these approaches can help us expand the scale of the work, increase its efficiency, and/or improve the effectiveness of current tactics.

  5. Voter Registration: There are millions of eligible but unregistered Latinx voters across the country. Between population growth, voter purges, and the mobility of many communities, registration is an ever-expanding need that requires additional ways to reach scale.

  6. Ballot Education: Ballot education is not just about information, but about building up the confidence of irregular voters. A lack of confidence in their preparation is a key factor in the voting behavior of a key subset of Latinx voters, as confirmed by recent research on participation. Those who feel they don’t have the information they need to confidently fill out a ballot often skip voting altogether.

  7. Other Experiments:

Disinformation: News reports have widely reported Russian targeted efforts targeting African Americans, Latinos, liberals and members of the LGBTQ community in the 2016 election with the overall aim to sow distrust and get voters to boycott the election, abstain from voting for Clinton, or spread cynicism about participation in the election in general. Their influence reached 126 million people on Facebook, at least 20 million users on Instagram, 1.4 million users on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos on YouTube. Plain and simple: our community is a target to drive a wedge and immigration will continue to be an issue where outside forces will try to drive increased animus through misinformation.

Crowdfunding: The Latinx community does not have a deep bench of wealthy political donors. As a result, candidates and organizations are over-reliant on foundation, PAC and corporate money and unfortunately that often does not leave much room to deviate or experiment. Given the depth and breadth of the community, identifying ways to tap into smaller donations from more people could potentially create a new source of funding for groups, organizations and causes that leads to more sustainability longer term.

 

Wishlist

While we are keeping our criteria wide, there are specific kinds of proposals we know we’d like to see, based on the depth of the need and the potential for impact. Those would include proposals that tackle any of these gaps:

  1. Media property and/or content distribution platform with a unique hook for building a Latinx audience

  2. Engagement via WhatsApp

  3. Engagement via YouTube

  4. A plan to generate Spanish-first digital content

  5. Test(s) of voter registration, whether for online or off-line, whether using or augmenting voter file data

  6. A proposal that incorporates or test influencers (Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/Snapchat personalities)

  7. Implementation of values-based modeling (e.g. Peoria Project), with audience segmentation, content creation and distribution

  8. Test of GOTV messages/tactics beyond social pressure

  9. Novel implementation of digital tool(s) in real-life organizing

 

Questions? Email us at incubator@equislabs.us