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The Challenge


How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact? Read the challenge brief


Shared Worldview Communities to Supercharge Activism

Take a beliefs quiz to identify your core moral values. Join a supportive community whose political judgement you trust. Share solutions, collaborate across the belief spectrum, pool resources, accomplish big things in your city and the world.

        ----------------------  What do we propose to do?  ----------------------

Imagine a world where you have support from a community you trust fully, one that works on your behalf, and provides meaningful work when you have 5 minutes or 5 hours. You can be proud knowing you’re part of the solution.

We’ve found a way to create this world using psychology and technology that didn’t exist until today. As Tim O’Reilly says, “the pieces are in place and the time is right.”

The House Foundation (THF) will:
  • Create a values-based quiz and a political social networking platform to connect users with similar worldviews
  • Build communities, called houses, founded on trust of ethical/political judgment
  • Reveal and spread solutions that have been effective in one community to other houses
  • Highlight clear, actionable next steps to make progress on social issues
  • Facilitate connections between houses and experts
  • Encourage collaboration and discourse across the political/belief spectrum

The effect will be to:
  • Eliminate the feeling of being an "island of one"
  • Create supportive environments where people with collective will and purpose will pursue solutions aligned with their values
  • Empower people to take collective action to improve their own communities
  • Shape the path to activism
  • Make it easy for people to contribute to solutions that are personally meaningful regardless of how popular those solutions have been in the past
  • Increase compassion and empathy, leading to creation of better public policy

Perhaps you don't have the time or the right skills to affect change on your own, but what if there were a hundred, or even a thousand of you, all pitching in and working together, with their own talents contributing, with whatever time they have, to feed the homeless? To mentor children? To change the system so everyone has a warm place to sleep at night and our children learn the skills they need to be successful? To make the world better?

The people who might be interested in houses are activists, those seeking to connect with others, and people longing for purpose and a path to make a difference in the world.

People don’t have time to fit activism into their lives, to effectively sift through the mass of information to find suggestions or organizations they trust. By expanding the political spectrum, connecting people with shared values, encouraging discourse across communities, and spreading small actions people can take, we can make it easy for everyone to contribute. We can enable thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world.

In the future, houses will be provided with tools to help them be fully democratic, electing leadership, and using tools like direct voting and argumentation systems to both encourage critical thinking and better inform policy makers about public opinions.

   ----------------   How We’re Different: Hard Lessons Learned  -------------------
                                                    in Political Social Networking  

1.   Our platform doesn’t rely on mass adoption!
One of the fatal flaws of many well-intentioned political social networks is that they rely on mass adoption to provide their core value. THF will have value in connecting its first few users since it only takes a single connection to find an equal partner.

2.   Our platform doesn’t rely on general consensus!
Another convenient myth in political social networking is that more participation and deliberation will lead to general consensus solutions. In reality, most of our disagreements are based on values that evolve very slowly if at all, not after hearing well structured arguments. Diversity of opinion is natural and beneficial; minority-supported solutions can be highly effective and may elicit passionate support from portions of the population. THF helps people find the solutions that appeal to them, and provides them with a simple path to action. We want to find the voices that aren’t heard.

3.   Our platform makes real world connections then gets out of the way
, except to celebrate and spread successes and help overcome challenges. We will foster face-to-face communication and collaboration, not mediate it. We don’t want to be Facebook, or to keep people on our site unnecessarily.

4.   Our platform has a buildable MVP
. Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the belief quiz and matching tools, and a lean team to work with our expert network, provide resources to houses, and implement our business models.

5.   Our platform isn’t an opinion site. Opinions have value, particularly when they’re between genuine citizens and their exact elected officials, but we’re not trying to create value on our site, we’re trying to create value through it.

6.   Our platform spreads solutions based on success, not just popularity. As the Heath brothers would say, we are focused on bright spots, examples of what is working well in local communities.

7.   Our platform facilitates person-to-person solutions and system-wide change. If you care about stormwater runoff, we’ll connect you with someone running a rain-barrel program as well as a petition for a new stormwater runoff law.

    -----------    How will we facilitate open government and enable    ------------
                                   citizens to drive change in their communities? 

Houses will become uber constituents: self-organized, democratic, focused, and capable of being equal partners with government for projects at every scale. THF will sustain the ground swell of political/social interest between elections, giving people an easy onboarding process to convert their passion into action.

THF will facilitate open government by: 
  • Providing ideal communities for government to pilot solutions 
  • Encouraging information exchange and collaboration between government and houses
  • Ensuring government awareness of the solutions acceptable to people affected by given issues
  • Connecting government to residents on a personal level

THF will enable citizens to drive change in their communities by: 
  • Providing alternative solutions that are in line with a house’s beliefs
  • Connecting houses to nonpartisan technical or legislative experts
  • Acting as a knowledge sharing network between houses and organizations, e.g., charities or local nonprofits

       ----------------------------   Why It Works  

There are four lessons we’ve learned that define our project. Here are the relevant insights and the minds behind them:

1. Encouraging discourse between people with differing viewpoints will lead to increased empathy and stronger policies. Jonathan Haidt researches how moral psychology shapes our political views. It’s striking, the notion that prioritization of ethical beliefs drives political opinions.

