People deserve to have their own say in the policies which shape their lives on a local and national level. Representative democracy can create a disconnect between policy makers and the people they are serving. These limits can be compensated by forms of direct democracy, aided by innovative use of digital technology.
Direct democracy – Citizens directly shaping their policies, their surroundings, their community.
- UK Government online petitions. The ability to create and share petitions online serves a solid function for UK citizens to communicate with parliament. Although not a direct form of democracy by nature, digital technology has made petitioning far more accessible and prevalent.
- Decide Madrid – Established in 2015, Decide Madrid is a citizen engagement and participation platform. Through a clear and accessible interface, citizens of Madrid are able to call for debates, proposals, and vote on policy. The people of Madrid are able to involve themselves in the conversations which shape their city.
- Parlement et Citoyens – An initiative intending to enable lawmakers and citizens to collaborate on policy creation. Representatives use an online platform to consult citizens throughout the lawmaking process, enabling people to have the ability to directly influence policy.
- vTaiwan – vTaiwan is a multidimensional policy consultation process, allowing various points of access for citizens to contribute to decision making. Creating consensus where there is disagreement through conversation.
All of these are extremely positive initiatives that have increased participation and contributed to an improvement of community output. However, the ability for civic tech to increase political engagement can be limited, as those who don’t participate in civic activities and discussion may not see the appeal in the product.
Hello Lamp Post looks to fill this gap through its appeal as a non-political tool. By initiating playful conversations, we can see a more candid representation of people’s views and opinions, giving policy makers a unique perspective into the thoughts of those they serve.
The under-represented and disenfranchised members of society need their voices heard, and they are less likely to participate in orthodox politics. The challenge of innovators is to encompass these groups and give them a platform. Hello Lamp Post offers an alternative method of community input by creating these platforms in conversations with street furniture such as benches, bins and bus stops, a far more familiar and welcoming concept than direct political engagement.
Has Hello Lamp Posts been successful in this regard?
- West Ealing, UK – Successful consultations with the community regarding the policies that shape the environment they live, work, and play in.
- Summerside, Canada – Through this targeted project, the City of Summerside was able to increase citizen participation on budgeting reforms. 18-30 year olds were traditionally difficult to engage, yet Hello Summerside was able to gather their opinions and perspectives on a uniquely large scale.
- Independence, Oregon – Hello Independence was set up to gather community feedback to plan for the future of the city. Sentiments towards housing, green space, infrastructure, and the local economy were collected and policy makers were able to gain a new perspective of what the community wants and needs.