Civic Media Lunch: "Civic Engagement via SMS" | MIT Center for Civic Media

Thursday, December 1, 2011 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

MIT Media Lab, E15-344

RSVPs now closed.

The age of e-mail is ending. A recent PEW study found that email is now the least used form of digital communication for young people, with 11% of teens engaging in daily email use. On the other hand, as of 2009, over half of teens were communicating daily via texting (SMS), up almost 50% from 2006. For civic organizations, SMS open rates of texts are near 100%, whereas email open rates often hover between 5 - 15%.

Moving forward, organizations wishing to communicate effectively, especially with young people, must develop mobile strategies. Nancy Lublin, Bob Filbin, and Stephanie Shih from will describe some of the opportunities and limitations of SMS as a communication tool, particularly for driving user behavior. They will discuss learnings from some initial experiments designed to maximize engagement via SMS, as well as provide their insights into trends to watch for the coming years.

Since August 2003, CEO and Chief Old Person Nancy Lublin has overseen's growth and led the effort to begin awarding more grant money to young people who want to make a difference. She turned the organization from a debt-ridden, "old school" not-for-profit with offices in multiple cities nationwide, to a fast-moving internet-y company capturing the attention of a generation of doers.


Bob Filbin analyzes data for fun. He also happens to do it for his job, which is awesome. The most important thing Bob has learned from statistics is that everything has a probability—there's a probability that Bob will some day be President, will own the Utah Jazz, and will have a swimming pool filled with root beer and an ice cream island. Bob loves working at Do Something because he knows the probability that young people will change the world is 100%.


Stephanie Han-yu Shih handles user experience at Do Something. She loves looking at and making spreadsheets (weird, she knows), which helps her make sure Do Something users are getting the most out of our site and programs. She interacts with young people every day via SMS (omg lol amirite?) by helping them use technology as a vital tool in offline action. Stephanie also runs the office book club, but so far it's only read one book.

Previously, Stephanie managed special projects at a grassroots non-profit working to organize and support young farmers in America. She's a food activist and a feminist, which means she has a lot of opinions (sharing food is a form of communication! why you gotta be so sexist!). In her free time Stephanie likes to re-imagine New York's landscape as an urban pastoral and is doing her part by growing 20+ kinds of veggies and herbs in someone else's backyard (he's pictured at right, cut off, whoops). Her last name is pronounced like the pronoun and she "really relates" to the web comic Pictures for Sad Children.