#maskup campaign from Dr Leah Windsor

A year and a half ago, few would have predicted that we would be where we are today. That is, in an almost-but-not-quite-post-pandemic world. And while nobody asked for a pandemic or enjoyed the changes it brought to everyday life, we were forced to make sacrifices and to take on the responsibility of doing what we know is right in the interest of both personal and public health and safety. In the future, once those things are no longer at risk, I think we’d all love to go carefree and maskless again. Right now, though, the delta variant is running rampant, and many children still aren’t able to get vaccinated. Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised people over the age of two who remain unvaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors. If we continue to follow these guidelines, together, we can emerge from the pandemic safely, once and for all.

Covid-19 has presented our country with a typical collective action problem, a situation in which individuals’ self-interest conflicts with that of the group. If most individuals act in accordance with the group’s interest — wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and following CDC guidelines — they will achieve public good. Of course, this allows some individuals to act selfishly — choosing not to do those things for personal convenience — and still reap the benefits of the public good due to the responsibility of others. But if enough individuals choose not to participate, trying to get a free ride on the way to a post-pandemic world, that good cannot be achieved.

The most effective way to obtain this public good is by reaching herd immunity, which can be done if a great enough percentage of the population gets vaccinated against Covid-19. One obstacle to realizing this outcome is the fact that not all individuals in our society are currently able to take that action; children under the age of 12 cannot yet be inoculated. With that sector of the population out of the question when it comes to herd immunity, the responsibility falls even more on us as adults (and older adolescents) to do what is necessary to move our country forward. This means that those who are able to should get vaccinated, and those who are unable to should wear masks. That is our path toward public good. In recent months, however, with the widespread lifting of mask mandates, there has been a shift. The majority of people no longer wear masks in public places — because they aren’t required to. Likewise, come fall, many schools will no longer ask students to wear masks, and because we know how people behave, if it isn’t a rule, most people won’t do it. While CDC guidelines recommend that many school-age children wear masks due to their unvaccinated status, without enforcement, this suggestion will likely be dismissed by many.

Luckily, some outstanding individuals are using Magnify to step up in their communities and advocate for mask requirements in their school districts for all unvaccinated children, faculty, and staff. Dr. Sarah Wilson Sokhey from Boulder County, CO, and Dr. Leah Windsor from Shelby County, TN, created projects on our engagement platform asking users to contact their respective counties’ superintendents about requiring masks in their schools. They both shared information about the CDC’s July 9 announcement, “Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools,” and posted a sample email for their project followers to send to the county’s superintendent or public health office, urging them to require masks in school this fall. Both projects emphasize the importance of protecting our communities’ children and prioritizing their safety, as they are a sizable “vaccine-ineligible” portion of our population.

For Dr. Windsor, another big part of her project was “[giving] a voice to all of the parents who we know are saying they’re really concerned about this school year … In wanting to be cooperative and not adversarial,” she said “[the parents] wanted to inform the policy before it was made … [and] to be partners with the school district.” She explained how Magnify allowed them to do exactly that. “The strength of Magnify is that it helped the silent majority organize and find their voice. It was just such an easy platform to use, and we will definitely use it again,” she said. In the end, Shelby County will be requiring masks in schools starting this fall, and Dr. Windsor said that although they’ll never know for sure, “it is possible that just a few emails to the superintendent tipped the scales.” Regardless, this is a success for her community, especially for the parents involved in the movement. Magnify gave them a platform for working toward their goal and will continue to do so. In this process, it became evident to Dr. Windsor that “there is a need for more parental organization within the district, so [they’re] going to leverage this success to organize more parents” going forward, she said.

These projects are a wonderful example of how Magnify can be used to take action in your community and to solve collective action problems. This platform allows you to garner the support of those around you geographically and online to tackle the issues that are important to you. And our game-like system of rewarding users with points for their actions provides an incentive for getting involved in more projects like these. Incentives for acting in the public interest during this pandemic have been all over; rideshare services are offering free trips to vaccine appointments, Krispy Kreme is giving free donuts to vaccinated patrons, etc. Whether your motivation is Magnify points to move you up the leaderboard or glazed donuts to satisfy your sweet tooth, incentives are a key part of getting individuals to act in the interest of the greater good and to getting us through (hopefully) the last stretch of this pandemic. And maybe, just like Dr. Windsor’s, one project at a time, we can protect our communities’ children by getting schools to #maskup this fall.

