Democracy Club

Democracy Maker Day 2018 – Twitter Moment

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A year in the life of a better local democracy

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Setting off on a journey together

Election week is one of those times when many of us who are part of local government don’t have time to kick the proverbial table leg (though we might fall over it accidentally). But on the eve of the 2016 UK elections, I’m taking half an hour out to write this, because there’s something that needs to be said. And that thing is this…

Something amazing has quietly happened over the past year. I’ve been thinking back to conversations with the Notwestminster gang in Spring 2015, in which we talked about the clear need for people to be able to find out about their election candidates more easily. We thought about how we could do something locally, but we knew that this same issue stops people from voting across the country. And in the midst of this, I got an email about Democracy Club’s YourNextMP site, and I got a bit excited about the prospect of maybe adapting a tool for the General Election into something that could work for the local elections too.

On 29th April 2015, during the intermission at the Election Special PechaKucha night that we were live tweeting in Huddersfield’s Media Centre, I tentatively asked a few questions…

…and so we got talking with Democracy Club that evening. This led to a gathering of Local Democracy Bytes, Democracy Club and LocalGov Digital Makers in Birmingham a couple of months later. What I hoped to learn that day was whether anyone thought it was feasible to develop a YourNextCouncillor or some such, and what it would take to make it happen. What I didn’t expect was for Democracy Club to come with an aspiration to do this for every election in the UK.

Now, I knew that was a big ask. Many people would not think it possible. Probably even everyone in that room didn’t think it was possible. But when Sym Roe quietly said “we’re aiming, by next May, to make it possible for everyone to find out who they can vote for in every election in the UK”… well, I believed him. And if you’ve been paying the slightest bit of attention, you’ll know that he kept his word.

For our part, we promised to do whatever we could to help, such as explaining how local government works, sharing contacts in the sector, and getting the word out to people that this is important work that we all need to support. We also agreed to work together in any way we could. This led to our first Local Democracy Maker Day, a fringe event of LocalGovCamp in Leeds that September. We organised this jointly between us – LocalGov Digital Makers, Democracy Club and Local Democracy Bytes. It was a really inspiring day in which I learnt much, and our friends from Democracy Club were right at the heart of it.

Because people came to work on our local democracy challenges and stayed for the whole of LocalGovCamp, this also meant that the Unconference the day after was packed with sessions about local democracy too. We could not have hoped for more.

Back in July 2015, I said that we’d started on a journey together, and by the Notwestminster event in February 2016 it felt like we’d already come a long way. Importantly, along the way we’ve made new and stronger connections between those of us who care about our local democracy. That’s really what Notwestminster is all about – the connections between us, and how we can find ways to work together to improve things.

Seeing Sym and Joe from Democracy Club arriving at the Media Centre in Huddersfield, in the place we’d first spoken via twitter, somehow closed a loop for us. It was an arrival, but it also made the journey still ahead suddenly very real…

Just a few short weeks later, and a little short of a year since we asked that first tentative question, a small but ever-growing army of democracy wombles quietly did something extraordinary:

I have sat in meetings over the past couple of weeks and told colleagues that this is amazing. I regret to say that I have received some blank looks in response. But not always. Either way, I shall keep on saying it – and you should too.

I know it’s been hard work to get this far – much harder than it should be. For everyone who has pored over mountains crappy PDFs to get this data together, and to make it open, thank you. There’s much more to do to improve things, which is why we all need to keep going.

For everyone else… please be a part of a better local democracy.

All you need to do is say it will happen, and find people who can help.

What’s next?

Diane

What we’ll be working on at our Local Democracy Maker Day #LDMaker15

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Local Democracy Maker Day, 11th September 2015

Local Democracy Maker Day
Friday 11th September 2015
The Studio, Riverside West, Leeds LS1 4AW

 

What is a Maker Day?

Our Maker Day is a chance to collaborate with others who care about democracy on issues that we choose together. Our focus at the Maker Day will be on sharing ideas for the 2016 local elections and trying some things out using elections data.

We’ve chosen three challenges for us to focus on during the day, based on responses to our Design Challenges survey and things that our participants have shown keen interest in over the past few months.
 

Our three Local Democracy Design Challenges are:

  • Access to Decision Makers:   People want greater access to decision makers and yet to many the local decision making process seems remote and impersonal.  How can we encourage real contact between those making the decisions and those affected by them?
  • Voter Information: If democracy is to work then voters need to be properly informed about their candidates and yet much of what they receive is biased and sometimes even inaccurate.  How can we ensure that voters in local elections get the facts and figures that they need to make an informed choice?
  • Digestible Democracy:  Local democracy needs to involve the widest range of people and yet the format of reports and the use of jargon puts off all but the most dedicated.  How can we present local decision making so it’s less obscure like modern jazz, and more popular, like rock and roll?

 

Other event info

Taking part at the venue or online? Here’s some other information you might find useful:

 

We are…

We are Local Democracy Bytes and the wider #notwestminster gang. Our Maker Day is part of a new collaboration with LocalGov Digital Makers and Democracy Club. It’s about turning our discussions around local democracy and digital into some practical tools that we can all use to make democracy work better for us.
 

Want to join in?

Book now for Local Democracy Maker Day

Local Democracy Maker Day – Friday 11th September 2015

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Local Democracy Maker Day, 11th September 2015

Local Democracy Maker Day
Friday 11th September 2015
The Studio, Riverside West, Leeds LS1 4AW

Book now for Local Democracy Maker Day

 

 

About us

We believe in bringing together people who have an interest in local democracy – and who are up for the challenge of making it work better for all of us.

We are Local Democracy Bytes and the wider #notwestminster gang. Our Maker Day is part of a new collaboration with LocalGov Digital Makers and Democracy Club. It’s about turning our discussions around local democracy and digital into some practical tools that we can all use to make democracy work better for us.

What is a Maker Day?

It’s a chance to collaborate with others who care about democracy on issues that we choose together. Our focus at the Maker Day will be on sharing ideas for the 2016 local elections and trying some things out using elections data.

You might have seen some of Democracy Club’s great digital tools like YourNextMP for helping voters during the 2015 General Election. How can we create relevant tools for the local elections – and every election? We’ll be learning from each other as we go along.

Please come and take part in this practical day to help build a better local democracy. We’ll talk about the issues and use data that’s already available to quickly prototype something based on our shared ideas.

Who is it for?

  • Digital makers
  • Local government officers
  • Councillors and candidates
  • Community activists
  • Hyperlocals
  • Open data advocates
  • Voters of today and tomorrow

What will we be working on?

We want you to help us decide which issues we’ll focus on at the Maker Day. We already have a list of Local Democracy Design Challenges that have come from our previous events and conversations. You can tell us which us these you’d most like to see us working on right now:

Local Democracy Challenges – what matters most to you?

If you work for an Electoral or Democratic Services team, we also have a short survey that you can fill in to tell us more about your experience of being involved in elections:

Electoral and Democratic Services survey

Book your ticket

It’s free. We have a limited number of places, so please book your ticket now.
Book now for Local Democracy Maker Day
 
 
 

Democracy Club

Local Democracy Bytes and hashtag Not Westminster
 
 
 

LocalGov Digital Maker
 
 
 

Local Democracy Bytes and LocalGov Digital Makers are part of LocalGov Digital. Our Maker Day is a fringe event of LocalGov Camp 2015, held on Saturday 12th September at the same venue.