By Betsy Sinclair of Washington University in St. Louis

“Are you frustrated that you see a need in your community that isn’t met by government or industry? Do you believe that need could be remedied through purposeful action? Will you ask your family, friends and neighbors to help initiate change? If that description fits you, join us.”


Magnify is an action network that I founded with friends to connect like-minded people to help solve civic, political, and environmental projects. We match people to projects that need help: projects where making a phone call or volunteering can help make a neighborhood better. Magnify leverages the frontier of political behavior research to make civic engagement fun, easy, and social. Magnify is a place for positive engagement and civil discourse.

Here is how Magnify works:

  1. You choose something you care about and propose a project. We host advocacy campaigns, volunteer opportunities, and community events. Have you noticed a pothole that needs filling, a park that needs a new bench, or a local business that needs a changing station in their bathroom? Are you looking for drivers to help get voters to the polls? Is your local food pantry looking for help around Thanksgiving?
  2. You share the project with your friends. As your friends join your project, you’ll see their names. As they take action to help, they’ll earn civic engagement points and their icons will change color.
  3. We match your project to people who share your interests and concerns. All Magnify users have a personalized experience, where we match projects to you based upon your interests and geography.

We have been working with projects from the political science community – both directly and indirectly — by providing a forum for faculty and students to learn strategies for civic engagement and activism. We build communities, so after several hundred political science faculty signed Stanford professors Adam Bonica and Michael McFaul’s letter in the Washington Post advocating for universities to treat election day as a holiday, we provided those faculty a forum where they could take action and talk about their experiences rallying their universities to action (link: Project members, for example, used the group chat to discuss the language they employed when writing to university administrators. If we work together, we are better at finding solutions that work.

As political science faculty, perhaps our greatest role is that of teaching, so that we have been able to use Magnify as a tool to demonstrate the efficacy of civic engagement – we’ve been successful in making both Clayton and WUSTL more bike accessible, we’ve supported fundraising for a local school district’s food pantry, and we’re currently working to support bus riders (who need benches, shelters, and regularly-emptied trash cans) in Ferguson, MO. If you’d like to use Magnify in your classroom, we’ve prepared a set of teaching materials to illustrate how to use Magnify as a tool for experiential learning and civic engagement. We hope to channel your students’ anger into action and to help train the next generation of civic leaders.

Neighborhood, community, and a responsible civic life – this is what the Magnify community cares about. Together our voices are heard. We care a lot about your neighborhood. We know you have a good idea. It’s time to make it happen. Join us today!

About the Author: Betsy Sinclair is a Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St Louis, 2019 MPSA Conference Program Co-Chair, and the co-founder of Magnify. You can find Sinclair and Magnify on Twitter.