2. Cohesive value-driven groups are unusually effective, and can be grown to act well beyond themselves.
David Logan researches organizations, how they evolve and their social effectiveness.

3. Open, democratic organizations can make intelligent, holistic decisions about their actions and governance.
Duverger and others over the last 200 years, and in particular with the recent Gov2.0 movement supported by people such as Tim O’Reilly and Clay Shirky, have discovered more functional and democratic methods of electing representatives and structuring citizen (or member) controlled governing bodies.

4. Fostering small actions in just the right places often leads to world-shaping change.
Chip and Dan Heath research and write about changing people's behavior through psychology and system change. David Allen and Merlin Mann write and speak about personal and organizational productivity.

Organizations that embody elements of these principles exist today. If you look, you will find pockets of people with shared beliefs who express those beliefs by improving their communities and societies. It might look like a church group serving food at a homeless shelter, a grassroots organization fighting for better health outcomes for low-income families, or an environmental nonprofit building peer support networks.

We call organizations that embody all four of our principles houses. We’d like to introduce you to yours.

     --------------    How would we use the news challenge funds?    --------------
                         How would we sustain the project after funding expires? 

We’re seeking funds to:
  1. Work with experts/partners to write the quiz and matching algorithms.
  2. License or build a simple web tool to execute the quiz, determine the best matches, and facilitate grassroots solution sharing approaches, ideally using resources such as Code for America. Then start connecting people.
  3. Support a lean team of staff to execute the above, grow our expert network, and work with houses.
  4. Develop a plan for next stage capabilities of THF such as more sophisticated house support and organizational consulting.
  5. Develop business models such as matching people with ideological organizations such as charities and foundations, and consulting services for houses and house-like organizations.

We have been developing THF conceptually for years, it is only just now getting started as an entity. We will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and all of our software will be developed and licensed as Open Source. Further, in recognizing the academic value of our anonymized data we will make it available for academics doing research in the field.

    ---------------------------   Who’s working on it?   ----------------------------

Lucas Dailey is Chief Innovation Officer at, his third political social network. Lucas is a UX/UI designer with a background in visual/behavioral psychology and politics/government who has been working in the political social network space for the last five years, most recently as the CEO of Our Ballot Box, Inc. THF evolved out of a multi-year visioning of solutions to political dysfunction and short-sightedness.

Lee Shanahan has seven years experience managing time-sensitive projects for technical support teams. Lee spent two years training and developing managers at a stage 4 organization, and stays current on the latest research in leadership, organizational development, and behavioral psychology. Her statistics background, affinity for applying systems thinking to complex situations, and deep-seated desire to improve the world led to her interest in developing THF.

Because of their complementary experience in the relevant industries Lucas and Lee are the right team to lead the creation and development of The House Foundation and its worldview-defining and organization-building social networking software.

    ----------------------------------  Partners  -----------------------------------

The House Foundation team and advisors will expand to continue integrating the forefront of political, psychological, and behavioral research to make The House Foundation and houses themselves models for other activist organizations and even governments.

To create the belief survey we’ve received input from the research team that works with Jonathan Haidt,, regarding ethical foundations and the current academic research surrounding politics and morals, as well as connected with Sam Yagan, founder of OKCupid, regarding ideas on how to reframe and make awesome the online questionnaire. We have guidance from the First Unitarian Society (a spiritual and ethics-based community focused on social justice and activism) regarding community building and social justice practices. We connected with the Ford Foundation about their work with democratic governance and will seek further advice from them going forward. We plan to reach out to Michael Sandel regarding his work with political philosophy, David Logan regarding his work with organizational culture, and the Harvard Law Lab regarding contemporary government structures.

    ---------------------------------   Summary  -----------------------------------

People united and driven by belief have accomplished many of the greatest feats of human history, building spectacular societies and institutions and overcoming our greatest challenges. The House Foundation will create a system for people to find their ideal community and help them create open, democratically run organizations to tackle the hardest problems in our world and imagine the greatest visions of our time.

Find your community. Find your path. Change the world.

    -----------------------------------   F A Q  -------------------------------------

Will houses be too insular? Will they become echo-chambers keeping people isolated?

We completely agree that discourse and introspection are important. In reading the following points about ways The House Foundation promotes discourse and introspection, picture a full spectrum of houses, not just a single house in isolation:

  1. Current research about decision making indicates that when people think in terms of a narrow frame, e.g., “Should I do this or that?” they miss options. By widening the spectrum to include a full range of beliefs, we are helping people understand there are many more options related to viewpoints as well as potential policy decisions. In simple and complex situations, where there are more than two options (e.g., Germany has six political parties), people are more open to new considering new ideas and are more open to feedback from “opposing” viewpoints. 