How can you help? Take action to support masking HERE and HERE.

Magnify was developed as a platform to provide a place where our users—friends, family, faculty members, and colleagues—could come together and work to resolve issues facing their community. The software was designed to provide these users with the tools needed to connect with others who are passionate about similar issues, a positive environment for constructive conversation, and a platform to get things done. The Magnify team recently touched base with a few Magnify users in order to learn more about how they were using the platform and to make improvements both in and outside of their academic settings.

When speaking with Dr. Brian Harrison, lecturer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, he described Magnify as “an opportunity to make a mistake” when using the platform in his LGBTQ+ and contemporary public policy courses. He found that Magnify works well in his public policy courses because they allow class concepts to be implemented and tested, while at the same time allowing students to “make mistakes and learn from them.” This demonstrates a valuable asset of the Magnify software: a tool to integrate components of course syllabi into the real world through networks of student peers.

Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin Bethany Albertson and Associate Professor of Political Science at George Mason University’s Schar School Policy and Government Jennifer Victor both found successful implementation of Magnify in their larger intro lecture courses. Both professors used the platform to create smaller groups within these larger groups to facilitate action networks among students that would not have formed otherwise, facilitating the theory of intimacy by building community and taking action. 

Christian Grose, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southern California, continued this trend of using Magnify to make large classes small in his course on election reform. Through Magnify’s implementation, he saw his students bring about real change at the local level through the renaming of a university building, demonstrating the ways our action-centered platform amplifies local advocacy efforts to bring about concrete change within communities.

Overall, after speaking with these esteemed users, the Magnify Team has compiled a list of recommendations on how best to maximize the Magnify experience:

  1. Try incorporating Magnify into the syllabus of the class in a way that allows students to connect it to the course material. This may make it seem more relevant and helpful, rather than distant and unrelated. 
  2. We recommend offering extra credit to students who choose to use Magnify instead of making it mandatory. Magnify should feel like a useful and meaningful tool, but making it mandatory for assignments may put students off. For those who choose to use it with less pressure attached, they may be more able to see what Magnify can help them accomplish.
  3. Encourage students to work on Magnify projects in groups. This collaboration can lead to more participation and ideas that garner broader interest.

The possibilities for using Magnify, both inside and outside of the classroom, are endless. We hope these tips from professors who have incorporated Magnify into their courses help others engage students in the classroom and use the platform to effect positive change in their communities.

Team Magnify is excited to announce a collaboration with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, a nonprofit organization focused on engaging and supporting the Jewish community in the St. Louis area. With the launch of the new JBuzzSTL mobile app and website, the Jewish Federation now has a community-building platform that allows its members to participate in projects, sign up for upcoming events, and share ideas and content, among other things.

Earlier this month, Team Magnify had the wonderful opportunity to interview some members of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Some of the topics discussed include: the story of how the members ended up working with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, a conversation about their aspirations for the future of the Jewish Federation, and, of course, any thoughts the members had on the newly launched JBuzzSTL app. 

Since 2017, Sarah Levinson has been the manager of the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC, a program coordinated by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis that supports senior citizens by providing community engagement and support services to them in their own homes. Sarah says that she “love[s] being part of an organization that is constantly evaluating the needs of its community and figuring out ways to meet them.” And this emphasis on community is abundantly clear in the plethora of fun bonding activities that the NORC has held in the past, including drawing courses, yoga classes, and coffee shop concerts. 

For Sarah, helping elderly members of the community has been a consistent theme in her career. During her time pursuing a Masters degree from the University of Southern California’s School of Gerontology, she interned with the Jewish Family Service of LA. Afterwards, she started a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. For her master’s project, she interviewed artists over the age of 70 about their work, lives, and values. She specifically attributes that experience as one that “helped [her] to find and pursue [her] passion for rethinking about the ways in which we engage and support our aging neighbors.” Since then, Sarah has become a valuable member of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis

Finally, Sarah shared some of her initial thoughts and future aspirations regarding the newly launched JBuzzSTL mobile app and website. She considers it “a wonderful example of how we can utilize technology to make our lives and communities better and more connected!” This is especially applicable for older members of our community who may not have the means to stay connected in person — especially during the pandemic. JBuzzSTL in particular can serve as a way for people to connect. One can simply browse the hundreds of projects on JBuzzSTL and participate in the ones that appeal to them, whether it’s a project about recommending new books or sharing old family recipes. They can also use JBuzzSTL as a way to stay up to date on all of the upcoming events held by the Jewish Federation, such as the St. Charles Jewish Festival.  

