Voters would like to but don’t know what the political parties stand for

All the feedback, evaluations and focus group work I have read as a digital project manager for the election coverage in Denmark points to one major conclusion: The voters are having a hard time distinguishing the political parties when looking at what they actually want to change. Thus their choice ends up being based on superficial reasons like tradition, likeability etc. We need to change that.

I propose doing it by keeping to the the following values:

  • Citizenship because taking part in democracy is the essence of what this project aims to achieve.
  • Independence because democracy in its essence contains a multitude of opinions. For this to work it has to be non-partisan.
  • Fairness because objectivity is an unattainable goal, but fairness shouldn’t be.
  • Empathetic Listening because both the political parties, the media and the government institutions has long been criticized for not listening.
  • Openness is related to fairness. We need to explain how we got to out conclusions.

The event

The event weeklong event is funded by people with deep pockets and an avid interest in support civic society. The participants would be politicians, teachers, academics, engineers, people form news and advertisement, but most importantly: Plenty of the most affected voters, as in not the politically active people that has probably already made up their minds.

First, they share world views and experiences. Especially the voters with the issue. Then the other professions chime in.

Then, they split into team that want to attack the issue from different directions. The teams are made up with relevant people to make them able to make their solution into a semi workable prototype within the week.

During the week the teams discuss, iterate and test their ideas.

In the end they all present and the most promising of the proposals are funded for further work.

2 thoughts on “Voters would like to but don’t know what the political parties stand for

  1. i’m struck by the inclusion of empathetic listening in a post about political parties and what they stand for – I think there’s a perception in the US at least that parties are having a hard time listening to their own supporters, and certainly aren’t able to – and maybe aren’t supposed to – listen to supporters of other parties. I love the idea that empathetic listening could sharpen not only the party you belong to, but potentially those you choose not to belong to.

    In addition to the existing values, I wonder if “efficacy” could be a helpful value to contribute. It’s possible people don’t see much value in working within existing political parties. If those parties are regarded as illigimate or ineffective, one can imagine not bothering to figure out what they’re all about. Perhaps another value has to be helping parties communicate so that your citizenship decision feels like an effective one.

    I think one way to sharpen this up would be to use a method like Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View, where people who have very different perspectives and values have to cooperate and work together on an article. What if members of different parties worked together to write wiki-style briefing documents on different issues and different party perspectives on those issues? Would that force the sort of engaged citizenship and empathy you’re hoping for?

  2. A. I was intrigued that empathetic listening was included. I agree that it feels also though meaningful, personal listening is lacking in our political discourse in favor of broad talking points and coopted anecdotes.
    B. At the same time, I think that when people speak to their elected officials, they are doing so purposefully. They expect to be listened to in a way differently from when they explain their issues to others in their life- their friends, family, coworkers, etc. They want their concerns heard, but they likely expect some action to be taken to address their concerns. Therefore, I would add commitment and accountability as a value. It is critical that politicians (and the political public, for that matter) are held accountable to what they say, and are given the resources to commit to the promises they make (and speak openly about the things they are unable to commit to).
    C. The proposed convening seems to distill democracy to its most fundamental form: collective problem identification and solution seeking. It seems like something that would especially succeed at a local level- with more manageable numbers of undecided voters, many of whom may already know each other. I could imagine helping facilitate such a session, especially since the power dynamics between “experts” and the public must be managed, and because it would be interesting and important to hear “experts” pulled out of that singular role and speak from their own experience as public citizens. I am also curious about how the solutions are iterated and improved over a longer time horizon than a single week. This seems like an excellent opportunity to not only inform and have voters feel heard, but also to engage them in the long-term work required of civic improvement.

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