How to use your smartphone as a tool for good
Your smartphone is great for staying connected with your friends and family, playing games, browsing social media and watching funny cat videos. But it can also be a tool to make positive social progress in our world.
Whether you’re looking to make change in your community, hold your lawmakers accountable, or help those less fortunate, your smartphone can be an important tool for good. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your phone to make a positive difference.
Register to Vote
One of the best ways to make your voice heard and create change is by exercising your right to vote — and that starts by ensuring you are able to access the ballot box in your community by registering to vote. Our grantees at Vote.org have a number of simple tools you can access right from your smartphone or computer to check your voter registration status, locate polling places and dropboxes, access your ballot information for upcoming elections, and, of course, tools to help you register to vote.
The first 2022 primary elections are only a couple months away, so it’s never too early to check your voter registration status and register to vote. Visit Vote.org to learn more.
Donate surplus food to people experiencing hunger
Here’s a stunning statistic: Food waste accounts for roughly 30-40% of America’s food supply. And another stunner: more 38 million people, including 12 million children, are considered food insecure in our country.
What if we could ensure some of that perfectly good but potentially wasted food can be donated to people experiencing hunger instead? Thankfully, we can, and your smartphone can help.
If you’re a business owner with surplus food, or know someone who is, our allies at Feeding America have an app, MealConnect (iOS and Android), that will connect businesses with extra food with local food banks in their area. It’s easy to sign up, connect to a local food bank, take photos of your food, and wait for a volunteer to pick up the food.
Not a business owner? Use this tool from Feeding America to find a food bank near you who is currently accepting food donations, and find out which foods they will accept (self-stable and non-perishable) and not accept.
Support people facing online harassment
Research shows that four in ten Americans have experienced online harassment, with women and BIPOC communities more likely to face severe online abuse. Our grantees at Hollaback! are working to end harassment in all its forms by transforming the culture that perpetuates hate and harassment. One of the main pillars of their work is bystander intervention by training people to respond to, intervene in, and heal from harassment.
HeartMob is Hollaback!’s digital platform designed to provide immediate support to people experiencing online threats, doxxing, impersonation, DDoS attacks, swatting, and, more recently, zoom-bombing.
The HeartMob platform provides peer support, resources, and documentation for individuals experiencing online harassment. Bystanders are given tools to take concrete actions that reduce individual trauma and help build safer online spaces. User’s experiences are validated, their mental health supported, and their accounts remain secure, online, and generating content without disruption. To date, the platform has provided tools for internet users who have provided over 9,370 bystander interventions against harassment and abuse. HeartMob won Netroots Nation’s “best new product” award in 2016 and received an endorsement from the New York Times editorial board. With HeartMob, everyone has a role in providing support. For more information, or to take action against online harassment today, see iheartmob.org
Start a Petition
Maybe you want your city council to protect a local watershed, you’re fired up about combating climate change, or you want Congress to protect your community from gun violence — and you want to take action now.
Luckily, you can start a petition to get your neighbors — or activists across the country — to join you and get the attention of important decision makers. Our friends at MoveOn.org have an easy-to-use, people-powered tool that allows anyone to build a petition on the issues you care about to let you start gathering signatures right away.
To learn more and get started creating your own petition, visit https://sign.moveon.org/.
Record an interaction with law enforcement
In 2020, a bystander’s cell phone video turned the tide after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in bringing his killers to justice — and ignited a national reckoning for police reform and racial justice.
Today, everyone who owns a smartphone holds the power in their hand to ensure accountability and their own safety by recording interactions or misconduct with law enforcement. Our grantees at the Electronic Frontier Foundation believe you have a First Amendment right to record your interaction with the police, as long as you are not interfering with their official duties.
Our allies at the American Civil Liberties Union offer a mobile app that helps you easily record, witness and report police interactions and misconduct right from your phone. The app also lets you add additional information, share your location and include contact information for follow up from the ACLU affiliate. The free app is available for iOS and Android on the ACLU’s website.
Here are some additional resources if you are interested in learning more.