Growing up in Mount Airy and Elkins Park, Joshua Scott was exposed to the political process at a young age.
His family was into community and local politics, and he went to the polls with his parents as they voted in every election. Going to NAACP meetings with his father introduced him to the social dynamics of politics and social studies. Later, as a psychology and social sciences student at Penn State University, Scott developed a sharper focus on the work that interested him and his relationship with tech.
It would eventually lead to the development of an app, GoVo, that explains elections and candidates’ voting histories, policies, financial donors, conflicts of interest and the like to voters.
After graduating from Penn State, Scott continued to pursue his interest in tech and its relation to human behavior with his first job at the civic-minded funder Knight Foundation in 2013. As part of the team behind the Black Male Engagement program, Scott worked with people like activist Jamira Burley to amplify stories about Black and Latinx Americans.
“That was my first foray into using and understanding how tech can be used to impact and amplify stories that weren’t there before,” he said.
Meeting Scholly founder Christopher Gray as a part of the Black Male Engagement campaign changed Scott’s perspective in using technology to connect with people. Gray’s Philly-founded app allows students internationally to find and apply for scholarships. As they grew close, Gray’s professional journey and ascent as an entrepreneur inspired Scott to develop his interest in tech and helping people.
“He was the first person I knew that I bumped into that was actually starting from nothing and had this idea, and was using tech to have an impact,” Scott said. “Eventually he went on ‘Shark Tank‘ and did work with Oprah. I thought it was crazy to see someone from my community doing things with tech to make things happen, and make things better for others.”
Scott was moved to think more about causes that mattered to him, and politics stayed top of mind. The 2012 election was the first election he saw when people seemed to be immensely frustrated or even apathetic. He frequently saw people in communities color complain that their vote didn’t matter, which concerned him.
In creating GoVo, with its quick snapshots of what’s going on behind the political scenes, Scott saw a way to help others.
“It’s about understanding who’s running for elections, what elections are coming up and how elections help and impact voters,” he said. “That is at the core of it. I want to utilize the strengths of psychology where visually, most of us learn naturally and don’t have time to comb through everything that we would like to. Combing the info in a succinct, visual way to help people be more informed before they get to the polls.”
Scott believes GoVo can succeed as a voting information app because as opposed to similar apps, its focus is on people who aren’t as politically inclined by helping them better understand the politicians they vote for and their platforms. Scott wants to keep his endeavor a nonprofit to maintain that commitment to public interest.
Eventually, Scott would like to make working on GoVo his full-time job. He is currently the innovation analyst for Center City law firm Troutman Pepper, work he said ties directly to the app in that it allows him to think about automation and robotics processes. Scott is currently developing a workable demo of the app with the likes of Adobe XD and Python. It’s just him, for now; as he raises funds for the app, he hopes to bring on developers and database team that can build a stronger iteration.
Scott has plans to launch GoVo later this year in November 2021, setting it up for next year’s local election cycle.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2021 corps member for 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-
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