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Indian American Impact Project
Indian American Impact Project
Indian American Impact Project
Indian American Impact empowers South Asian and Indian American communities - one of the fastest growing voter populations - through community engagement, civic partnerships, candidate support, and data & research in order to encourage a pro-democracy government that uplifts all people. The Indian American Impact Project, Impact's 501c3 arm, augments Impact’s overall mission by building coalitions to combat mis and dis-information, provide educational opportunities for civic engagement, and convene the historically marginalized to envision change together. Our ultimate vision is to advance civil rights of Indian American, South Asian, and all historically excluded communities, and ensure our diaspora's history and lived experience is recognized as essential to the fabric of America. Resilience, Progress, and Persistence are just a few of the values that drive our work. While Indian Americans and South Asians have been subjected to violence, discrimination, and hate, our community has refused to let bigotry define us, and now, a storied history of heroism, trailblazing, and selfless sacrifice is as much a part of our story, if not more so. Since Dalip Singh Saund became the first Indian American elected to Congress in 1956, Indian Americans and South Asians have been building political power and finding electoral success, especially in recent years. Impact has identified 185 current South Asian elected officials, and there are over 519,682 elected officials in the United States. The Indian American Impact Project continues to refine its strategy annually to train values-aligned candidates, facilitate powerful community networks, and amplify the voices of those advancing civil rights.
About the Organization:
$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION
The pervasive spread of mis- and disinformation exacerbates partisan disagreement, erodes trust in our democracy, stifles or prevents voter participation, and has tremendous consequences on health outcomes such as personal decisions around getting vaccinated. In South Asian American communities, misinformation has led to rampant racism against other communities of color and Islamophobia. While the problem of mis/disinformation is not new, peer-to-peer and encrypted messaging apps (EMAs) through which false information both intentionally and unintentionally spreads have created new challenges. During the 2020 election, Indian Americans, South Asians, and other members of immigrant communities saw a spike in disinformation flood their private and group messages via WhatsApp. The high use of WhatsApp in South Asian communities exacerbates the infodemic because mis/disinformation spreads largely unchecked on the platform, devoid of fact-checking labels applied in open spaces like Twitter. Additionally, much of the misinformation that spreads over WhatsApp crosses borders and has global reach as individuals in the diaspora use the platform as the primary means to engage overseas family members. Knowing the high usage of messaging platforms by specific communities and recognizing that little was being done to counteract these misleading and divisive narratives, the Impact Project has designed a “Combating Disinformation” program. Relatedly, in survey after survey, Asian American voters consistently report lower levels of engagement from political campaigns or nonprofit civic organizations. For example, in 2016, only 30% of Indian American voters said they were contacted by a party committee per the National Asian American Survey. This lack of engagement affects voter turnout and civic participation. The Impact Project believes that to most effectively address this problem and mobilize turnout, we must meet voters where they are and in communication modes familiar and comfortable to the community, which for many South Asian voters is WhatsApp. A survey of AAPI voters in Virginia conducted in October 2021 revealed that 60 percent of Indian Americans use WhatsApp on a weekly basis and a subgoal of this project is testing the efficacy of WhatsApp messaging as a way to increase voter engagement and turnout.
WhatsApp the Vote - Leveraging digital messaging tools to mobilize South Asian Americans During the November 2022 elections, the Indian American Impact Project worked with external evaluators (Dr. Sara Sadhwani) to implement an RCT (n=7,500) to test the efficacy of WhatsApp to get out the vote in PA. Interestingly, high-propensity and younger voters who received WhatsApp GOTV messages were 6.5% points more likely to vote, and younger voters were 23.9% points more likely to vote than the control group who did not receive messages. Much of the mis- and disinformation in our communities spreads rapidly on WhatsApp as it is an encrypted platform devoid of fact-checking labels. Our approach to using WhatsApp as a tool to curb the spread of misinformation is twofold: (1) Create volunteer communities and share timely, accurate content on a variety of topics that trusted messengers can share with their own families and friends, and (2) Launch a tip-line chatbot in which community members can forward content they see on WhatsApp and receive rapid fact-checking. While Impact primarily serves Indian and South Asian Americans, we do look forward to sharing results and partnering with Latino-serving organizations whose communities also use WhatsApp as a primary communication tool. Funding from Gold Futures Challenge will help us build upon our 2023 efforts to: Enhance misinformation monitoring operations by scaling the WhatsApp tipline chatbot; Recruit more freelance writers and translators to support desifacts.org and rapid response work Replicate the WhatsApp RCT in TX and NC during municipal elections to see if the results still hold before scaling the “WhatsApp the Vote” program in 2024; and Partner with Latino civic organizations whose communities frequently use WhatsApp For this project specifically, our state directors in PA and TX will partner with groups we already have a formalized partnership with such as SAAVE TX to implement our WhatsApp RCTs and support WhatsApp volunteers. We also regularly share best practices with and learn from VietFactCheck, CAA, and Tayo who operate fact-checking websites and tip-lines that serve other Asian American communities. We are also partnering with factcheck.org to feed their content into our WhatsApp tip-line.