In the summer of 2015, Huge began work on an initiative to help get more young Americans connected with the federal programs designed to help them. We set out to create a centralized portal that makes it easier to register for programs like FAFSA, the Free Application for Financial Student Aid.
For the people, by the people.
We began by working to truly understand the needs and challenges facing young people, partnering with Civic Nation, the Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, and more to gauge the overall landscape. Then we conducted interviews with high school and college students across the country. What we learned surprised us.
We had assumed that awareness was a major hurdle. But the students generally knew about these government programs and even where to register for them. (“I know how to Google,” was a common refrain.) The challenge wasn’t discovering what and where. It was why, how, and when.
A perfect union.
Students didn’t need another online destination. They needed someone to remind them what to do, how to do it and — most importantly — when.
So we created Up Next, a notification system that communicates the way Gen Z does: via SMS. All a user needs is a mobile number to sign up. Then, after answering a few simple questions, Up Next does the rest. When it’s time for a task to be completed, a text is sent to the user’s phone. Each text links the user to details on Up Next’s responsive, Drupal-driven website. The page explains what the task is, why it’s important and how to get it done. 88% of teens have smartphones. And nearly all of them exchange texts — about 30 a day. So we’re connecting them to civic life where they are — through text messaging.
Up Next, in partnership with the Better Make Room campaign, is now an integral part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative, a program designed to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future through higher education.
Huge also created a toolkit to help school counselors and other partners promote the program. The toolkit contains a short tutorial about the program as well as pamphlets and posters to share with students themselves.
From sea to shining sea.
Up Next is designed to grow with this generation. As users’ needs shift throughout adulthood, Up Next will scale as well, offering information and support about any relevant programs — including ones that don’t exist yet.
To date, Up Next is the first anticipatory text-based digital service from the Federal government. By proactively reaching out to Americans with relevant, timely information, this marks a significant shift from a more passive, bureaucratic process. The White House sees it as an example of how the government can and should be serving its citizens of the future.