In 2009, I interned as a researcher for Tom Steinberg, founder of mySociety.org, which was designed to help UK residents become more active citizens - it's hard to believe now, but there was a time not long ago when it seemed like the internet was going to be an engine for a more engaged citizenry and a more robust democracy.
One of mySociety's websites was called "Fix my street" - anybody could use it to tell their local council about a specific problem. They also created "They Work For You", which was a website that collected all records of parliamentary debate and voting, and made them searchable.
The project I'm thinking of is inspired by this, but totally non-digital. I'm thinking it would be called "They Work For Us", and instead of an essential question it would have a challenge.
Here's the challenge: Convince an elected representative to do something to improve the community
We'd want to partner with a nonprofit in order to do this, and study approaches to bringing about change that have worked in the past, and methods that are working around the world now. Then I think we'd plan a few campaigns (with different groups in charge of each one) and probably ultimately funnel them into one single campaign based on what seems most likely to be successful.
Some more specific ideas for this:
- Plot the addresses of all students on the team on a map (anonymously) so we can see where we live, and focus on specific geographic areas based on that
- Do ethnographic interviews and interview various local stakeholders and experts in order to figure out what to focus on