Empowerment. Engagement. Participation. You know all the buzzwords. The Internet has been a decisive catalyst for the ever increasing importance of these characteristics for a modern democratic society. Social Media platforms and the breakup of the traditional societal one-way communication (top-down approach) have an important stake in this development.
If you’re browsing through the Internet you get overwhelmed by the amount of websites that are devoted to political or societal engagement. Take for example Avaaz. Within days they induced more than 5 million people to sign a petition calling for a ban of ACTA. Every few days I receive an email from DoSomething.org with information on certain projects that had been carried out. You can also mention Change.org with its petitions that generate thousands or even hundreds of thousands of signatures. There is no doubt that many people across the world love to do good and that they would take some time to support a certain cause.
So what’s the matter?
All the aforementioned initatives have a clear focus. They ask their readers/users/members to support a certain cause.
Should the oceans be saved?
Then please sign here and tell your friends.
Apple: Protect Workers Making iPhones in Chinese Factories
Please sign this petition.
Don’t get me wrong. I myself love to sign petitions as well. It’s a quick win: you help to support an important cause and all you have to do is to offer up one minute. There is every reason to promote and to support these kind of projects!
This is not my point.
My point is: Could we also achieve a slightly similar degree of engagement when it comes to finding policy solutions for complex problems? Can we try to work on policy solutions not only in closed circles but in a transparent manner, not only including experts? There are already interesting projects in place, for example in Germany which are called Bürgerhaushalte. People can submit proposals on how a certain share of the city’s budget should be spent. But what if it comes to global problems, global challenges that the world needs to tackle like climate change, resource scarcity or migration. These are issues that the majority of people may be aware of but it seems like they are too complex to generate a high degree of engagement.
It seems to me like it’s already very difficult to motivate people to comment on stories that deal with these large-scale issues. But is there any chance that people will even think about policy solutions for some of the biggest challenges that humanity is facing? If you know of any best practices please let me know!