Using Civic Tech to Put People Over Politics (sometimes you just want to change the world.)

About CommonAlly

CommonAlly seeks to re-frame the nation’s political discourse through issue-based content, education, and activation that will accelerate and foster civic engagement of young voters. The CommonAlly iOS app, built in partnership with Infinity Interactive and launched in June 2019, is a non-partisan, centralized platform that incentivizes users to take action on issues they care about.

We came to Infinity Interactive with a big idea of reinventing civic engagement for young people. From the first meeting, it was clear they had the technical expertise and depth of knowledge to execute our vision. Throughout the entire development process it was their steadfast work ethic that truly solidified our relationship. Every step of the way they offered highly valuable advice and guidance to build the best possible product. Their insightful solutions and team-based approach culminated in a best-of-breed app that exceeded our expectations.

- Howard Brodwin, Co-Founder of CommonAlly

iOS App • Web Apps • APIs

The problem

Ugh. Politics. It’s become so polarizing that many people are tuning out entirely, especially young people. For a lot of us, it can be hard to filter out the partisan noise to really understand the issues and where candidates stand on each.

For Aaron Lyles, the founder and CEO of CommonAlly, this divisive state of affairs is personal. He sees it as a profound threat not only to the nation, but to his family’s future. And while a lot of us feel the same, not many quit their job, sell their house, and commit to “find a solution for misinformation, division, and disengagement.” That’s exactly what Aaron did when he founded CommonAlly.

Aaron may be new to political organizing and activism, but he has expertise in viral content and digital acquisition strategies. Pair that with his drive and genuine passion for change, and he was uniquely qualified for creating a vibrant and thriving digital community of civic engagement for college-age citizens so they can become informed voters.

The vision

To make real change, CommonAlly wanted to go beyond the concept of “changing the narrative” around politics, to go further and change the expectations of a group often overlooked by the political establishment: young people.

CommonAlly’s vision was to think beyond parties and election cycles and instead take the long-term approach to engagement: create an ecosystem of resources to give people a path to “activate”—in a meaningful way—around issues important to them.

To make this happen, CommonAlly knew they needed to reach their target demographic where they live: their phones.

It wasn’t enough to just create “an app.” To rise above the noise in a crowded app market, the CommonAlly team saw the need—and opportunity—to use design (UI) as the hook/conduit to provide an effortless and engaging experience for a group of people that are savvy, short on time, and who want to get the most impact with the least resistance.

Not having a technical founder on our team, we knew we would need more than a quick fix or an on-budget solution for our first custom mobile application. We needed a partner; a team of experts who would take a customized approach to our product and we needed it to stand out in an industry that’s growing increasingly more crowded.

Infinity dug in and created a product that we're incredibly proud of while also creating a structure and cadence around the process that made our own operations far more efficient.

– Aaron Lyles CEO and Founder of CommonAlly

The challenge

Apps don’t build themselves, and good ones cost money. CommonAlly needed a technology partner who understood the vision and was moved by Aaron’s passion. At Infinity, we quickly recognized a deep simpatico with Aaron’s passion project, so we signed on as an early partner and investor so we could help bring his plans to fruition.

For the app to reach its full potential, CommonAlly would need outside investment. And while investors are intrigued by ideas, they are much more likely to invest when there is an actual real product they can interact and engage with. And if we were going to build “something” as proof for investors, we were going to do it right, and build something that would have actual value for users right out of the gate. It might not have all the features on the roadmap, but people who came in contact with CommonAlly would come away more informed.

For Infinity, the biggest challenge was the calendar. The goal was to launch ahead of the first Democratic debate—giving us just two months to go from design comps to an app worthy of user engagement. Lucky for CommonAlly, working on dynamic projects under tight timeframes is where Infinity shines.

Three example screenshots of the CommonAlly mobile application

We had hoped for a simple, yet functional application. What we received was a polished, stunning app that we’re proud to go to market with. And we gained some meaningful relationships to boot.

– Aaron Lyles, CEO and Founder of CommonAlly

The product

Toward the goal of putting “people over politics” the CommonAlly app provides a central location for users to get more informed about:

  • Voter registration—Register to vote directly in the app
  • Candidates overview—Their signature issues, where they stand, how they’ve voted on issues, when they declared, and how much money they’ve raised
  • Candidate matching—See how your interests and concerns match with the candidates
  • Issues—Information on key voting issues and topics, as well as deciphering political jargon and election processes
  • Debates—Stream video of the debates
  • Notifications—Push notifications for events or updates
  • Donate—Support candidates through donations
  • Polls—Opinion polls on key issues
  • Community—Gain a positive civic engagement experience

Behind the scenes, the CommonAlly team can:

  • Manage content—Nothing in politics is static, so the CommonAlly team needs the ability to add and update app content
  • Measure—Use analytics to determine what’s effective and what’s missing

The results

CommonAlly set a goal of soft-launching ahead of the first Democratic debate and attaining 500 users within the first three months. CommonAlly crushed that target, launching in June 2019 and attracting over 500 users within a week of the first production release of the app and over 1,000 active and engaged users by the end of their first three months of operation. The CommonAlly team was ecstatic with the response from their user community and is continuing to add new features and expand their reach to new groups.

The recognition

CommonAlly continues to receive recognition from and invitations to participate in the political discussions of the day. Some recent recognition includes:

  • In September 2019, CommonAlly was invited to join the MSNBC/Gabby Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas.
  • In October 2019, CommonAlly was presented at Politicon 2020 in Nashville, TN.
    • CommonAlly conducted over 100 interviews with constituents, presidential candidates, celebrities, journalists and influencers. Folks from Bill Weld to Randy Rainbow, from Touré to Maya Wiley spoke to CommonAlly. These interviews and more will continue to be added to the app.
  • In December 2019, Aaron and team were in Hollywood to discuss CommonAlly with SNL alum Darrell Hammond and political pundit Louie Sabatasso in a round-table political summit.
  • CommonAlly social content has been shared by Pete Buttigieg, Bill Weld, Tom Steyer, Jammal Lemy and more!

The response

The response from users has been overwhelmingly positive, as demonstrated by the 4.8/5 rating for the app in the Apple App Store as of December 2019. Reviewers highlight the app’s unbiased posture, ease of use, and success in breaking down complex ideas for universal understanding. They praise the app, saying:

  • ”’s amazing how this app breaks down complex ideas so anyone can understand them…”
  • “This is the most exciting app to enter American politics today!!!”
  • “...Besides being very informative it’s entertaining and very well executed!”
  • “...I LOVE this app.”
  • “It is a breath of fresh air to have a non partisan app that breaks down politics to its simplest form.”

Read more glowing reviews on the CommonAlly App Store page.

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