Although I wan’t involved in organizing Democracy Club before the 2010 election, I did get involved as a volunteer. I uploaded election leaflets that were shoved through my door (as well as getting everyone I knew to give me their leaflets to upload), called up my MP Richard Bacon, asking him why he hadn’t filled out the candidate survey and I even made a little project that stored the major party manifestoes and made them searchable.
I remember feeling incredibly empowered by having the ability to take these small actions. It was (rightly) like voting was only a small part of living in a democracy, with the other parts made up by small tasks performed by a lot of people.
However, after the election day and the weeks after it where we all got caught up with the coalition I slowly forgot about the collection of projects. The next election seemed like an age away, and there weren’t any obvious tasks that I could do that related to the day to day of government.
It seemed like everyone else forgot too, and the volunteer run project all but stopped.
This all changed over Christmas 2013, when the extended family conversation turned to politics. I enjoy talking about politics, but this conversation made me feel like we hadn’t moved anywhere since 2010: disempowerment and cynicism about career politicians. We’ve all had conversation like that, and it’s all too tempting to give up.
Instead of doing that though, I made a list of things that I, as a programmer, could to that might make some difference. Some of these ideas were to help out existing projects, some were brand new projects.
Then I started talking to people, realizing that there was limited value to me writing a load of code without having the people who were interested in using the tools I was making.
The obvious place to start was at the (no longer happening) mySociety meet ups at Mozilla. It was there that Tom Steinberg put me in touch with Full Fact’s Will Moy.
Will and I realised that if we got started earlier Democracy Club could have even more impact this time around, especially if we could bring together the volunteers and the technical expertise that made it work last time with even better links to other people’s projects.
We got the blessing Tim and Seb who had started the project 4 years before, and so Democracy Club was relaunched.
We’ve started earlier this time around, but the months are whooshing past.
Will and I both have full time jobs, so it’s all about getting started early and working with others to make Democracy Club as effective as possible.
This weekend we’re organising an unconference for anyone who’s interested in making the next election better. If that’s you, you can sign up here.