Category Archives: Digital Democracy

Run that town

Run that Town is an interesting game from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that uses real census data. It’s certainly a lovely looking thing.

From the blurb:

Use real Census data to discover who’s who in your area, and make decisions that will sway popular opinion in your favour. Choose from hundreds of projects for your town – from the practical to the preposterous.

What kind of leader will you be? Will you be treated to a ticker tape parade, or chased out of town by an angry mob?

Here’s a video, explaining more.

What might mobile democracy look like?

I’ve often said that the problem with participation in local democracy is that it just isn’t convenient enough. Meetings? Pah! I’m too busy trying to earn a living, quite frankly.

So mobile offers a really interesting opportunity. After all, the smartphones that sit in the pockets of an ever-growing number of people have a level of ubiquity that could make it work. You could also bring in some other recent developments (don’t say buzzwords) like gamification to further boost engagement levels.

Here’s an idea on how something could work.

It’s based on a pretty old e-democracy principle – e-panels! Rather than have a citizen panel of say 50 people, you develop an online group of hundreds or even thousands. Then you give them things to do, which are suitable to a mobile device.

The key to this is making the activities short, simple and reasonably interesting. If you look at the really popular games on smartphones, things like Angry Birds, Temple Run, World of Goo and so on, they are all games that can be picked up and played for a couple of minutes. They don’t tend to be long, drawn out strategic affairs.

So, some of the things that the mobile democracy app (or mobile friendly website…) could do might be to choose between several options. Perhaps something really blunt like “Libraries or lolly pop ladies?”; or between two images, one with a housing development in it and one without. Maybe ask people to take and submit a photo along a theme.

These aren’t referendums or anything like that, of course. But by regularly asking large numbers of people to respond, an organisation can build up a picture of what people think, which ways they lean on various issues.

By having a big group to work from, it wouldn’t matter if not everyone responds every time, and again, it’s about developing that database of people and their views.

Gamification might provide another way of increasing levels of participation – I’m always nervous about rewards – but perhaps leaderboards with badges would encourage people getting stuck in. There’s a danger that doing such things reduces the quality of responses – people would just respond with anything rather than thinking about it, just to get that top spot – but hopefully having large enough groups of people involved would minimise the impact.

I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on this as always. Seen anything out there in terms of using mobile to promote and encourage democratic participation? Or perhaps you think I’m barking up the wrong tree?

Digital democracy: some quick and easy ideas

Following up on my earlier post on tweeting meetings, here are a bunch of quick, easy – and probably free – ideas for getting started with digital engagement.

I put them together for a conference talk today on how local councils – parishes and towns – can use digital communications, along with more traditional approaches, to reach and engage with more people. The conference was a joint effort by the Norfolk Association of Local Councils and the Society for Local Council Clerks.

The point I was trying to get across is that there are some small actions you can try with minimal risk, need for knowledge, cost and so on – but which could have a really positive impact on participation levels.

The list includes:

  1. Tweet a meeting
  2. Start an email newsletter
  3. Map your parish
  4. Ask for ideas
  5. Verify a decision
  6. Run a web chat
  7. Hold a Skype surgery
  8. Become your local area’s online hub

The slides are embedded below, or you can download a PDF if you’d rather.

Digital democracy: tweeting meetings

I’m giving a talk today at a conference in Norwich for parish and town councils and one of the things I want to do is just to share some really simple ideas on how councils could get some online interactivity going.

One of those ideas was to tweet meetings. I asked my network on Twitter for examples, and was deluged!

I’ve used Storify to collect them all together, and have embedded it at the bottom of this post. Storify seems a great way of dragging tweets (and other media) together – ideal indeed for covering meetings!

It seems like there are different approaches being taken, mainly around who does the actual tweeting. Is it council officers? Councillors themselves? Journalists? Citizens?

Have a read through and see what you think.

http://storify.com/davebriggs/tweeting-meetings