A member of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis team since 2014, Samantha March is the organization’s Digital Communications Specialist. In that position, Sam held an important role in the rollout of the JBuzzSTL app and website. Initially brought in to test the platform for bugs, Samantha later was in charge of making sure the Federation’s brand was presented correctly throughout and that the platform provided a user-friendly experience.

A 2012 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, Sam started working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car right out of college. After quickly climbing the ranks to management assistant, transferring to a St. Louis branch, and becoming interim branch manager there, she decided it was time for something new. Sam subsequently landed at Budweiser, a Jewish day school, and finally, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, where she has been for the past seven years. When asked what has kept her there so long, Sam had high praise for the family feel of the organization. “I just love the people I work with … there [are] about 60 people that work there, and we’re all very close.” Sam also shared her confidence in the mission of the organization itself, adding that she believes “[the Jewish Federation] does good.”

Like Sarah, Sam also shared her thoughts about the newly launched JBuzzSTL platform with Team Magnify. Within the Jewish Federation, JBuzzSTL will mostly be used as a new tool for community members to interact with each other and plan events. Sam mentioned that planning events on the same day “is a big issue in our community” and that using Magnify should help with that. Unlike the platform previously used by the Federation, Magnify has the option to like, comment, and follow different posts and users, allowing for an “online community we did not have before.”

JBuzzSTL is due to be rolled out to the entire Jewish Federation of St. Louis community by the end of July, and Magnify is honored to have partnered with the Federation on such an important project. We hope it’ll be a great resource for them and their partner organizations and look forward to seeing what they’ll accomplish.

Unkempt neighborhoods in St. Louis, Missouri drive down real estate values, discourage investment in the city, and are generally bad for the economy. Daycare employees find used hypodermic needles in piles of trash behind their workplace. And, of course, there is also the issue of environmental racism at play in St. Louis, in which, according to WashU researcher, Joseph Goeke Frank, the percentage of Black residents in a neighborhood is the single strongest predictor of illegal trash dumping response time. In his dissertation, which controlled for variables such as “indicators of political influence, socio-economic status, and housing conditions,” Frank found that for each 1% increase in a neighborhood’s Black population, response time would decrease by half a day. The prevalence of illegal dumping is also much higher north of the infamous Delmar Boulevard, leaving Black neighborhoods more susceptible to having their communities polluted in the first place.

Missouri’s second-largest city is facing an ecological (and social) crisis of epic proportions — a rampant increase in illegal trash dumping is in turn creating broader issues for communities inhabiting St. LouisTL. Despite being a crime punishable by law that is enforced by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Environmental Investigations Unit, the practice only continues to grow with no end in sight, especially in areas with higher African-American populations like North County.

Erica Williams, founder and executive director of A Red Circle, created a project on Magnify to encourage local residents to pitch  in to the fight against illegal trash dumping. The project, titled Collaborate to Stop Illegal Dumping in North County and available at https://www.magnifyyourvoice.com/reportillegaldumping, hopes to encourage residents of St. Louis to take a picture of any illegal trash they see in North County and upload it to the project’s comment section with the goal of eventually using the data to map where dumping is happening in the community.

While Williams was pursuing her doctorate in public policy, one class assignment required her to  create  a mock non-profit, complete with a mission statement, a vision statement, a five-year strategic plan, finances, and more. Working full-time as a paralegal in Clayton at the time, Williams thought “I can actually … do this … in my spare time,” and thus, the organization was born. Williams founded A Red Circle in the hopes of bringing the residents of North County together to address issues facing the community, such as food deserts, job opportunities, and now — illegal trash dumping. 

While the problem is a phenomenon growing in prevalence across the broader St. Louis area, trash dumping is particularly problematic in North County, as efforts made by the city of St. Louis to curb the act have been largely neglected in the predominantly Black area. When reached out to by Magnify interns, a representative of St. Louis’ Citizens Service Bureau (the authority St. LouisSTL residents can report illegal trash dumping to) said the city does not track reports  in North County, but those concerned were welcome to call St. Louis County for “County info on reporting/tracking.”

Since North County is not within the CSB’s jurisdiction, trash dumping can only be reported to the representatives such as the mayor and city council person; — there is no central authority, so there is no way to track data analytics and reports in the more white, more affluent city of St. Louis proper. A Red Circle, earthday365, and various citizens have teamed up together in attempts to find solutions to the problem, such as A Red Circle’s project on Magnify, hoping to create a trash dumping map.

