Organisations that support democratic engagement
These three organisations have developed and challenged methods of engaging people. They are independent from government, but often work with or for agencies, to better improve public services.
Established in 2012, ActionStation has since collected together an active, diverse and digitally engaged community.
They are an independent, not-for-profit organisation. This independence has helped them build a high trust profile, especially key when talking to people about what can be political and/or sensitive social issues.
ActionStation are effective in using direct marketing and peer-to-peer conversations to engage, talking offline and online, with Facebook being a significant tool of use. They go to where the people are.
As a result, they have built a database of over half a million people.
ActionStation make sure to collect only the minimal amount of demographic information from their users, scraping from Facebook or using information volunteered to them. From this they build personas, which they use to help carefully shape what is asked of their community.
The people in the database are regularly engaged on ActionStation’s key topics of interest (human rights, the environment, democracy and the economy).
They have found:
- There is a need for agencies to create engaging content, with good design.
- Make and keep to a timeline, when will it start, finish, and who will be involved and when. This helps people better understand the expectations around their engagement.
- You should ask people for things that they can actually have an impact on.
The Design+Democracy project was created by Massey University’s College of Creative Arts in response to declining voter participation levels. They built apps and sites including On the Fence and VoteLocal, which have contributed to an increase in youth voter participation.
Design+Democracy have been working in this space ever since, focusing on youth engagement and developing user-centred design.
People are more likely to engage if they see others also participating. If someone is able to share the results of their quiz on Facebook, this can facilitate a discussion with friends and family, creating more engagement opportunities.
Also based out of Massey University’s College of Creative Arts and focused on human-centred design, Toi Āria have led countrywide research into better improving public services.
Toi Āria’s research required them to go out to a diverse range of communities and learn from the people how government services can be improved. This meant seeking out community hubs and community leaders that could facilitate encourage people share their feedback.
In balance with this face-to-face method, which was adapted and honed to each community, a digital channel was also developed. It also adapted, based on feedback that was received throughout their projects.
Sharing was also an important part of Toi Āria’s process. LIke the Design+Democracy applications, the online tools that Toi Āria developed could be shared across social media, but you could also see immediately how you compared with others who had also participated. This was a replication of what happened with the in-person interactions, where groups could see how individuals had responded to scenarios, sparking discussion and even developments in opinions.