  2. By helping to break down the “us vs them” mentality that is derived from a two-party or two-option system, we are helping people see their “competitors” as homelessness or hunger or disease instead of the group with the opposing viewpoint.

  3. Houses will form inter-house coalitions on many social/political issues that appeal to their worldviews, e.g., homelessness can be approached from a service angle by serving food or providing shelter, from an advocacy perspective by lobbying for rights or legislation changes. Houses will find each of these solutions virtuous for different reasons. Collaboration across houses and the belief spectrum will be the norm.

  4. Lastly, there will be such substantial ideological overlap between houses that people will have many house different options that are appealing. This will naturally lead to greater introspection, house-switching, and more general curiosity about the views of others.

What is your project? [1 sentence max]

The House Foundation will create a political social network to onboard people into a lifestyle of activism through: a values-based quiz that drives shared worldview communities, revealing individual and systematic solutions to societal/political problems, and empowering people to take collective action.

Where are you located?

Washington / DC / USA
Madison / WI / USA

How did you hear about the contest?

  1. Knight Foundation website
Lee's profile photo
entry submitted by: Lee Shanahan
March 18, 2013, 12:39AM
276 views 5 comments 13 applause Applaud


Join the conversation and post a comment.

March 25, 2013, 12:18PM
Hi Lee and Lucas,

I have a question. Folks take the belief quiz and find themselves together in a house, if I understand correctly. So step 1 is:

1) Goal at this step is to find community in shared house. Facility here is the belief quiz.

What are the other big steps (2, 3 and maybe 4) required to execute a shared solution and effect change in the world (last step)? And very briefly (in a word or two), what is the specific facility that helps at each step?

I understand that other important benefits are to be expected here - personal development, mutual understanding, public freedom through social action - but my question concerns only the objective backbone of practical achievement.

Lucas Dailey's reply to Michael Allan's comment
March 27, 2013, 08:50AM

Great question!

Before I answer it here’s one very minor clarification. When a user completes the Beliefs Quiz they will be presented with an ordered list of houses and people, based on % match for worldview. It’s possible we may give users a non-restrictive nudge into their highest match house, but it shouldn’t be deterministic. Users can choose to join whichever houses will accept them.

As for the question about next steps necessary to effect change, the answer is: it depends. Houses, once formed, are their own entities outside of our control, though presumably we’d have influence particularly if they still wanted to be plugged in and getting members from the Beliefs Quiz. Some “houses” are organizations that already exist, such as religious groups or interest groups. Their beliefs might be very broad and unspecific (as in the case of something like United Way), or very specific but not holistic (Amnesty International, for example). But setting aside existing pseudo-houses that are unlikely to change at all let alone quickly, let’s just look at new houses.

Step 1: Create community in shared house via Beliefs Quiz.
Step 2: Create structure and decision making capability via contemporary government systems and tools.
Step 3: Work directly on issues via shared solution and resource network.

For more detail, see below.

Step 2, in detail:
The purpose of contemporary governmental systems is to allow a large group of people to select their leadership and govern themselves well.

THF will help with this, in a capacity dictated by the next step of our own development. But at a minimum we’ll some suggested options for system that work at different member sizes. A system that works well at 50 might not work for 500, or 50,000.

With each major step beyond the Beliefs Quiz the houses will further differentiate and take their own path based on their beliefs, so it will be increasingly hard to predict how they get to making change. Even the 2nd step about contemporary government tools might not be taken by some that, because of their beliefs, want the independence of not ceding any of their authority. (Every org that you join you cede some amount of your power to, whether it’s the power of your voice, your time or your money.)

Step 3, in detail:
THF will be able to help as of network activists. When one house is interested in a particular solution to a particular social problem, we can connect them with other houses, institutions, and experts working on the same solution.

In general, many actions houses take will look similar to existing efforts for social good. One differentiator for houses will be that they don’t need to work on issues that are popular or socially acceptable. One famous house-like organization is The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They have a somewhat defined worldview that looks for unpopular but critical and under-examined solutions to address poverty, such as their initiative to create better toilets, and their new quest for a better condom. This is a great example of how rare it is for a large institution of progress to both focus on something meaningful and unpopular, and to do it quickly. Imagine a world of lots of Gates Foundations.
March 18, 2013, 09:48PM
Our entries share a lot in terms of philosophy and goals. In fact, the fist step of our solution, Civic IQ, is building the personal profile that helps map your beliefs in the context of the community. Hope we have a chance to discuss this further!
Lucas Dailey's reply to Michael Allan's comment
March 19, 2013, 12:59AM
Great, I'll check it out now! There are so many ways to cut the problem, so many different angles, it's great seeing people put their ideas into practice and learning from users. I'm sure it won't be much longer before at least a few of the many political social networks breaks through and gets serious traction, in terms of impact.
Lee Shanahan's reply to Michael Allan's comment
March 19, 2013, 10:20AM
Would definitely like to learn more about CivicIQ. Let's set up a time to discuss.


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