OurSociety Educator’s Companion

By Ron Rivers,

OurSociety Educator’s Companion


Companion Summary:   OurSociety Inc. is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) charitable organization. EIN number 82-1919398.  Our purpose is to promote civic engagement in local communities and open opportunities for more people to participate in democracy through the use of our free technological solutions.  As part of our organization’s purpose, we work with High Schools located in the communities participating in the OurSociety platform to foster discussion and exploration of what civic engagement is and why it is important.  Below we outline how our program and how it coincides with the New Jersey Social Studies standards as outlined in the 2014 State Standards Document.

Learning Objective:  Students will learn the value and importance of civic engagement in a modern age from the perspective of both local communities and collective national engagement.  Cooperating with local elected officials we will demonstrate to the students that community engagement has a tangible impact which can contribute to the greater good of society.  In addition, we introduce them to the OurSociety platform to demonstrate that becoming involved is easier than ever thanks to technology.

Seminar Summary:  Seminars are broken into two sessions, an initial engagement and then a follow-up engagement to review the students’ contributions.  The first seminar includes an open discussion about civic engagement exploring what it is and the problems it can solve both at a national and local level.  At the conclusion of the first seminar, we will ask for educator cooperation in assigning an assignment geared towards community improvement.  Students will enter groups and identify one thing that can be improved within the community and/or become involved in the public discussion about an ongoing community project.  After completing the project within an assigned time frame students will submit their ideas to the township through the OurSociety platform – allowing both elected officials and community members to read and review the plans.  Afterwards, we will return for a second seminar with an elected official (Council Member or Mayor) to discuss their submissions from the communities’ perspective.

Our program meets the following state standards for education (NJ): http://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/2014/ss/standards.pdf

Social Studies – 6.3 Active Citizenship in the 21st Century:

  • Section 6.3.12.A.1: Develop a plan for public accountability and transparency in government related to a particular issue(s) and share the plan with appropriate government officials.
  • Chronological Thinking: Analyze how change occurs through time due to shifting values and beliefs as well as technological advancements and changes in the political and economic landscape.
  • Critical Thinking: Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views (including historians and experts) while using the date, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
  • Critical Thinking: Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views (including historians and experts) while using the date, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
  • Presentational Skills: Take a position on a current public policy issue and support it with historical evidence, reasoning, and constitutional analysis in a written and/or oral format.

OurSociety Content Creation: Designing Visuals to Define Plans

By Ron Rivers,

One way to present your Policies, Plans, and Visions in a visual and easy to follow manor is to create a Project Tree. Project Trees are a goal setting and planning tool designed to clearly define the measured objectives needed to accomplish a specific milestone or project that you are focused on. Start by breaking down your overall goal/objective into measurable and distinct layers that serve as checkpoints for your progress. They are a great visual to help your potential voters understand how detailed your plan is and will provide more accountability and transparency in your campaign. Below is an outline of the process of creating a Project Tree for a specific goal:


A great tool for creating visuals like the one above is the website http://draw.io.


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OurSociety Content Creation: Defining a Vision Article

By Ron Rivers,

Detailing your Vision to our Citizen Users is a great way to really think big and get people excited about your ideas for a better future. Consider your Vision Articles an exercise in thinking aloud. Do not limit yourself to what can be done today, rather approach Vision Articles from the standpoint of how you would make the world more utopian if it were possible. One of the fundamental challenges within our political institutions at present day is the lack of long-term vision and direction that permeates all participants. Vision articles give you a chance to lay out a potential scenario that could lead to a better future for all participants in our democracy.

Unlike Policy and Plan articles which require sourcing of information to demonstrate the accuracy of your statements, a Vision Article is not subject to the same scrutiny. If your Vision articles use statistics to demonstrate problems that exist today you should source those, but when speaking about what you would like to do to change the situation being referenced you do not need to explain in detail how it would be possible. Of course, if you have a clear path to change it would benefit you to explain it.

