How effective are your elected officials at solving problems?
In 2021, the Edelman Trust Barometer — one of the largest global surveys of trust — found that two-thirds of respondents believed business should fill the void left by government when it comes to solving problems.
Business leaders were held in higher esteem than elected officials, the survey said, perceiving politicians as less adept at effecting change than their private-sector counterparts. It wasn’t a question of ethics, but competence: Respondents were looking for results, and businesses were delivering them.
“The worst part is, these public officials are working so hard,” lamented Colleen White, director of product management at Indigov — a constituent experience management platform designed to connect besieged lawmakers and their often-frustrated constituents.
WHAT INDIGOV DOES
Launched in 2019, Indigov was founded to restore trust between public officials and their constituents by equipping elected offices with the tools needed to provide the highest quality service to their communities.
By creating a product category that didn’t previously exist — an operating system for representative democracy, as the company likes to say — White and her team have built a service that reduces average response time from weeks to a matter of minutes, giving representatives unprecedented capabilities and data insights that are changing the way they do their jobs.
“We’ve heard stories of staffers working 15 hours a day trying to process forms for employee benefits and rental relief, desperately trying to provide services to keep people in their homes,” White said, recalling one legislative assistant who regularly worked nights and weekends before Indigov entered the fray.
“Three days after Indigov launched, he was able to complete those same tasks by lunchtime,” White continued. “We firmly believe that solving these problems — the lack of constituent engagement, the time it takes to get help and services — is a matter of civic duty.”
Built In sat down with White to learn how Indigov bridges the gap between governments and the people they serve, and how its technology is replacing outdated legacy systems to give constituents the support they need to restore their trust in government.
How did you determine Indigov’s product-market fit?
Director of Product Management Colleen White: In the past few decades, there have been seismic changes in how we work, socialize and communicate. Technology has contributed to significant productivity improvements in the private sector that haven’t always been seen in government. Instead, government leaders and administrators often rely on human effort to get work done. In the offices we visit, we see staffers using internally built legacy applications for constituent services. Some of these are decades old, originally built to handle snail mail and later retrofitted for digital communication.
Meanwhile, elected officials are dealing with a huge influx of messages from new sources, and they simply have no way to keep up with it all. As a result, meaningful constituent messages slip through the cracks and democracy suffers for it. People don’t get the help they need in the timeframe they need it, and they can feel disconnected from their representatives.
What obstacles did you encounter when developing and launching your product?
We started by focusing on building Indigov for the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, we’re working to expand into new markets across different levels of government, from state legislatures and governor’s offices to county council and municipal offices.
Quickly understanding the needs of these different groups of users is our biggest goal this year. The challenges that a governor faces — in sorting through thousands of messages and calls a week — is very different from the challenges a local city councilmember faces, where constituents might not even know who they are. We are constantly looking at those groups and figuring out how we build a scalable product that feels custom built for each branch and level of government.
What strategies did you employ to ensure that cross-functional collaboration went smoothly?
One really unique thing about Indigov is how design, product and engineering work together and support other parts of the business. We take a service-based approach to evaluating how well our departments are working, looking both at what outcomes we are producing, and also how good of a partner we are being to internal stakeholders. It’s not just enough to deliver the result of a task, we also consider how you provide services for the team around you.
To evaluate this, we hold quarterly surveys asking our peers across the organization questions like: “Do you feel you get the support you need from the product team?” Those get reported up all the way to the board. The idea is that we are always working to optimize for the success of other teams.
When you think of other companies in your industry, how does Indigov compare when it comes to how you build and launch new products?
Everyone at Indigov believes we are helping to support and scale effective democracy. Our clients are elected to serve and represent their constituents, making constituent services the backbone of effective representative democracy. When you sit in these offices at nearly every level of government, you see hardworking folks who are working to help their constituents ensure they get their VA benefits, navigate the unemployment processes, understand their visa requirements and so much more. Helping these people do that job better gives me a tremendous amount of pride.
Lots of companies are hiring right now, but very few have a perfect correlation between growth and achievement of the mission. If we’re successful in selling to every elected official, democracy will work better. It might sound cheesy, but this is an inspiring mission to work toward.