Do people want a list of hustings for the Scottish 2016 election? (MeetYourNextMSP)

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.

How do we know what events people want to see on MeetYourNextMP?

MeetYourNextMP was a crowdsourced calendar of over 1000 independent events at the general election. This was to make these events easier to find so voters could go and question their candidates, and also to try and make more voters aware these events exist and are open to all.

When people came to the site, how did we know what events to show them? We asked people what their postcode was, and directed them to a page for each constituency. But what events did we show? Continue reading “How do we know what events people want to see on MeetYourNextMP?”

#ge2015 election project @meetyournextmp looking good, 30 days to election!

For the General election I’m working on MeetYourNextMP with the other volunteers from Democracy Club. This site, using the community calendar software I work on (OpenACalendar), lists indepedent hustings around the UK.

There were several new challenges to work on for this project, and to launch really quickly I just forked the code base and hacked any changes I needed directly into the core system! This was great, but after the site was live for a week I had to spend a horrible few days picking the changes apart and pushing some back to the Open Source core, pushing some changes to a extension just for this site and in some cases making the core more extendable to accomodate that. I’m pleased to say MeetYourNextMP is now run directly from the latest Open Source code from OpenACalendar with an extension and after the election there will be a new release of OpenACalendar (and the sites that run on that like OpenTechCalendar) with all kinds of goodies.

MeetYourNextMP is doing well, listing over 540 events in over 240 seats. It’s had great feedback and has been listed by all kinds of people like Citizens Advice Bureau, MIND for better mental health, The Campaign against the Arms tradeMacMillian Cancer Support and more.

It’s now 30 days to the election, and I’m not sure what that will bring for the site. I think it’s clear that there is already enought evidence to say both that some things have worked really well and that people really want a site like this, and they really want it to work well – for a first try at this that’s a great outcome. For me personally, it’ll be a tiring crazy month and I’ll be glad when it’s over!