Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
We're building a movement to create a more functional democracy by teaching millennials how to get involved in local government.
We're building a movement to create a more functional democracy by teaching millennials how to get involved in local government.
163 backers pledged $8,032 to help bring this project to life.

About

A Beginner's Guide To Local Government project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

$8,032

163

We hit our first goal!!!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has contributed to the campaign so far. We're doing our happy dances over here.

But it's not over yet... That's right, it's stretch goal time. 

Our ultimate goal (or in Kickstarter speak, our stretch goal) is to raise $8,000 so that we can produce 5,000 “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government” kits and to get them into people’s hands by this summer. (The more money we raise, the more books we can print, and the cheaper the price is to print them).

So why are we so keen on printing 5,000? Because it’s an election year in Austin and 5,000 newly educated Austinites could have a monumental impact on the future of our city.

Just that simple act could mean 5,000 more voters in Austin’s local elections. To put that in perspective, City Council members have been elected with less votes.

Welcome To A Functional Democracy

Our democracy is broken, but the fix is not in Washington... it’s right here in Austin, Texas.

These days, it seems like everyone is upset with the state of our political system. People of all stripes are anxious about the future of our country, economy, education, justice system, healthcare, environment, immigration, defense, war, Hollywood, the NFL, mainstream media, Facebook, Netfilx, the internet… So basically everything. We're stressed about everything.

And yet, voter turnout rates are at astonishing lows. 

Then where do we go from here? How do we begin to make things better? How do we build strong, happy, and functional communities?

Let’s start by changing the conversation and focusing on what’s happening in our own backyards. Right here in Austin, you have the opportunity to create change and influence policy on economic development, equity, gender rights, climate change, affordability, traffic, the live music industry, police community relations, gentrification, homelessness, tacos, barbeque… So basically everything. You have the opportunity to change everything.

But how?

In walks "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government," the ultimate handbook for badass Austinites hoping to make a difference in their local community and beyond. Our goal is to get these books (and the education and inspiration they contain) into the hands of thousands of Austinites.

This work starts in our city, but it has the power to extend throughout the entire country. We need a nation of civic enthusiasts, well-educated voters, and empowered individuals who know how to make their voices be heard. Help us start a national movement right there in Austin Texas...

Welcome to a more functional democracy.

Introducing... "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government."
Introducing... "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government."
Click on this button to share our campaign and get a free downloadable coloring sheet!
Click on this button to share our campaign and get a free downloadable coloring sheet!
 

Why local government?

1. There is no level of government that affects you more than local government. 

Take a moment to think through your daily routine. What do you do each day? Wake up, take a shower, go to work, meet up with friends for a run/game of ultimate frisbee/happy hour. All of these things are impacted by local government. 

It's our local elected officials that determine where our energy comes from (solar, wind, or coal), whether or not we have a consistent water supply (think of Cape Town, South Africa), how affordable our homes are, what our traffic conditions are like, the abundance of our parks, and our overall quality of life. 

2. Local government is where you get s**t done.

Still not convinced? Whatever it is you’re passionate about, chances are, the greatest opportunity for you to make a meaningful impact is right here in your own backyard.

Part of it is just a numbers game. Take Austin City Council members for example. Each of them represent about 80,000 people. That sounds like a lot, until you consider the fact that the mayor represents nearly one million people and that our US senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) represent about 28 million people. Meanwhile the president serves over 300 million. 

So who is the most likely to return your email or call you back on the phone? It's your local elected officials! They are far more accessible than national politicians. They shop at your grocery store, their kids go to your school, and their office hours are held in your neighborhood library. 


Want this sticker? You're in luck, because it comes with our "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit
Want this sticker? You're in luck, because it comes with our "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit
 
Simply put, you have far greater access to your City Council member than to your senator, and that can make a big difference. 

3. Actions you take at the local level can serve as innovative examples of what is possible, causing a domino effect that extends far beyond your city's borders. 

Think of your local government as the best incubator space in town. This is where ideas are born. 

