Last week I was teaching “IDEA week” to my mid-career Sloan Fellow executive students. IDEA (innovation-driven entrepreneurial advantage;-)) is a week when we usually explore how innovation provides entrepreneurs with the advantage they need to really build a business that has competitive advantage and can compete with large established firms – either in new markets or providing new functionality.

At MIT we have a wealth of examples of technological innovations that can potentially solve important problems. But with our technology focused mindset, it can sometimes be hard to find great examples of entrepreneurs uncovering new needs – problems we never knew we needed solving that no focus group would ever reveal. Here is an example of a tremendous new company doing just that – PopVox.

PopVox is a new platform that helps individuals find their voice as citizens. In the same way that Facebook helps us buid our personal profile and LinkedIn builds our professional profile, PopVox can get us all excited about building our civic profile. At the moment, the site connected interested citizens with the complex, labyrinthine Congressional world, allowing them to easily “send” their congressman or women or their Senator their position on specific pieces of legislation, to add personal comments and to share this with their friends. Just last week, the House Democrats integrated with POPVOX’s API. They’ll now receive real time public sentiment data and organizational endorsements via POPVOX (more here).

Time will tell whether we are as interested in sharing our political sentiment and civic views with one another but with an election coming up, the chance to share our views with elected leaders in a way that feels relevant, seamless and more meaningful than writing a letter has the potential to get traction and shape public debate.

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