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Text, Talk, Engage to Fight COVID-19

May 19, 2020

To deal with the immediate threats and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, we need tools that help people learn and develop strategies, get help, volunteer, and have a meaningful say on public policies. Those tools need to be able to engage large numbers of people quickly and offer timely information to help people act. Public Agenda’s digital engagement approach, Text, Talk, Engage (TTE), first developed during President Obama’s National Dialogue for Mental Health, does this by helping track the spread of the coronavirus, providing resources and encouraging discussion on the virus.

To meet the engagement challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Public Agenda teamed up with Polis to build a two-pronged digital engagement strategy.

Text, Talk, Engage to Fight Coronavirus

Participate by yourself or with family

Text ‘corona’ to 89800 to:

  • Get info you can use
  • Help track spread of COVID-19
  • Provide help
  • Get help
  • Weigh in on the big decisions

To participate in TTE, all you need is a cell phone. The platform then guides users through information on COVID-19, discussion questions, links to resources, and policy questions. You can participate on your own or with family members/roommates, and as you participate the technology shows you how others across the country responded to the questions.


TTE to Fight COVID-19 also directs to a contact tracing process to help participants understand and notify their own potential network of infection. Privacy rights are important to Public Agenda and Polis, and any information shared on TTE to Fight COVID-19 is voluntary and confidential.

Polis is designed to help people identify solutions to hard problems, like deciding when and how to open up the economy versus continuing social distancing. Polis’s online platform allows for thousands of individuals to rapidly respond to potential solutions and generate their own ideas. Through machine learning, the platform can identify areas of consensus and disagreement to move us faster toward decisions and policy outcomes that are more representative of broad cross-sections of the public. The Polis platform has been used around the world, including in the vTaiwan initiative described in Public Agenda’s report on Rewiring Democracy.


In test groups of TTE for coronavirus, we learned the new version of the platform can be used easily by small groups who want to engage through video. We also learned that people who took part in the test are even more motivated to weigh in on the important policy questions that have emerged in the last few weeks.

Try TTE for coronavirus by texting ‘corona’ to 89800.