Whether you care about climate change, women’s rights, social justice, traffic, or the economy, you can impact them right here in Austin. Local government truly is the bedrock upon which all other change happens.

from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"
from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"
 

And yet, most of us don't know how to get involved. 

Over the past few years, voter turnout for local elections in 10 of America's 30 largest cities has consistently been less than 15 percent.

In Austin’s last mayoral election, 85 percent of voters decided to stay home (during the runoff). Eighty-five percent!

You can probably guess what happens when so few people choose the leaders for a city with a population of nearly one million. (And no, it’s not a functional democracy that brings equity, prosperity, and happiness to all.)

In Austin's last mayoral election, people under the age of 30 made up less than 5 percent of the electorate (despite the fact that Austin is one of the largest millennial cities in the country). In fact, voters 65 and older in Austin have 7 times the electoral clout than voters ages 18 to 34.

image and data from the Who Votes For Mayor? project
image and data from the Who Votes For Mayor? project

And the problems don’t stop there. As you can see in the map below, some parts of East Austin had a less than 1 percent voter turnout rate in the 2014 election.

Percent voter turnout rate in Austin's 2014 mayoral election (runoff); image from the Who Votes For Mayor Project
Percent voter turnout rate in Austin's 2014 mayoral election (runoff); image from the Who Votes For Mayor Project

Why this book?

From cover to cover, this book was designed with you in mind. Page by page, we walk you through the basics of getting involved in local government, all in a way that honors your intelligence (without overloading you with jargony terms and useless information).

Plus, we do it all in a way that’s actually fun and entertaining, so reading it isn’t just another boring thing on your long ass adult to-do list. (The world is crazy and stressful. It’s okay to take a break and laugh every once and a while.) 

And speaking of that to-do list, we know that you’re busy and don’t have time for bulls**t, so we made this book with action at its core. You could spend all day scouring the web for the perfect Facebook profile filter that makes all your friends think you’re super politically active, or you could spend half an hour reading “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government” and actually make things happen…in real life.

A Sneak Peak Inside

The book begins by helping you figure out where you are and where you’re going. The idea is to get you on a path toward fulfilling, successful, and meaningful political engagement.

from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"
from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"

We then walk you through the basics of Austin’s local government system, teaching you more about our our city’s mayor, Council members, and city manager. We also help you figure out which City Council district you live in and how to attend a City Council meeting.

And we do all of this with an emphasis on action. Nearly every page features a “civic power up,” which allows you to take your knowledge and turn it into power by writing a letter to your City Council person or picking a city board/commission meeting to attend.

from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"
from "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition"

By the end, you’ll be a proud City Hall newbie, complete with a badass sticker (and pin if you buy at the $35 level) to show off to your friends.

Every "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit comes with stickers, including an official newbie sticker (for when you complete the book).
Every "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit comes with stickers, including an official newbie sticker (for when you complete the book).

Bonus! And since we know that information is nothing without a healthy dose of inspiration, we have also sprinkled in amazing stories and nuggets of wisdom and advice from some of Austin’s most revered leaders. These are people who know how to get things done.

Below you can get a little preview of that wisdom and advice from two of the community leaders featured in our book - Dr. Freddie Dixon and Pete Rivera.

We asked Dr. Freddie Dixon (a longtime community activist, Special Assistant to the Vice President of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas, and a United Methodist Minister) to give us some advice about how to get involved in local government.

Here's what he told us when we asked - What advice do you have for someone just getting starting with local government?

We asked Pete Rivera (a local community activist who has led the effort to protect La Loma Trail and Red Bluff in East Austin) why he decided to take charge and work to make a difference in his community.

What we’ll do with the money

Buy a book. Launch a movement. That’s what you can help us to do with this Kickstarter campaign.

Simply put, our goal is to print "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" kits and to get them into peoples' hands. Our first milestone for doing that is to raise $5,000, but our ultimate goal is to raise $10,000 and to distribute 5,000 kits.

Our first goal is to raise $5,000. With that money, we’ll be able to print and distribute 2,000 “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition” kits by this summer.

That would be awesome. But, we’re going to be honest with you. That’s our super conservative number.

