New tools aim to help boost civic engagement

demtoolsThe last few years have seen a number of projects undertaken to try and get greater citizen engagement with the democratic process, whether it’s looking for ideas (as Obama and the Labour party have), participatory budgeting or even civic co-creation, there are no shortage of attempts to tap into the power of the crowd.

Indeed, innovation charity NESTA predicted that 2014 would be the year when politics became crowdsourced, with the likes of IBM and Deloitte all producing reports on the topic.

Indeed, Forrester suggested that government will eventually be fixed from the outside in, as the crowd take greater involvement in the delivery of services.

Bringing citizen engagement online

This has led to the likes of CitizenLab being created to help facilitate these discussions.  Of course, even with such tools, it’s still a challenge to get people to engage, and the likes of Loomio have emerged to try and make the process easier, even if you don’t have the technical skills or even means to participate.

Another tool along these lines is DemTools, which was created to help activists and human rights organizers coordinate activities.

It uses open source software to provide a range of organizations, whether official political parties or civic organizations with the tools to engage with citizens.

These include:

  • Civi: Powerful, flexible contact management and citizen engagement
  • DKAN: Organize, Store, Graph, Map and Share Your Data
  • Elections: Robust Data Collection and Analysis to Document Political Processes
  • Fix My Community: Report Issues to Build a Better Community
  • Issues: Powering Voter Engagement with Candidates on the Topics That Matter
  • Petitions: Propose, Promote and Improve: Citizens Create and Endorse Petitions to Drive Political Change

It’s certainly a nice toolkit, although whilst technically very polished, it still presents organizations with the very real challenge of how to actually build engagement with the public.

Those social and cultural challenges are quite probably a whole lot bigger than the technical challenges involved in engaging with the public.

With an increasing level of interest in doing so however, it’s something that governments will get better at doing over time.

You can learn more about DemTools via the video below.


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