At the General Election 2015, I ran MeetYourNextMP with Democracy Club. This was a crowd sourced list of hustings around the country, and we made the listings we collected available for others as Open Data. Our mission was to get more people involved in politics by spreading knowledge of hustings and encouraging more people to go to hustings.
[If your wondering what a hustings is, that only goes to show how unaware of these events many people are. It’s a public event where you can question a panel of candidates standing for an election.]
With help from many contributors, we collected details of over 1,000 events in over 400 seats. We were cited by all kinds of people, including Citizens Advice Bureau, MIND for better mental health, The Campaign against the Arms trade, MacMillian Cancer Support and senior politicians across the party spectrum.
It wasn’t perfect (there are several long blog posts if you are interested in some of the issues), but for a small project with zero marketing budget it did very well. I would argue it showed that there is a need for hustings listings, and that this kind of project can go a long way towards meeting that.
However, it was a pretty gruelling time. I was working mainly by myself alone in Edinburgh, flat out and I was pretty burnt out by the time it was all over. We weren’t paid in any way for it, had costs to cover, and couldn’t do other paid work at the same time.
So, as the Scottish elections of 2016 approach, the question is do people want to see a MeetYourNextMSP? A website listings hustings in Scotland?
Is anyone so keen to see this they are prepared to help out? Either with a commitment of time, resources or money? For example, if there was a crowd funder, would they contribute? Could they contribute skills? Or even just time to go round and find events and add them to the site? (There is an easy process to do this, no tech skills required!)
Basically, I am trying to gauge the support a Scottish site in 2015 would get before I commit. To be really honest, without promises of substantial support from others I won’t be running this project. (I now have a 3 day a week job that this would have to work around to.)
Please comment below or if you’d rather comment in private an email address can be found here.
ps. Yes, I’m aware there are other big elections in 2016 (eg, Wales, London mayor). However, I strongly feel a local connection to the area is important to get the best out of community event sites like this. For that reason I would not get involved in hustings projects for those elections – but if other local groups wanted to do this I would happily share expertise, lessons learnt and Open Source software with them.
pps. Democracy Club’s core project is a Open Data set of all candidates standing with information about them. This was very heavily used during the General Election and they will be repeating this in Scotland in 2016.