Our ultimate goal (or in Kickstarter speak, our stretch goal) is to raise $8,000 so that we can produce 5,000 “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government” kits and to get them into people’s hands by this summer. (The more money we raise, the more books we can print, and the cheaper the price is to print them).

So why are we so keen on printing 5,000? Because it’s an election year in Austin and 5,000 newly educated Austinites could have a monumental impact on the future of our city.

Just that simple act could mean 5,000 more voters in Austin’s local elections. To put that in perspective, City Council members have been elected with less votes.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s make Austin the most civically-engaged city in the country, and set an shining example for cities around the world.

So buy a book, or buy five (or 20) - and join the movement to create a more functional democracy.

More About The Perks

Newbie Pin

Once you've finished the "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity book, you're going to want to show off all your newfound knowledge. That's why we've turned our famous newbie sticker into an enamel pin as well. 

Now you'll be able to sport your civic newbie swag every day of the week! (Available starting at the $35 level.)

A Functional Democracy T- Shirt 

Who doesn’t love a snarky political t-shirt? Voldemort probably. 

Well, we love ‘em too… except for one thing. It’s so easy these days to get your hands on a "Resist" or an "I Run Better Than The Government" t-shirt that it sometimes can feel as if there is isn’t enough action behind them. Sure, the t-shirt might make us feel good, but is it really accomplishing anything?

That’s why we instituted this rule for our Kickstarter campaign - You can’t get a t-shirt unless you get "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit too. That way when you’re walking around town rockin' your super cool new shirt, you’ll be able to keep your head held high with all of your super cool new political knowledge.

And you’ll be able to share some of that knowledge with your friends as well, because we decided to get real sneaky with this t-shirt and incorporate some actual, useful information front and center.

The phone number on each shirt is the actual phone number for Austin Mayor Steve Adler's office. 

A Functional Democracy T-Shirt, Men's
A Functional Democracy T-Shirt, Men's

Now that’s fashion + snark + knowledge. How cool is that?

Party Pack 

The ladies of Loverboy comedy having their very own "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" party!
The ladies of Loverboy comedy having their very own "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" party!

You know what’s better than learning about local government? Learning about local government with your friends.

For $150, you can buy “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government” party pack, complete with five books and plenty of downloadables so you can keep the fun going all night long.

What’s included the in party pack? 

  • Civic-themed drink and food recipes 
  • Additional coloring book and activity pages 
  • Game ideas 
  • Invites for you and all of your friends to go to our Kickstarter afterparty in the spring

In-Person Workshop for your favorite high school/nonprofit

Love our project and wish you could bring some quality civic education programming to your child's school? Or to your favorite nonprofit organization that's onboarding new volunteers or wants to get involved in Austin's local government scene? 

Well you're in luck, because at the $1,000 level you'll be able to donate a free in-person civics workshop (plus 15 - 30 books) to the high school classroom or nonprofit organization of your choice (pending teacher approval, of course). 

How It All Began

In early 2015,  "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Co-Author Amy Stansbury was frustrated. She was working as a local news reporter in Austin, Texas and was tired of showing up to empty City Council meetings. She was witnessing firsthand what happens when people don't get involved in their local democracy - extremists win and everyone suffers.

And then an idea popped into her head - why not teach people how to get involved? That's when she started putting together online resources and hosting community happy hours - all with the goal of helping Austinites figure out who represents them at City Hall and how to advocate for the issues that really matter to them.

But something was missing. Amy wanted a way to make civics more fun and accessible. She dreamed of a day when all Austinites voted in local elections and showed up to important City Council meetings.

And that's when she met Hal and Jordan, two amazing local designers and artists passionate about civic duty and making information more accessible.

And bam! Just like that, a partnership was born.

We went through all of that information we had our heads, interviewed other local experts, and spoke with real live City Hall newbies in order to better understand what information would be most useful to them.

Jordan looks over our work wall in her garage, where "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" was born
Jordan looks over our work wall in her garage, where "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" was born

Then we wrote it all down, illustrated it, and turned all of that info into an interactive activity book, perfect for any Austinite looking to get more involved. And most importantly, we made sure that the book was fun, entertaining, and educational, all at the same time. And so, “A Beginner’s Guide To Local Government” was born.