Vision articles do not have to exist in the present. You may be thinking 10, 20, 50, or more years from now – these are the type of ideas that should be shared by elected leadership. Through sharing of information and discussion, our collective society will begin to determine the best path forward. There is no limitation to what you may imagine through your vision articles, some examples of topics could be, “Employment and Purpose in the Automation Economy”, “Setting ethical standards for Space exploration”, “Complete Clean energy in the U.S. by 2030”, “Ending Poverty – Our Most Important Goal”, “Rethinking the relationship between Finance and Production”. These are just some basic ideas, but you should feel empowered to explore any topics that you find interesting and are passionate about.

As with your articles and videos about Policies and Plans you should be concise and clear with your writing. Visuals that help convey your message are highly recommended. Length of Vision articles is at your discretion however the previously recommended 6-12 pages may be a good starting point. Keep your objective in mind; you’re trying to get people excited and engaged about the democracy of the future. By demonstrating your capabilities to create a potential pathway or direction to success you will build a base of loyal and trusting followers who will help you actualize your goals.

Most importantly, dream big and focus on success.


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OurSociety Content Creation: The Basics

By Ron Rivers,

We strive to help shift the voting populace from ideological party-based voting to a more informed issue-based paradigm. In keeping aligned with our purpose OurSociety requires the information submitted by political candidates and existing elected representatives to be clearly explained, numerically accurate, and free of negative and/or disparaging comments about your competitors. All information submitted will be reviewed to through our citizen volunteer Fact Checkers ensure that included content falls within our guidelines. Below we break down some basic rules you should follow to ensure the content you submit is published without delay.


Profile Information Policies, Plans, Vision Creating your Societal Value Profile
The Biography section of your profile is a chance to let people know about your education, experience, and the recognition you have achieved.

All of the information submitted should be accurate and verifiable.

The Policies, Plans, and Vision section can be broken down into two distinct sections; text and video.

Text: Submitting white papers about the policies and plans you would enact if elected and/or about your vision for a better future.

Video: Producing short videos summarizing your policies, plans, and visions. Keeping them aligned with your text is important.

Policies/Plans: Informational documents that explain your policies and plans in detail. These will be reviewed and fact-checked prior to publishing.

Vision: These documents are your opportunity to share your ideas about a better tomorrow with your potential constituents. Think big! This is an opportunity to get people excited.

OurSociety incorporates detailed value matching algorithms to help Citizen Users who may not have the time to read your detailed policies, plans, and visions connect with you. The method is similar to those used on dating websites.

You should answer the questions as honestly as possible, focusing on your true feelings and not what you may believe the constituents want to hear. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it will allow you to connect deeper with sections of constituents.

We believe our data will show that citizen users are more likely to chose the candidate with very high rankings in the few things they care most about than the candidate who they match ~70% of the time on all subjects.

No users can view your specific answers to the questions proposed.  We value both the privacy and freedom to express individual perspectives for all of our members.


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Policies / Plans / Vision: Guidelines for Articles & Video Content

By Ron Rivers,

Sharing your policies and plans is a great way to connect with users who share a passion with you pertaining to specific subjects. Citizen Users of the OurSociety platform are engaging because they want transparency in information and clarity about the people they are choosing to lead them. Almost every political campaign focuses a set of plans and policies that the specific candidate wants to address, but often the public lacks the details of the plan lowering accountability. The purpose of producing a policy / plan guideline is to present a policy change and/or plan for change and break the plan down in a detailed but clear manner so as to demonstrate to your engaged potential constituents. How detailed? That is your decision to make, however as the platform progresses we imagine that it will be apparent which candidates have dedicated time to their campaign plans and which have not yet done so.

Most importantly you should be aware that all content you produce will be reviewed and fact checked. If you use statistics please source them, if you are quoting someone please provide a source for the quote, any claim regarding finances or financial estimates must have a source of evidence to support the claim. Producing accurate sources of information for your policies and plans the first time will expedite the publication of your information. This is to help OurSociety remain as transparent and factual as possible so that our Citizen Users have confidence both in the platform and the political candidates using it.

Consider your audience. The most likely people to read your policies and plans are people that align with your passion about specific areas of society and the improvements they need. They are excited to hear about what you’re going to do, so give them the information they want. Break it down, explore ideas, and explain your motivation for doing so. Don’t sensationalize your message, be clear and concise. Citizen Users are looking to hear what you have to say, but don’t have all day.

