Posted June 14th 2010 at 12:05 am by
in The Urban Labs

Students Take to SMS for Organizing in Brooklyn

For the past month we at The Urban Labs have been engaged in our first experiment with SMS as an organizing tool. The Urban Labs, working with Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA), provided an SMS deck for an event campaign that would allow young people to collect RSVP’s through SMS and subsequently facilitate event activities through the same deck.

Through the curriculum being taught by IJJRA, the students helped plan an assembly for their fellow high school students to promote street peace. The messages, were expressed through a student generated video and voted on by the assembly. The students, prepared a talent show highlighting nonviolent philosophies. The students collected close to 400 names for the show through SMS.

The Urban Labs created two use cases for the event sign in and voting system. Both were used very successfully at the event, but the sign in, a wordle (or web-generated word cloud) activity, was a unique way to use texting at a meeting to capture individual feelings and show them collectively, while tracking all the data.

We asked the young people to text in thoughts they have concerning violence, prisons and peace. Here’s some video.


Seeing their own words, seeing the collective response experience of the room created an energetic reaction.  The young people then began texting in additional responses and IJJRA asked the students to do it again. This was a great indication of how SMS can be used to deepen face-to-face interactions.

The Urban Labs will be releasing a full evaluation of this experiment done in West Brooklyn High School. Big Shout out to Urban Labs board members Rick Borovoy and Chuck Baker for making it happen.

This post is by Malia Lazu and originally appeared on The Urban Labs site. Read more about The Urban Labs’ projects on Malia’s blog feed on CoLab Radio.

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