By Andy Mitchell
A community of activists gathered at Iowa City’s MERGE on Monday night to celebrate the launch of a new online service for grass-roots political involvement called ActWorthy.
CEO and founder of ActWorthy Ross Katz calls his service a “Netflix for political action.”
Entities such as activist groups and political candidates will be able to use the platform to list their events and encourage people to take action. The service also aims to help users connect and find topics that interest them.
“ActWorthy’s mission is to make effective grass-roots political action simple,” Katz said.
Katz, a public-policy major in college, said that while he cares about his country, he had no idea how to get involved. Since 2016, he became more active in politics and believed that different politicians and activist groups were competing for his attention rather than working together to activate him in the way for him to have the biggest effect.
“I thought we had a shared set of values as a country, mostly around the importance of democracy, nonviolence, and nondiscrimination,” Katz said. “The conversation that I heard was not one that continued to support those values.”
The launch party featured a number of guest speakers from different parts of the Iowa City community; most of the attendees wore their political interests on their name tags to encourage conversation.
Guest speaker Iowa City City Councilor Kingsley Botchway read from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous letter from the Birmingham Jail to contextualize his speech, which focused on injustice and empowerment.
“We are waging war against hate, war against systemic oppression, and war against inequality,” Botchway said. “Now is not the time to sit idly by and maintain the status quo.”
Botchway said ActWorthy gets people off their couches and out of their living rooms and demands to empower the community as well as the individual. He also said it is a tool, not a cure.
At the end of his speech, Botchway encouraged the crowd to show up at today’s City Council meeting to support an increase in the city’s affordable housing fund.
The UI College Democrats and College Republicans took the stage together, represented by Pat Wronkiewicz, the president of the College Republicans, and Isabel Manahl, the vice president of the College Democrats. The two encouraged participation in the upcoming 2018 caucuses and primaries and to follow both Democrats and Republicans on ActWorthy.
University of Iowa student Sam Martinez, a member of ActWorthy’s development team, signed on to the project after Katz advertised it for Iowa City’s “techie” community. She said she was hooked in by the project’s ideals.
For Martinez, one of the most important issues discussed at the event was education.
“It’s hard to rally a lot of people to do something good for themselves if they don’t know enough about what’s going on,” she said.
Katz also honored King and the spirit of activism in his closing speech; it was no coincidence that the launch party was scheduled for King’s holiday.