By Richard Copland, July 2016.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen new and exciting experiments in direct democracy emerge: the Open Ministry – Crowdsourcing legislation site in the Finish Parliament; the Icelandic e-democracy and participatory budgeting website Better Reykjavik; Podemos, the new decentralised Spanish political movement and the municipal citizen-led coalitions Barcelona en Comu and Ahora Madrid.
You could also include Italy’s Five Star Movement in the range of options springing up that use technology to engage directly with people. Since the Brexit decision in the UK the world of politics has got a little potty and if the craziness continues you can expect a further proliferation of options.
Clandestine political meetings
I was introduced to one such option in clandestine circumstances this week, under the guise of hearing Paddy Ashdown’s post Brexit views on the tech sector. Imagine my surprise when we were given an early introduction to More United. This being a new platform that aims to influence politics without being a political party. The concept being that the world of politics needs to innovate to bring everyman back into the centre, rather than the extremist or populist end of the spectrum. A key aim is to enable people like to participate in and change politics in a way that has never been possible before. One of the principals of More United is for A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU.
A crowded space in the new world of politics
One aspect I did find interesting was how More United (if it’s not a political party) positions itself next to Change.org and Steve Hilton’s Crowdpac, a Silicon Valley political tech start-up. He was formerly a visiting professor at Stanford University and the senior advisor to David Cameron and played a leading role in the modernisation of the Conservative Party and the implementation of its government reform programme.
Hilton also recently wrote More Human, in which he argued that the frustrations people feel with government, politics, their economic circumstances and their daily lives are caused by deep structural problems with the systems that dominate our world – systems that have become too big, bureaucratic and distant from human scale. He was also a prominent supporter for the leave team in the referendum.
Decentralised Citizen Engagement Technology
These could both be part of Francesca Bria’s Europe-wide project D-CENT. The project investigates opportunities for technology to re-energise democracy and politics. D-CENT gathers citizen-led organisations that are transforming democracy and looks to help them develop the next generation of open source, distributed and privacy-aware tools for direct democracy. These tools, innovative in both the commercial and public sector domains, are spreading across the political spectrum, governments, parliaments and the public shaping the new political institutions of the 21st Century.
Do good. Make Money
Whilst I’ve been unpacking the rise of new open social democratic platforms this trend cross pollinates into the rise of the mission-driven business, where purpose and something of meaning is part of the powerful draw to start and create innovative solutions across the world to deliver change.