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The One With Goals for 2018-2019


Like this, but mainly online

In this week’s blog, we try to hammer out our aims for the year and we’d love your feedback. Also, two evaluations of the voter ID pilots have been published — and we want to start a book club!

📥 Eleven months to go! 📥

Chris, Sym and Joe hung out in Cardiff on Tuesday (thanks Little Man Coffee!) to hash out the next few weeks’ work and to try to complete the Plan for This Election Year: everything we hope to have achieved through May 2019.

Joe has tried to lay it all out in a spreadsheet, but it’s not the most legible document ever, so here it is as a simplified to-do list version:

  • Maintain planning for general election, including listing and preparing of potential freelance hires, sources of funding
  • Produce all documentation and tech support necessary to BBC (to get the polling station finder on the BBC website)
  • Improve satisfaction with candidates database through better crowdsourcing by improvements to candidates crowdsourcer (still known sometimes as YNR (Your Next Representative)) — there’s an untidy longlist that we will tidy and raise again in a future Fridayblog)
  • Produce an ‘ElectionEverything’ widget (like the popular polling station finder widget, but with candidates info too)
  • Maintain good relationships with The Electoral Commission and local authorities to try to get 90% coverage of polling locations next May
  • Prototype an election reminders product (in a way that can prove impact?)
  • Improve the club bit of Democracy Club — better public understanding, more volunteers, more diverse group of volunteers — by writing a new vision and mission, design principles, a new ‘membership’ offer, a more public role for board members, and, of course, more core funding!
  • Continue to seek a sustainable solution/funding for the polling station finder
  • Help the work of the Electoral Commission and other democracy-related institutions by writing a report / hosting an event on the future of voter information and democratic engagement
  • Research and report on issues faced by groups less likely to take part in the democratic process (to improve awareness among the sector and suggest routes to new projects for us)
  • Investigate the idea of running a representatives database and lookup service by doing a discovery project on users’, technical and financial needs

What do you think? We’d love your comments and feedback!

If you delve into the spreadsheet you can see that we try to link tasks to the things we’re trying to achieve in the world. Eventually, one would hope that we can link the work we do (e.g. making it easier to gather candidate data), to the intermediate effects of that work (e.g. more people take advantage of the data), to the societal outcomes of those effects (e.g. greater trust in democracy). But that will take time and more significant resources, so bear with us.

We aim to report back on progress towards the end of the calendar year.

🛂 Some light reading on voter ID pilots… 🛂

Some substantial additions to the democracy reading list this week (see next item for #DemocraBookClub).

Yesterday, The Electoral Commission published their review of the voter ID pilots and — presumably by design — the Cabinet Office also published their ‘Electoral Integrity Project — Evaluation’.

The news even made it onto a brief spot on the Daily Politics, but note that they don’t distinguish between perceived and actual fraud, which is quite important.

The headline from The Electoral Commission’s report is that the pilots worked well: the “number of people who did not vote because they couldn’t show identification was very small.” However, as they also note:

The authorities in England that took part in the 2018 pilot schemes were not sufficiently varied to be representative of the different areas and groups of people across the rest of Great Britain. This means that we can’t be sure whether people in other areas would have problems showing identification.”

We’ve not had a good read of these documents, but we will try to publish some notes and thoughts on them in an upcoming Fridayblog. For context, here’s our blog on the pilots from March this year.

Our view is likely to reiterate that these pilots were not experimental trials: there were no control areas and participating areas were not randomly chosen (authorities volunteered to take part). As a result nobody truly understands the effects of the introduction of voter ID in the UK. More (and better) research is needed, as the cliché goes.

The Cabinet Office have confirmed that they’ll seek to do another round of pilots in May 2019. (Worth reading the press release for the poetry of the last paragraph alone). Democracy Club will ensure that the information voters need on these pilots is included on our voter-facing websites.

📚 …Let’s actually start a #DemocraBookClub 📚

Last week’s blog featured a reading list of democracy/digital-related PDF reports that had piled up in our tabs. We joked about a book club. But let’s actually do it! There might be better places for discussing readings than on twitter (let us know) — but let’s start there.

Got thoughts on relevant articles or books you’ve read? Want to point to useful things to read that concern democracy and digital? Tweet them with #DemocraBookClub (suggestions for snappier hashtags gratefully received). We’ll tweet using whatever hashtag works whenever we spot new things to read.

Sym managed to crack through some of those PDFs this week and has piled his notes in this document, along with architectural comments on railway stations he passed while reading said reports. Disagree with him? Comment away!

While we’re on reading materials, don’t forget there’s a useful compilation of civic tech reading here.

📅 Next week 📅

We’ll be working through our Trello list, and it’s another busy week of by-elections. Thanks to all the volunteers who have been doing some excellent work gathering photos and links to local election candidates (not an easy task) — you can help out here!


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