Strengthening representative democracy with a single tap

Ian Webster wanted to shorten the distance between people and their elected representatives. He used the Twilio platform to create Call Congress, which allows people to call a single number and be routed to their specific senators and representatives.

Impact

10,000

Calls transmitted from people to elected officials

Representative democracies only work if you’re actually represented. But most people don’t know their representatives’ phone numbers or are too busy to look them up. So Ian Webster created Call Congress, which immediately connects people to each of their respective senators and representatives with a single call to 844-USA-0234. When one conversation is finished, Call Congress immediately directs the caller to the next office on his or her list.

The app makes it possible for Americans to advocate for policy change by using one of the most powerful tools they own—their phone.

Twilio Products

  • Programmable SMS
  • Programmable Voice
  • Conference

“I created the app because even though it’s easy to look up your reps’ phone numbers, the friction was still too high. … I’d rather just store this number in my phone, knowing that I can reach all my senators and representatives with one tap.”

Ian Webster, founder, Call Congress

Creating an app in an evening

Ian built the app in one evening using Twilio’s Programmable SMS, Voice, and Conference.

The open-source app is deceptively simple. After calling the number, constituents just enter in their zip code and then are automatically connected with their representative. Pressing star will forward them to their next rep.

“I created the app because even though it’s easy to look up your reps’ phone numbers, the friction was still too high, as you need to find the site, enter your information, and place four separate phone calls,” Ian explains. “Instead of doing all that, I’d rather just store this number in my phone, knowing that I can reach all my senators and representatives with one tap.”

A phone call can be a powerful tool for policy change. Politicians’ phones ring just like everyone else’s. A call is a record of a person’s voice and opinion. Each day, representatives receive a brief of how many constituents called and which issues they called about. Call Congress creates momentum on important issues by giving concerned citizens a voice.

Bridging the technical gap

Ian narrowed the gap between citizens and elected officials because it seemed like the right thing to do, and as an engineer, he could do it. Ian soon followed up with Speak Louder, an app that gives activists increased ownership of the tools they need to advocate.

Relying on the same Twilio Conference, SMS, and Voice tools as Call Congress, Speak Louder empowers activists to set up their own phone lines, create landing pages for their calls in campaigns, and send text messages to their supporters. They don’t have to rely on third-party services to make changes to their call-in lines or put up with someone else’s voice greeting their supporters.

“It’s a lot more compelling if you call a conference line and hear the voice of an organizer,” Ian says. “It’s better if the activists own this themselves.”

While Call Congress received a slew of retweets, Facebook shares, and comments, Ian believes Speak Louder will drive more people to action because they can click “call” on a specific campaign page.

The common thread for both apps? Simplicity. Reducing the friction between people and their representatives allows people to feel more connected to their government and more engaged in their democracy.

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Ian built the app in one evening using Twilio’s Programmable SMS, Voice, and Conference.

The open-source app is deceptively simple. After calling the number, constituents just enter in their zip code and then are automatically connected with their representative. Pressing star will forward them to their next rep.

“I created the app because even though it’s easy to look up your reps’ phone numbers, the friction was still too high, as you need to find the site, enter your information, and place four separate phone calls,” Ian explains. “Instead of doing all that, I’d rather just store this number in my phone, knowing that I can reach all my senators and representatives with one tap.”

A phone call can be a powerful tool for policy change. Politicians’ phones ring just like everyone else’s. A call is a record of a person’s voice and opinion. Each day, representatives receive a brief of how many constituents called and which issues they called about. Call Congress creates momentum on important issues by giving concerned citizens a voice.

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Ian narrowed the gap between citizens and elected officials because it seemed like the right thing to do, and as an engineer, he could do it. Ian soon followed up with Speak Louder, an app that gives activists increased ownership of the tools they need to advocate.

Relying on the same Twilio Conference, SMS, and Voice tools as Call Congress, Speak Louder empowers activists to set up their own phone lines, create landing pages for their calls in campaigns, and send text messages to their supporters. They don’t have to rely on third-party services to make changes to their call-in lines or put up with someone else’s voice greeting their supporters.

“It’s a lot more compelling if you call a conference line and hear the voice of an organizer,” Ian says. “It’s better if the activists own this themselves.”

While Call Congress received a slew of retweets, Facebook shares, and comments, Ian believes Speak Louder will drive more people to action because they can click “call” on a specific campaign page.

The common thread for both apps? Simplicity. Reducing the friction between people and their representatives allows people to feel more connected to their government and more engaged in their democracy.

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