Who We Are

We are Amy, Hal, and Jordan. We are three Austinites who saw a problem and decided to tackle it head on. We are creatives and civic nerds who got our side hustle on and got to work writing "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government." 

But the book is only just the beginning. We also founded A Functional Democracy, an organization under which we hope to publish future government guide books (for the Texas Legislature, other cities, etc), host educational workshops at universities, and of course, throw some amazing civic-themed happy hours. 

Amy Stansbury 

Amy Stansbury
Amy Stansbury

Amy has been passionate about local government her entire life. As a local news reporter (first in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and then in Austin, Texas) she has seen firsthand the effects of an uninformed electorate. And if there's one thing she's learned, it's that extremists benefit from empty City Halls...and the rest of us (and our democracy suffers). This is the problem she's working to solve with A Functional Democracy.

Amy is also the Editor-In-Chief of the Austin EcoNetwork, Austin's local environmental news source, as well as a cohost of Shades of Green, Austin's live environmental talk radio show. In her free time, she serves on the boards of Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center and Generation Citizen. She is also the past chair of the Austin Young Chamber's Economic Development Committee and a member of the Leadership Austin Emerge class of 2018.

Hal Wuertz 

Hal Wuertz
Hal Wuertz

Hal is a designer, researcher and facilitator, but mostly a devout optimist with a penchant for good questions. She currently lives in Austin Texas where she's doing design research & strategy for IBM. In the past Hal has lived, worked, and learned in many different places including Boston, Cairo, Manila, and Amsterdam. She has a master's degree in architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a philosophy degree from Brown University.

Jordan Shade 

Jordan Shade
Jordan Shade

Jordan is a designer and researcher and person who generally feels pretty amazed by human existence. She lives and works in Austin, TX.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out these testimonials/ media mentions.

- “We have what amounts to three branches in our city government: elected officials, city employees, and people just like you who are willing to serve on boards and commissions. If you read this book, you'll be more than qualified to serve your city, and we need your help." - Austin Mayor Steve Adler

Decibel Capital Coffee Talk with Judy Maggio and Ben Philpott
"A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Co-Author Amy Stansbury speaks about the book to KLRU's Judy Maggio and KUT's Ben Philpott on Decibel.
"A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Co-Author Amy Stansbury speaks about the book to KLRU's Judy Maggio and KUT's Ben Philpott on Decibel.

Winner of The Awesome Foundation's January 2018 $1,000 grant for helping to make Austin a More awesome place to live. 

- Winner of Office Depot's $1,000 BizBox Small Business Prize.

BizBox Award Winner
BizBox Award Winner

Time for thank-yous. This project would not be possible without the hard work of...

Dave Huber - filmmaker extraordinaire 

 
Dave is a designer at IBM interested in public service. If you'd like to connect with Dave, reach out via Instagram. 

Loverboy - funniest ladies in town

Loverboy is a local improv comedy group who donated their time and talents to serve as the hilarious actors in our Kickstarter video. Check 'em out in person, every Friday night at 8:30pm at the Coldtowne Theater.

FoodHeads - the coolest cafe in Austin

FoodHeads is an amazing local cafe in central Austin that specializes in sandwiches, salads, and of course, sweet tea. Plus, they opened their doors to us and served as the set of our official Kickstarter video. How cool is that?

Vicky Pridgen - the great connector

Vicky Pridgen
Vicky Pridgen

Vicky is the gal in town who knows everyone... and is eager to help make a connection. A year ago, she provided the spark that brought all of the A Functional Democracy co-founders together. We wouldn't be doing all of this today without her!

All of you!!

Just the fact that you've taken the time to check out our project means the world to us. It's people like you that will help lead the charge in making Austin the city that solves this country's civic engagement crisis. Together, we can build a more functional democracy.

