September 13, 2016; Fast Company, “Co.Exist”

How do you convince people who’ve never really thought about a cause to join it? The goal of The Hive, which is affiliated with the U.S. Association of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USA for UNHCR), is to involve at least 500,000 people in conversation and advocacy to influence government and policymakers to create more audacious outcomes. By running targeted Facebook and Instagram ads, the Hive wants to “transform the way Americans engage with the refugee crisis.”

With a focus on loyalty first and financial and other ripple effects second, UNHCR is using tools other nonprofits use, but not just to drive donations. Using #RainbowRefugees as the hashtag, and partnering with data science company Civis Analytics and online platform builder Timshel, Hive wants to predict what type of people would be sympathetic to their cause and to design campaigns for A/B testing.

Both Civis and Timshel are refinements of systems used in the two Obama presidential campaigns. Regional surveys are mixed with consumer information and voter registration data, and the subsequent messages created resonate with specific audiences.

#RainbowRefugees identified two groups with possible interest: the “lookalikes,” who resemble current supporters, and the “persuadable”—those who might have good reasons to support but don’t know it yet. The two groups turned out to be very different. Lookalikes tend to be older urbanites, mostly white and female. The persuadables were adults 40 and under who tended to live in cities with significant Hispanic populations.

From the targeted messages came interesting findings. For example, although two-thirds of Americans agreed with UNCHR’s written mission, only a quarter had heard of UNHCR, the organization. Messages explaining that refugees were more likely than non-refugees to graduate from college decreased Democratic affinity, while messages that explained that children were nearly half of the refugees increased Republican interest.

During the Pope’s visit to the U.S., the phrase “Jesus was a refugee” was highlighted, which was received well by the Catholic community. For COP21, an international conference on climate change, “climate-driven conflict” was described as driving people from their homes.

“We’re meeting people where they are,” says Ari Wallach, Hive cofounder. “Instead of saying, ‘There is a global refugee crisis,’ we’re saying, ‘This is the way it impacts you and what you care about.’”

Hive expects to hit half their mission goal by January 2017. If someone takes a virtual action—taking a survey, signing a petition, resharing content—that action counts toward the goal. In preparation for their anticipated public-acceptance tipping point, Hive has created an in-house blueprint entitled “The Book of Ideas.” One of the yet-to-be-developed ideas they anticipate includes a predictive data analysis that can identify the warning signs of a mass exodus and the onset of a new refugee crisis.—Jeanne Allen