Social engagement app aims for action


Civnet is a social media platform designed to help communities make an impact on civic and political issues they care about.

CEO and founder Charlie Wisoff, 27, has been working in the field of civic engagement and public participation for the past five years. His challenge was to make communities more empowered, helping them understand how to deliberate issues and then make changes.

Wisoff’s efforts in the field of civic engagement landed him a job at the Kettering Foundation, a research foundation that convenes stakeholders from a variety of sectors to figure out how to make democracy work better for all people. During his time at Kettering, Wisoff noticed there were needs that weren’t being met in the field, sparking his idea for Civnet.

“I was sitting in a board meeting for this national initiative to have dialogues on mental health… and these two leaders in the field were talking about how great it would be to be able to share our databases of constituents with each other giving us a broader reach,” Wisoff recalled. Then, he said, the men turned to one another and said they both knew that wasn’t going to happen. Wisoff’s response: “Why not?”

Online engagement in civic issues is growing

According to the Pew Research Center, over 26 million people in the United States were engaged online in community and political issues as of 2013. Of those 26 million people, only 25 percent of users say that they became more active in said issues.

“There isn’t any platform that allows people to take action, to make a difference, and to make an impact,” Wisoff said. “What I’ve realized when I talk more and more to people is that’s what people really care about at the end of the day and that’s what’s important.”

Civnet allows users to learn what’s happening in their community, connect with others who care about similar issues, then find opportunities to get involved and take action.

Wisoff’s breakthrough is the Civnet “action plans,” that allow users to voice what they believe needs to get done. Users can see historically what’s been done, the conversations people are having, and what they’re doing currently to take action.

“Civnet is your hub for civic, social, and political activity,” Wisoff said. “If you want to understand what’s going on in your community, if you want to connect with other people, if you want to find opportunities to get involved and organize to take action, Civnet is the place to go.”



By Michael Marcotte

Hi, I'm the (first-ever) Professor of Practice in Journalism at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. So I'm very involved in helping students learn multimedia journalism. Before New Mexico, I was the 2012-2013 Reynolds Chair in Ethics of Entrepreneurial and Innovative Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno... and, before that, a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. I'm also very active as a consultant, having spent over 25 years as a news director. My website is or on Twitter: