Growing up in Mount Airy and Elkins Park, Joshua Scott was exposed to the political process at a young age.
His family was involved in community and local politics, and he went to the polls with his parents as they voted in every election. Go to NAACP meetings with his father introduced him to the social dynamics of politics and social studies. Later, as a psychology and social science student at Penn State University, Scott developed a sharper focus on the work he was interested in and its relationship to technology.
This would eventually lead to the development of an application, GoVo, which tells voters about elections and candidate voting histories, policies, financial donors, conflicts of interest, and more.
After graduating from Penn State, Scott continued his interest in technology and its relationship to human behavior with his first job at the civic-minded funder. Knight Foundation in 2013. As part of the team behind the Engagement of black men program, Scott has worked with people as activists Jamira Burley to amplify stories about Black and Latinx Americans.
“It was my first foray into using and understanding how technology can be used to impact and amplify stories that didn’t exist before,” he said.
Meeting Scholy founder Christopher Gray as part of the Black Male Engagement campaign changed Scott’s perspective on using technology to connect with people. The app founded by Gray’s Philly allows students around the world to find and apply for scholarships. As they grew closer, Gray’s professional journey and rise as an entrepreneur inspired Scott to develop his interest in technology and helping people.
“He was the first person I knew and met who came from scratch and had this idea, and used technology to make an impact,” Scott said. ‘Finally he continued’shark tank‘ and worked with Oprah. I thought it was crazy to see someone in my community doing things with technology to make things happen and make things better for others.
Scott was made to think more about the causes that mattered to him, and politics remained front and center. The 2012 election was the first election he’s seen when people seemed immensely frustrated or even apathetic. He often saw people in communities of color complaining that their vote didn’t matter, which concerned him.
By creating GoVo, with its quick snapshots of what’s happening behind the political scenes, Scott saw a way to help others.
“It’s about understanding who is running for election, what elections are coming up, and how elections help and impact voters,” he said. “It’s at the heart of it. I want to use the strengths of psychology where visually most of us learn naturally and don’t have time to comb through everything we’d like. Combining information in a succinct and visual way to help people be better informed before they go to the polls.
Scott thinks GoVo can succeed as a voting information app because, unlike similar apps, it focuses on people who aren’t as politically inclined by helping them better understand the politicians for whom they vote and their platforms. Scott wants to keep his business non-profit to maintain that commitment to the public interest.
Eventually, Scott would like to make GoVo his full-time job. He is currently an innovation analyst for the law firm Center City Troutman pepper, work that he says is directly related to the application in that it allows him to think about automation and robotics processes. Scott is currently developing a hands-on demo of the app with people like Adobe XD and Python. It’s just him, for now; as he raises funds for the app, he hopes to bring in developers and a database team that can build a stronger iteration.
Scott plans to launch GoVo later this year in November 2021, preparing it for next year’s local election cycle.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-