By Taroue Brooks
How did you begin your entrepreneur journey?
On the eve of the 2016 election, it became apparent that young voters, especially young voters of color, could be the deciding factor that would affect the margins in key swing states. These young voters were feeling disaffected and disillusioned with the political process, but Democrats kept insisting that all we had to do was get them to the voting booth and they would vote in our favor. Cut to a few months after the elections, sitting in a focus group room full of young voters who had voted 3rd party – they were insisting they would make the decision all over again despite knowing that the end effect was the election of Donald Trump. Terrance Woodbury and I realized that we were about to have a big problem with young voters and people of color, and many Democrats were not taking them seriously as a powerful voting bloc. We started HIT Strategies as a way to create a seat at the table and to give voice to these voters with whom we interact every day, and who we realize will be a powerful force in upcoming elections.
Tell us about your company.
We also started HIT Strategies to make research accessible, deploying innovative research methods and lived experiences at the intersections of society to understand, communicate with, and mobilize some of the hardest to reach communities – women, (+ gen-z), and minorities. We believe that research is not a final product, but rather a tool to inform products like messaging, strategy, and policy. Understanding your audience is the single most effective tool in a campaign’s tool box.
And, we know that it is imperative that research become more accessible for candidates and campaigns who have found it out of their reach in the past. Using research to really understand the issues that women, young people, and communities of color in this country face, and how to communicate the solutions to these issues effectively will make all the difference in our upcoming elections. As the electorate changes in irreversible ways, so must our approach, messaging, and strategy toward engaging them.
What is it about politics that keeps you committed to the industry?
Politics and elections are important tools that we can use to affect meaningful change in our communities. Electing the right school-board members, the right judges, the right sheriffs, and the right policy-makers can measurably change the way that many of us function day-to-day. I’m committed to the industry because I’ve seen the way that the election of just one politician can expand access to much-needed health care, can provide food assistance to families in need, or on the other hand, can take away necessary freedoms leaving people worse-off, and I’m trying to do whatever I can in my capacity to make this country a great place to live for everyone.
How important is the VOTE of women in this election and why?
Women make up a majority – 55 percent – of the Democratic electorate. And women of color, who currently make up 37 percent of the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, will by 2060 be a majority of people in the country. Which is why, in the lead up to 2020 and beyond, it’s imperative that Democrats work to reach women, and other hard-to-reach constituencies, to expand their base.
This opportunity to expand the base lies in women of color. For example, though Black women are the most reliable Democratic voting bloc, according to the Census Bureau while 95 percent of Black women are eligible to vote, only 52 percent report voting. Increasing the turnout among even a small percentage of these women would help swing the election in some critical districts. But, these constituencies are notoriously hard to reach.
What should people do if given a difficult time attempting to vote?
The ACLU has a comprehensive know-your-rights voting guide that provides resources to anyone who feels they are being prevented from voting in any way. You can find the voter guide here: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/voting-rights/
Where would you like to see your business in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would like to see HIT Strategies growing to allow research to become an accessible resource for campaigns no matter how big or small. We see so many new, young faces running for office and HIT Strategies would love to help them with the tools they need to understand their electorate and message most effectively in order to win their elections. I would like to be able to help a new generation of leaders to take the stage and propel our country forward.
Roshni Nedungadi Bio
Roshni has spent her years as a researcher trying to understand the segments of the population of which she is a part. As a woman, as an Asian-American, as a millennial, America is starting to look more like her and tapping into the insights of these various communities (and the intersections thereof) have kept her constantly striving to improve outcomes for marginalized communities in this country.
Prior to starting HIT Strategies, Roshni spent a half decade at brilliant corners Research & Strategies, where she conducted research for candidates in international, national, state, and local elections, helped manage national research for groups like Moms Demand Action and BISC, and aided inventive, forward-thinking companies such as Google and AT&T in developing programs to benefit various impacted communities.
Previously, Roshni worked as a Data Analyst at Pivot, in the Wisconsin State Legislature as a Legislative Aide for a Milwaukee-area Representative, and through several years of campaign work – working as a campaign manager, communications staffer, and field organizer in a number of races – has developed a strong background in domestic politics.