MySociety -- the British civic tech NGO behind such projects as WriteToThem, PledgeBank and TheyWorkforYou -- has launched a new call for proposals. Not only that, but mySociety will build out the best idea for a site with the following qualities:
Founded on electronic networks. This includes the internet, mobile and telephone networks, wireless, fax and anything related.
Real world impact on democratic and community aspects of people's lives. The internet is full of excellent commerce and entertainment sites: we are not about building more of those. It is also full of great information sites: we aren't about building these either. We want sites that users visit and leave having gained something tangible: a nascent relationship wth their MP, or the knowledge that they can achieve something with other people near them.
Low or zero cost scalability. This is key. We are looking for projects that cost the same (or virtually the same) to run for ten or a million users.
You can submit ideas, but you can also go online and evaluate the ideas of others. Everyone's getting in on the mySociety act: yesterday Tony Blair logged onto PledgeBank and pledged to support a community sports group if 100 others would do so as well.
As ally Jo Twist told the beeb, "This is what politics and political engagement are about in a digital age. Direct, collaborative action, and direct response."
And that's precisely the point. While any one of these sorts of projects won't singlehandedly change the world, they both represent and reinforce a broader movement to use collaborative technologies to pry open the corridors of power and let in both the sunshine of transparency and the voices of citizens. We need a lot more of these kinds of efforts, and we need more people talking about what approaches and technologies are worth using in those efforts. MySociety is doing us all a favor by stimulating debate on what civic activism looks like in the 21st Century.
These folks have a pretty impressive set of direct democracy and interactive democracy technologies. WorldChanging covered a few others, including I Voted For You Because... and The Want To Be Elected, which gave readers a chance to annotate party manifestos.