More than 65 million people have fled war-torn or politically unstable homelands in recent years. To rally U.S. support for the refugee crisis, Hive, a special project unit of USA for UNHCR, aims to engineer empathy by identifying what kinds of people might be open to the cause and how best they can be reached.
Hive uses an adaptive playbook that echoes how modern presidential campaigns reach supporters. The group partners with sentiment-measuring leaders like Civis Analytics and the online platform builder Timshel to figure out what kinds of messages might resonate with people who would join up readily but aren’t aware of the issue (the insider term is “lookalikes”), and those who never thought to get active until they discovered their commonality with the cause (so-called “persuadables”). In short, Hive can predict what campaign messages might hit best and tweak them to spur more interaction. Hive found that putting “Jesus Was a Refugee” on bumper stickers during the Pope’s visit played well with Catholics, while the hashtag #RainbowRefugees, which highlights sexuality-based persecutions, has added LGBTQ support.
Hive isn’t pandering for one-time donations; it wants a political base of supporters willing to take surveys, sign petitions, or re-share messages for the cause. The group is on track to meet its goal of recruiting a half-million new sympathizers in 2017, which could help it push for substantial corporate and governmental aid programs and policy changes.