Democracy Club is up and running. Last week meetings were held up and down the country organised by volunteers involved with the new initiative to bring transparency to government. The project is an out-growth of TheyWorkForYou and other associated websites of MySociety founded by the ever inventive Tom Steinberg.
Thanks to the formidable resources it began with, with the emails of all those who've signed up to those sites on its database, Democracy Club already has over 3000 volunteers spread across 641of 650 of the UK’s constituencies.
Around 40 meetings have already taken place, the aim being to co-ordinate activity around the three goals Democracy Club has set itself.
The three questions they hope to provide answers for voters for are:
1. Who are the candidates in my constituency for the next election?
This will be done by asking volunteers to provide information on candidates in their area and drawing them together into a large database along with their contact details. Hard to believe that such a thing doesn’t exist already – the only equivalent resource I know of has to be privately purchased from Dods. If they can get this to work it’ll be incredibly useful.
2. What do they think about issues that matter to me?
This, an extension of the fantastic work of TheyWorkForYou.com, is the single biggest task Democracy Club aims to complete. They are hoping to get insight into all the candidates by focussing on questions that tend to be outside the remit of the party whip. This they will do by gathering feedback from volunteers about local issues that matter to them alongside national questions. Volunteers will then put them to each and every candidate in every constituency phrased in a "Yes" or "No" question so they can be mapped and tracked. Successful candidates who become MPs can then be held to their word in the next Parliament.
3. What are they saying on leaflets they post through the door?
It has become increasingly hard to make sense of the party propaganda dumped on one’s door matt at elections. The StraightChoice part of the project is trying to cut through these lies damned lies and statistics, by gathering images of as many election leaflets as possible into one place. They hope to be able to compare messages, and hold parties and candidates accountable for what they say on their leaflets.
Democracy Club works by emailing people “small, achievable tasks” that will help answer these three questions. You can sign up here. There was a meeting in my constituency of Holborn and St Pancras last Thursday. I couldn’t make it down in the end but judging by the email list I was copied into there were at least 20 people who’d said they wanted to take part. Great stuff. I hope it went well and I look forward to seeing the outcomes and getting involved in the future.
It’s inspiring to see such a large non-party network coming together, using the power of the web to work for better democracy and more transparent decision-making. Democracy Club is one of a number of such initiatives launched recently - we hope to track them all here on OK so let us know if you come across any others. Hopefully the energy can build. When people are provided with an outlet to come together outside of the parties and their suffocating routines all sorts of creative and exciting things start to happen.