Next Generation Democracy

A few weeks ago, Demos fellow and author Jared Duval discussed his new book Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change on PRX's Voices of Our World, an award-winning public affairs radio program. With its focus on solving challenges collectively, Duval's book highlights those organizations--including SeeClickFix--assuming leadership roles in this revolution.

In the Wi-Fi Democracy interview, Duval discusses how collective action emerges through open-source technology and participatory online sites like SeeClickFix. Voices of Our World host Eileen Bott described how SeeClickFix changes the way citizens communicate with their municipalities (and each other):

Telling them [local government] off is now just a click away. No nasty paper letter, no dead trees. You can now go to a civic website which connects you and your neighbors to your local government, allowing you to report a problem.

Duval elaborated on this thought, describing how citizens are becoming more active and invested in their communities thanks to an increasing access to information:

Rather than seeing government as something separate to be complained at, I think SeeClickFix is enabling us because we can come together and share information more effectively. It enhances our role as citizens to feel investment and ownership of our own communities. And to come together to do things rather than waiting around for some distant force, or at least that's what the frame is about our government.

This participatory approach reforms and reinvents government in transparent, decentralized ways while simultaneously creating communities of engaged, proactive citizens. Without SeeClickFix, many questions remain unanswered after an individual reports something, like a pothole or missing street sign, to their local government: What happens to it? Where does it go? Is it getting fixed? With SeeClickFix, however, Duval believes this problem can be overcome:

And so the cofounders of SeeClickFix created this site as a platform where you could post nonemergency issues in real-time, other citizens can go on and share information about that as well. They can post pictures or videos that help give a better sense of what's going on, but there's also discussion so you can engage with government [...] And so, it's tracked totally transparently, citizens collaborating with their fellow citizens who happen to work for the government to solve local problems rather than just seeing government as a complaint board [...]
Through discussions with Duval, Bott became excited about our citizen-reporting platform and its application beyond the local level:
I checked out my own little rural hamlet in New York state on SeeClickFix. And son of a gun, my town is there with its tall grass obscuring a curve in the road and the need for a new traffic light. We're connected, but while most of us are just sharing giggles with friends on Facebook, and ya know that's not that bad, I can't help but extrapolate from what I'm learning on the local level or national level what is possible on the global level. Act local, think global.

The open-source revolution continues to reshape the way civil society functions with the bottom-up, grassroots efforts of innovators and average citizens alike. SeeClickFix places itself on the frontlines of this 'next generation democracy' movement--transforming residents into citizens with one easy click of the mouse!