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Fridayblog went on summer holidays. But it’s back! This week: how we spent our summer; exciting new reports and consultations; some events and some Clangers.

☀️ We Know What We Did This Summer ☀️

While the blog was sleeping, the full-time team were still hard at work.

We’ve been trying to make things more general-election proof, just in case. This means making performance improvements that will benefit users in any event, but will be very handy if there’s a massive traffic spike caused by a general election or by a new media partnership with an organisation with a large audience…

…someone like BBC News, for example. We’ve been chasing our contacts at the Beeb throughout the summer and have just submitted another briefing that explains why they should have a polling station finder on their website. It’s one of our main aims for the year (see below) — cross your fingers for us.

The software that runs our crowdsourcing platform is also getting a much-needed overhaul. For the last few years, hacks and additions have been made in urgent response to feedback or bugs at its busiest time of year. Working on it outside of the election cycle means we can make significant improvements; a blog post will follow on this work soon.

And somehow all this needs to be paid for, so we’ve been chatting to lots of funders and writing grant applications. We plan to do a whole blog about our funding applications/situation soon, because it might be useful to others and you, dear reader, might have tips. (Sidenote: our friends at Simple Politics are giving it a year to become sustainable or they pull the plug. Learn more and help them out here!)

Nor did the crack team of crowdsourcing volunteers take their eyes off the by-election ball. We’ve covered every by-election that took place over the summer, along with candidates and results. And we’re seeing more candidates with at least some kind of digital presence, which is good news. Six by-elections next week: join in the crowdsourcing fun here!

🤔 What do we do, again? 🤔

In case you’ve consumed too much warm prosecco and totally forgotten what we do, never fear! We finalised our annual goals over the summer — here’s your print-out and keep edition. Hold us to these! We’ll try to report on progress at the end of the calendar year.

One ‘maybe’ that you might notice in our annual goals is a database of representatives, because open data on councillors (such as their name, position, party affiliation and contact details) doesn’t currently exist. Crazy, but true. We recently chatted with mySociety about the same project, so it looks like something on representatives could be happening… We’ve pencilled in a one-week ‘sprint’ on the subject to coincide with Local Democracy Week in October.

Thinking beyond next May, the board of Democracy Club CIC will meet on Wednesday next week to discuss what we think the organisation should have achieved within five or ten years, what will help us get there and how we know when we get there. Thoughts or comments to feed into the day are very welcome! Contact us at the usual things or scribble a comment below.

🕵 Other things we’re keeping an eye on 🕵

Summer didn’t seem to slow the rate of consultations, research reports and events on democracy.

The Cabinet Office published a report on their 2017 consultation on the Accessibility of Elections with a list of action points that they plan to work on. It’s particularly interesting for us, because, surprise surprise, accessible information about elections, candidates and policies is important.

Action 6: The Accessibility Working Group to consider the viability of piloting additionally sending out the information included on poll cards by electronic means to disabled people who request this service, to assess its usefulness and identify any security issues

Action 11: The Accessibility Working Group should engage with political parties to discuss how information on parties, candidates and their policies can be made more readily available to disabled people.

We’ve been banging on about this for, ooh, our whole existence: better data benefits everyone! You want more accessible information, you need the data! For disabled people or not-disabled people, it doesn’t matter! You need the data!

Hopefully we can track down the ‘Accessibility Working Group’ (seriously, if someone has a contact…) and have a chat with them. Here’s a reminder of some nice feedback we got about last year:

“I suffer from Vascular Dementia and lost my polling card although I am registered I have forgotten the details. This information has been invaluable. Thank-you so much.”

Second, the grandly named Geospatial Commission has also put out a call for evidence on the future of the UK’s geographical data. We’ll be writing something about the value of good data to democracy, but it’s a wide-ranging consultation, so room for everyone to pile in.

And lastly, the UK’s membership of the Open Government Partnership means that it’s time for another National Action Plan. This is where the government and civil society (folks like us) come up some targets for better openness over the next couple of years. The 2016-2018 plan included a plan to open up election results data…and it’s not super clear what the outcome was. Anyway, now there’s an opportunity to comment on the draft ideas for 2018-2020. Dive in!

📅 What’s next? 📅

We’ll be at The Big Ideas Festival near Cambridge on Saturday, in the form of Sym, Alex and Tom. Say hello if you’re going. (We’ll also be at The World Transformed in Liverpool later this month).

It’s the first ever DemocraBook Club next Tuesday. We’ll be discussing Emma Crewe’s “The Commons and Lords: A Short Anthropology of Parliament”. It’s a quick read, so there’s no excuse not to read the book over the weekend and join us on Tuesday evening!

And as always, you can skim through our Trello to see what else we’re working on.


P.S. If you’ve read this far, here’s a Clangers-based reward. In ‘Vote for Froglet’, the Clangers learn about how democracy works on Earth (well, in the UK). Not unsurprisingly, it was never broadcast to children, but did feature in the BBC’s election night coverage! For more gems like this, you need to join our Slack.

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