Never, under any circumstance, talk negatively about a competitive political candidate. The platform is about you and your ideas, not how much you dislike your opponents. If after reading your opponents policies and plans you believe there is factually incorrect information contained in the article than please notify us at facts@oursociety.org. Be sure to provide information and sources supporting your claim within the email. Abuse of this service of OurSociety is not permitted.

Most importantly tell them why. Why will your plan be the best plan for your constituents’ greater good? Why is now the right time? Why are you the person who should lead the agenda?

OurSociety provides real opportunity for candidates to connect with constituents like never before. It also will provide the most value to users who see the value and dedicate time to connecting with their Citizen User base.

Below we discuss a few strategies for writing a white papers and creating videos about your policies, plans, and vision.

Structuring your Ideas:
We recommend following the outlined guide below to structure both your text and videos submissions. This will help to create an easy and engaging Citizen User experience.


  1. Summarize your argument in the first paragraph. Let the readers know exactly what you intend to do and why you believe it is important. This is your opportunity to get the reader excited and engaged from the start.
  2. Think of our Citizen User base as potential votes for you – each one matters. OurSociety users are accessing the platform to learn so be sure to provided objective information and support it with facts. This will help you build trust with Citizen Users over time.
  3. Do not make your users struggle to understand your writing. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and obscure references. After you’ve finished your first draft of your plan review it to see if you can consolidate some of the ideas.
  4. Be specific. Address your main points. Again the Citizen Users want to know about your vision but like most of us feel that time is precious.
  5. Stand out. It is not enough to say your plan solves the problem, you must explain how it solves it. Provide evidence that it will work. As mentioned above you cannot talk negatively about a political opponent, but feel free to compare their ideas/plans against yours in a comparative fashion, especially if you have evidence to demonstrate that your plans/policies would be more beneficial.
  6. Include visuals. Many people learn and understand visual better than text. Include graphs, tables, images, etc. to help further explain your policies and plans.
  7. Keep it simple. Avoid complex and lengthy paragraphs, instead use simple and plain English.
  8. Try and structure your article in the following order:
    1. Intro/Main Point/Why
    2. Problems
    3. Solutions
    4. Plan of Action
    5. Conclusion
  9. Most importantly; be truthful. Do not exaggerate your facts, your budgets, or your experience. Do not underestimate your projected expenses and/or the aggregate tax take that will increase/decrease as a result of your plans. OurSociety content goes through a citizen reviewed Fact Checking process that confirms that content of media submissions to be accurate and truthful. Misleading submissions will only delay your content from becoming published.


Text: White papers about your policies and plans give you more room to explain your ideas at length than video but should still be concise.

We recommend a page range from 1 – 3 pages but this is not a requirement. Keep in mind that too short of an article may come off as under prepared while too long may turn readers off.

Note: Linking to sources is required. Linking back to personal websites, social media, and donation pages, is not permitted.

Video: There are numerous YouTube video guides out there and many reach the same conclusion; short and concise videos are the best option to get your message across. Aim for 1-5 minutes in length.

Have fun and be yourself. OurSociety is focused on issues not showmanship – users want to connect with you.

Note: No watermarks and/or back-links of any kind are allowed. All videos containing them will be rejected.

When submitting articles about your policies, plans, and visions you will use the built in content submission forms on your individual profile page. source

Policies/Plans Articles: Any information regarding budgets, statistics, or other hard facts should be sourced. You will provide your sources by linking to them within the platform. If they are from a book linking to an online source for the book (Amazon for example) will be acceptable. Popular policy and plan articles will be shared with the OurSociety community.

Vision Articles: Vision articles should also be sourced if you are using current data to
present your future vision. Musing about future potentials do not
require sources. Vision articles are your space to dream big with your constituents. Popular vision articles will be shared with the OurSociety community.

Videos: Videos should ideally be summaries of your written Policies, Plans, and Vision articles and/or Municipality functions such as town halls, event announcements, and more. Videos found to be containing false or misleading information will be removed. Repeat offenders will have their posting privileges removed. Popular videos will be shared with the OurSociety community.

Note that this article is not designed to teach you how to create and record videos for YouTube. If you need help getting started on creating videos and uploading them to YouTube.com please click here.


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