A Red Circle’s name is a tribute to the interconnection of societal issues and humanity, as all blood is red. The organization’s mission statement, as listed on its website, is “The holistic betterment of our community; reversing the effects of racism one person and cause at a time.” Like Magnify, A Red Circle seeks to change the world one action (or click) at a time.

What can you do? Join us! Click HERE to take action today!


What makes you happy? Maybe it’s your career, your loved ones, or even your favorite show. What about social media? We’re often given this image of joy on our frequented apps like Facebook and Instagram, but does it actually make us feel that way? Are we happy? Chances are, on social media, we aren’t. Over the years, it has become clear that there are many well-documented, negative effects of social media. Following are just a handful of ways that current social media platforms have been hurting their users.

  1. Studies show that people who spend significant time on social media are more likely to develop mental health issues (or exacerbate pre-existing ones) than their peers who do not use social media.

This is because sites like Facebook and Instagram allow users to show off the best parts of their lives, while keeping any personal issues offline. Since humans are psychologically predisposed to comparing their own lives to the lives of their peers, people compare both the ups and downs of their lives with a glamourized, highlight-reel of their peers’ lives — and in the process feel down on themselves. A systematic review even found that excessive social media use leads to a measurable decrease in sleep quality, as well as the onset of poor mental health and/or depression/anxiety disorders (Alonzo et al. 365).

  1. Social media users may also develop FOMO (“fear of missing out”) when they see their friends having fun without them, or feel competitive when their friends and peers get more likes than them.

This vicious cycle of online comparison is only fueled by the trend of online social expansion, with new apps being developed everyday for the same thoughts to perpetuate.

  1. Cyberbullying, hate speech, and threats of violence pervade every aspect of social media.

In just the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, Facebook removed over 20 million messages that it deemed as hate speech.

  1. All of the negativity and vitriol online can also translate to real world violence.

The Washington Post reports how, “white-supremacist groups use social media as a tool to distribute their message…when their rhetoric reaches certain people, the online messages can turn into real-life violence”.

  1. In a similar vein, misinformation and false claims can also be easily spread online through social media platforms.

This is because people can easily posit any claim and have it spread rapidly before it is even fact-checked. 

  1. Finally, it cannot be forgotten that social media companies sell their users’ data. 

Not only is this a major breach of privacy, but it also commodifies individuals, as companies value profit first and their users second. Not to mention, social media companies have been the target of cyber attacks, where millions of individuals’ data has been stolen by hackers.

Although there are many cons to online media platforms, they have become a staple of communication and social development in our current age. Now is the time to use it for good. The biggest challenges facing social media platforms today are those of moderation, privacy, and value sharing. This is where Magnify steps in to save the day, allowing users to create secure private networks for value sharing across community groups online! Magnify Your Voice is an online civic engagement platform that allows groups and individuals to create private social networks that help work towards community goals. The app allows projects to be created and for other community members to join to help work together in a positive manner to solve civic issues. Current platforms that boast the same mission operate under a different business model: selling your data to outside sources. This model holds a different mission of prioritizing capital instead of community. By contrast, Magnify operates under a guaranteed privacy policy that ensures the protection of your data from outside companies, prioritizing the community before these corporations. Additionally, projects on Magnify are moderated to ensure the active regulation of hate speech, bullying, discrimination, and all else that would hurt civic progress.

Magnify supports civic learning by embedding active community engagement in a positive, meaningful manner online. Unlike third-party platforms, our private social app incentivizes action and promotes the values of those who matter most: community members. All in all, Magnify is a space specifically designed for real-life change rather than continuous scrolling through surface-level content. Be a part of this change by downloading the app today. Progress starts with you; voice your voice, and help make the change!


Alonzo, R T, et al. “Interplay between Social Media Use, Sleep Quality and Mental Health Outcomes in

Youth: a Systematic Review.” Sleep Medicine, vol. 64, Dec. 2019, p. S365. ScienceDirect,


Hatzipanagos, Rachel. “How Online Hate Turns into Real-life Violence.” The Washington Post. WP

Company, 30 Nov. 2018. Web. 01 June 2021.

Wagner, Kurt. “Facebook Pulls 22.5 Million Hate Speech Posts in Quarter.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg,

11 Aug. 2020. Web. 01 June 2021.