After getting off to a relatively slow start, 2015 turned into a crazy year of public engagement and community outreach. So what does more than 20 meetings, over 3000 knocked doors, and countless conversations with community members in various scenarios look like? To make our activities more transparent and accessible, we decided to visually map out this information to show you. Here is a summary of the public engagement whirlwind that was IserveU's 2015. We enjoyed every second of it! Continue reading
While we may not be at your doors in the snow any more, our team is still buzzing away behind the scenes to bring Yellowknife’s software to life. We’ve also been holding information sessions, beta-testing, and perfecting the software leading up to our full launch. So What’s Rommel Up To? Rommel has been getting situated in his council duties and is excited to have the full power of the system at his disposal. He’s insisted on opening up the software to public suggestions ahead of time so he can get an even better idea of what you think about important issues in our city. Rommel let us know about a few emails asking about how he was using the platform for budget deliberations. The platform is equipped to take in feedback on completed motions placed before council; it’s just not binding until we know Yellowknife is happy with the system. This means feedback on deliberations can still be given through traditional routes such as Facebook, email, and phone calls; we know Rommel will be happy to hear from you! The great thing with this platform is it can and will change and evolve as new great ideas are given. There have been some additions already suggested and included during the beta process. This last month has given us a lot to build in for the 2016 budget deliberations. Annual General Meeting We also set out our priorities for the future. We were born as an eDemocracy society which is our angle on social innovation. With election campaigns over, our focus for the future builds off our team to more broadly support innovation in the North. We want to work together with creative people in all sectors to bring new ideas to Yellowknife and, eventually, the North. Our first ever Annual General Meeting was held at the public library meeting rooms on December 18 and capped off a crazy first year for an organisation that’s less than a year old. Our goal for the New Year is to set up monthly collaborative co-working meetings with folks looking to exchange ideas across industry lines, including the arts community, northern entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organizations to create a support network that will foster innovative northern solutions to northern issues and make Yellowknife an even better place to live. Reach out to us if this sounds interesting; we’re excited to hear from you. Remember, as always, that we’re here to answer any questions you have moving forward. Get us on Facebook, email, Twitter, or the hotline on our site any time. We’re looking forward to hearing from you. Happy New Years everyone!
IserveU is in beta, and you have the chance to be a part of the development. While we do have a functional site on our hands here—in the interest of keeping things cautious—we want to test for a while before anything becomes binding. We want to be confident the software is stable and working well for folks. At that time, we will send out an email to all those who originally signed up to the platform emails reminding everyone to verify their account. We want to answer your questions and gain your input. Come to the information sessions we will be holding over the next little while, have your questions answered, get signed up as a voter for the beta test, and be part of the development of the system. We'll keep you posted on the status of the site and what plans are for the upcoming votes and information sessions right here and on our social media platforms.
A question we’ve been asked a lot when we’re talking to people is, “Has this direct eDemocracy thing been done before?” Strictly speaking, the answer is no. there aren’t any examples of governments run by an eDemocracy. There are places where there are strong influences of direct democracy at many levels, or where direct democracy has been used here and there. Switzerland is a great example of a country where direct democracy had a large influence, and there are many municipalities in the U.S. where direct democracy is employed, as well. But E-Democracy is a step further. After the election of Rommel Silverio—the English-speaking world's first E-Democracy representative—here in Yellowknife, we hope we can become the first. A short while ago an organization called DemocracyOS tried to do something similar to IserveU in Buenos Aires. That said, it’s clear that this is a trend that’s only just beginning. But just don’t take it from us. We put together a nice list of some of the different direct democracy movements that have popped up. We’re focusing on Europe here where most of the action has taken place so far, maybe we’ll go further afield in another blog post. The Swedes are one of the pioneers of direct or liquid democracy. In the early 1990s a guy named Peter Alm started a party called Telefonpartiet (the telephone party), with the idea of letting citizens vote for decisions in parliament with their phones. A few years later, another guy named Mikael Nordfors started Direktpartiet (Direct Party). These parties are said to be the first in the world that embodied fluid democracy. Telefonpartiet only achieved a few votes when they ran for election, and Direktpartiet gave up before even trying, when the interest for direct in democracy was deemed too weak. But Mikael Nordfors wasn’t done yet. He went on to develop the system NetConference, and later helped set up the system used by Swedish party Demoex in Vallentuna. Around year 2000, there were experiments with online voting in places like Arizona, and Estonia started developing their e-democracy which has now become quite significant example of how e-democracy can work in the modern world. More on that later. Swedish political party Demoex (short for democratic experiment) is a local party in the municipality of Vallentuna outside of Stockholm. The party has had a representative in the municipal council since 2002, who votes in council according to a poll held on the party’s website beforehand. All residents of Vallentuna older than 16 can vote, and anyone can take part in debates also held on the party website. Voters do not have to vote on all issues; the fewer votes on an issue, the more weight each vote carries. You can see where some of our influences come from. In 2002, Sweden saw its first national party acting out the idea of fluid democracy. Aktiv Demokrati (active democracy) ran with candidates in the national elections in 2006 and 2010, and in 2010 launched their own technical solution for online polling. In 2010, no less than four parties representing fluid democracy participated in the elections: Aktiv Demokrati (national), Demoex (local), PopVox (local) and Tillit (no idea) The Demoex experiment came to an end in 2013 when they decided to go national together with other direct democrats in Sweden, among them Aktiv Demokrati. Their new party was called Direktdemokraterna, but in the 2014 election they lost their mandate in Vallentuna and got no new mandates elsewhere in Sweden. In Norway, political party Direktedemokratene (Direct democrats) ran in the 2003 local elections. They had no political orientation apart from practicing direct democracy by doing internet polls on all decisions the elected representatives were to vote on. In 2003 they ran in 3 municipalities: Oslo, Moss and Rygge. Gaining only a couple hundred votes in each municipality, they got no representation. German Pirate Party launched an open source system in 2010, “Liquidfeedback”. It let voters voice their opinion through online polls, but apparently polls were not binding, probably one of the reasons they lost a lot of support in 2013. Italian party Movimento 5 stelle (five star movement), lead by comedian Beppe Grillo, also uses a liquidfeedback-inspired system to let citizens comment, vote and help write laws. In 2013, M5S was the second largest party in Italy, with 25% of the votes. We're standing among some extremely talented folks here. We hope we can convince others in our city of the validity of our system, and we're proud that Rommel Silverio has been elected as the first E-Democracy representative in Canada. Our work has only just begun, and we hope that the movement continues to grow in our city and stand in support of the many similar projects taking place abroad. (Source: Anders Lönnfält,Joakim Sigvald (2014): Fluid democracy, Nomad Förlag.) (Source: There is a pretty long wikipedia article on Demoex here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoex) (Source: Anders Lönnfält,Joakim Sigvald (2014): Fluid democracy, Nomad Förlag.) (Source: Per Norbäck, one of the founders of Demoex, has his own blog. He writes in faulty English about the events here: https://pernor.wordpress.com/category/demoex/ ) More on their system here: http://techpresident.com/news/wegov/24161/five-star-movement-launches-electronic-parliament
This past weekend IserveU made its first public appearance at Yellowknife’s biggest annual event - Folk on the Rocks! It was awesome to talk with Yellowknifers for the first time about improving public engagement, accountability, and transparency in their local government. Continue reading