Q&A with Selena Strandberg, Founder & CEO, The Know

AllVoices Team
March 21, 2022

What inspired you to start The Know? 

I spent too much time looking for good information on candidates every time an election rolled around. By the 2018 midterms, I learned that friends, family members, and coworkers were routinely held back by this problem, too -- so much so, that many didn’t vote at all.

At the same time, the information climate was worsening at a national level. Social media platforms encourage the rapid spread of false information -- and amplify only the loudest and most sensational voices. Sanity and nuance are rare in the national conversation.

After years of working in Silicon Valley, I was disheartened to see the tech industry continue to prioritize apps and billing software while turning a blind eye to the misinformation crisis it helped foster.

One way to combat misinformation is to counter it with real information. But for this to work, factual information has to be readily available, accessible, and easy to understand. This is what we provide at The Know.

In a nutshell, what is The Know? 

The Know is a nonpartisan political information platform. We deliver short-form, digestible, and straightforward political news and data. 

Today we offer 1) data-driven media and 2) a full candidate database. We publish a daily newsletter that covers political news in a straightforward, accessible manner, and uses primary source data. It’s an afternoon digest, meant to be consumed in <5 minutes. Think of it as your daily “news snack.”

Our database aggregates primary source data on candidates running for office -- so you don’t need to rely on “the news” to determine your vote. You can see what candidates have said and done, sorted by the topics you care about. 

We’re nonpartisan -- which means we don’t take a side. The Know helps the politically curious become politically empowered.

What is your definition of being “politically empowered”? 

For us, being “politically empowered” means having the right amount of knowledge to participate in civics -- in whatever form works for you and your lifestyle -- for whichever candidate, party, or policy you choose. It’s the ability to flex your civics muscle.

Political participation can mean different things to different people -- voting, protesting, running for office. But it often starts with discussion, around dinner tables and break rooms and water coolers. We want people to know the information they need to plug into the conversation in the first place. 

Much of political media is designed for politics junkies. What’s left for the rest of us is highly sensationalized news that caters to -- and bolsters -- opinion, not fact. 

The Know brings nuance to the conversation. We’re creating a space where it’s okay to not know everything and it’s okay to change your mind. Our goal is to empower everyone with information, so they can participate anywhere along the spectrum of civic engagement -- engaging from a place of fact before forming an opinion.

Do you have any advice for individuals having discussions around politics at work? 

Here are a few tips for having a political discussion in the workplace -- or really anywhere!

  • Start from a place of common ground -- before jumping into politics, find an area of mutual interest or shared experience.
  • Use empathy -- Everyone comes from different backgrounds and different life experiences. These experiences shape our politics. If your coworker holds a viewpoint different from yours, consider that they have had different life experiences than you. 
  • Ask for motivations -- People don't often consider why they think the way they do. Where you’re raised and who you’re raised by are just some factors that influence our political preferences. Add on life experiences, education, religion, etc -- you’re likely coming at an issue from different places.

  • Allow room for complexity -- It’s helpful not to label ideas and people “good” or “bad” but instead allow for nuance. Given all the inputs that can impact individual values, we shouldn’t expect to see all issues similarly.

  • Be mindful of your own emotions-- It’s easy to get heated in politics because we’re often trying to “win” the conversation or defend our beliefs. When talking to someone with a different viewpoint, be mindful of your own emotions and when they tend to take over during a conversation. Remind yourself the goal isn’t to “win,” it’s to understand.

In your opinion, what can companies do to encourage civic engagement? (i.e. days off for voting in their local, state, and federal elections or other tangible examples)

Employers should first ask themselves what kind of company culture they want to foster. Solutions should match culture. Here are some examples:

  • Employers can offer time off to vote -- Companies can craft internal policies that allow employees time off to vote. Voter participation increases when employers give their employees time to vote. Turnout matters in local, state, and federal elections.
  • Employers can provide trustworthy information on the world around us -- The role of the employer in our society has shifted considerably in the past decade. Employers are much more than a source of income, they’re also where many now turn for a sense of community, support, well-being, and knowledge. They’re trusted sources of information and can get ahead of the misinformation that swirls in the office by providing easy access to high-quality information. Employers should be thinking carefully about where their employees are getting information today and whether it aligns with their culture.
  • Employers can foster political discussion in a safe, supportive environment -- Perhaps contrary to some lines of thinking, political discussion is happening in the workplace and shows no signs of slowing down, especially as we head into yet another election season. It’s happening in the offices, on Zoom, and over Slack. Companies can help alleviate political discord and vitriol by proactively fostering more thoughtful, inclusive discussions, with a commitment to data and nuance.

Why was it important to you and your team to offer The Know as a free resource? 

We decided to keep our elections database and our daily newsletter free because we believe factual information is absolutely necessary to preserve democracy. There’s a troubling information asymmetry in U.S politics in terms of who can access high quality materials. We believe factual, straightforward information should be readily accessible to everyone.

What are the key elements of a “great” company culture? 

  • Open Mindedness
  • Understanding
  • Data-driven

When was your last “Ah-ha” moment? 

I’d share but it would spoil the surprise for what comes next for The Know :) Stay tuned!

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

We’d love for readers to check out our daily newsletter (it’s free). If you’re an employer looking to learn more about how you can strengthen your employer brand by responding to current events, please reach out at know@theknow.io! I’d love to speak with you directly. 

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