 

Risks and challenges

This project is fairly low risk. We have already completely written the book, printed prototypes, and sold a small batch of 100 first-editions online. That's how we know there is a demand for "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government." We sold out of this limited first-edition batch of books in just a few weeks with practically zero marketing/outreach.

And even though A Functional Democracy is a fairly new organization, in reality, it is years in the making.

All three of our founders have years of experience in civic education, creative design, and digital storytelling.

Amy has been hosting millennial-focused educational civics happy hours in Austin for years, all of them popular and well-attended events. She now has a network of hundreds of Austinites who are passionate about increasing civic engagement in this city. She is a also a local journalist, well versed in how our local government system works, having witnessed it on a daily basis.

Hal and Jordan are design experts who have spent years taking complex, confusing information and turning it into something digestible and user-friendly. With their artwork, they are also experienced in creatively engaging people in the political process.

Our biggest challenge with this project is obtaining the funding necessary to have the impact of our dreams. That's where all of you come in! If we are able to reach our funding goals through this Kickstarter campaign, we'll be on good footing to begin mass producing "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" and to set our eyes on (hopefully) our next project - creating a beginner's guide to Texas' Legislature.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A Functional Democracy Party Invite

    You'll receive an exclusive invite to our Kickstarter campaign wrap party in Austin, Texas. Look forward to games, laughter, and fun from the biggest civic party of the year. This is when "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" comes to life!

    Includes:
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    6 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    A Beginner's Guide Kit

    Take home your very own copy of "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government: Austin Edition" activity kit, complete with all the civics knowledge you could ever want + stickers and a pencil.

    Includes:
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    77 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    A Beginner's Guide Kit + Newbie Pin

    After you read "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" you'll be practically overflowing with civic knowledge and dying to show off to all your friends. That why we created an official "newbie" pin to go with your kit. At this level, you'll get a pin, a kit, and an invite to our Kickstarter wrap party.

    Includes:
    • Newbie Pin
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Friend Pack

    Civics is the most fun when shared with friends. At this level, you'll get two "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kits and two invites to our A Functional Democracy Party.

    Includes:
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    19 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    A Functional Democracy T-Shirt

    For the person who wants it all. At this level, you get our fabulous t-shirt, plus the newbie pin, "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit, and of course, an invite to our A Functional Democracy Party.

    Includes:
    • A Functional Democracy T-Shirt
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • Newbie Pin
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    17 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Best Friends Pack

    Didn't we say that civics is most fun when shared with friends? What about when shared with friends who have matching t-shirts? At this level you get a t-shirt, "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit, and a party invite for you and a friend.

    Includes:
    • A Functional Democracy T-Shirt
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Party Pack

    Get your friends together and host A Beginner's Guide To Local Government party of your very own. At this level, you'll get everything you need for a fun and empowering evening, including 5 activity kits, pins, and invites to our big party in the spring. Plus, you'll get an exclusive download kit, complete with games, recipes, and bonus knowledge so that you and your best buds can have a memorable evening learning how to make a difference in your community.

    Includes:
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • Newbie Pin
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    • Party Pack Downloadables
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Founding Mothers And Fathers

    Building a more functional democracy is no easy task. That's why we couldn't do it without you, the founding mothers and fathers of a functional democracy in Austin. At this level, you'll get your signature printed in the first edition of "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" in our founding mothers and fathers section. And of course, you'll also receive "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kit, t-shirt, pin, and a party invite.

    Includes:
    • Your name in the book
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy T-Shirt
    • Newbie Pin
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    4 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Civics Education + Your Favorite School

    Our main goal with this project is to teach as many Austinites as possible how to get involved in local government. That's why at this level, we're proud to offer a free educational workshop and package of "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" activity kits (15 - 30 books) to a high school or college classroom/nonprofit organization of your choice.

    Please note - if you choose a classroom, the workshop can only be completed pending teach approval. We will work with you and the teacher/school to find a time that works for everyone :)

    Includes:
    • Donated Civics Workshop
    • Your name in the book
    • A Functional Democracy T-Shirt
    • Newbie Pin
    • "A Beginner's Guide To Local Government" Activity Kit
    • A Functional Democracy Party Invite
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (45 days)