In a landslide historic vote, Ireland voted to repeal its abortion law. Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage after people took to the streets to protest. Meanwhile, in South Korea, the government is asking citizens across the country to shape policies.
Communities across the globe are driving incredible social reform. But at the same time, social media and other platforms are polarising groups and isolating people. Governments must find a way to drive change and ensure communities are not marginalised with change.
In a rapidly changing social landscape, here are four ways communities can be engaged in social reform.
Community participation is at its best when people interact, engage and mobilise themselves, notes Oren Alazraki, the CEO of Horizon State. The startup has built citizen engagement platforms on blockchain and is working around the world to provide platforms that allow people to have a say in decisions.
For instance, its partnership with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Indonesian religious organisation, empowers the organisation with new ways to engage its 96 million members from across the archipelago. With Horizon State’s platform, Nahdlatul Ulama leadership can poll to ask for comments on new initiatives and better align their priorities, by giving members a say in issues such as education, fundraising, and charity.
Through this platform, Horizon State is also partnering with fintech companies who will provide payment and financial services to the millions of NU members .
Access to accurate information
Fake news and media trolls pose a huge threat to reforms. To ensure people can trust in the change, they must have access to accurate information.
MiVote, a democratic movement using Horizon State’s technology, helps provide accurate information to people before they vote. For example, MiVote’s Australian chapter is currently running a vote on political campaign funding.
The app presents voters with easy to understand information explaining the topic, and then outlines four possible options a community could take on political funding. The information is developed by MiVote, through a policy framework, which includes community consultation, inputs from subject matter experts, and ethics and governance committee oversight.
Rather than asking voters to choose one side on the issue, the app provides four options on political funding. Voters can choose to support one, none, all, or some of the four options. Using this consensus approach, MiVote is able to identify the areas on which the community agrees, instead of focusing on the partisan approach of division.
“Rather than voting on a party or a personality, instead you’re able to actually engage individuals on matters that affect them, their family and community almost in real-time,” notes Nimo Naamani, Chief Technology Officer of Horizon State.
Finding the right platform to engage
Governments and NGOs should also find the right platform to engage, notes Naamani. There is no one size fits all: each issue may require different forms of engagement to reach the right people.
For instance, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other non-profits such as Red Cross, Blood Service, and UNICEF have found it difficult to acquire and retain volunteers through social media. “It costs more money to get them, and they can’t get them to actually form a set of actions that is measurable and aligned to the philosophy and vision,” adds Alazraki.
Social media sites such as Facebook do not allow for structured discussions through which concrete decisions can be taken. Instead, engagement platforms should guide voters through a well-defined process, capture their sentiments and analyse them to help reach a consensus.
Government should also consistently work with NGOs and the private sector across different policy and reform initiatives, Naamani says. They often have access to social groups and projects that would not be otherwise be known to government. Partnering with the media constructively can also increase the transparency and accountability of any process, he notes.
Creating inclusive and compassionate societies
Communities need passion to affect change, but this is often lacking, Naamani believes. Cities have seen the rise of “artificial communities” where the only thing common between residents is their address.
Governments must create inclusive and compassionate communities that celebrate and engage each other. Research indicates that youth and women are groups that have greater ability to mobilise and engage others in the community , he says. But in many communities, these groups and especially the youth are some of the most marginalised and disenfranchised. They should be the starting point to creating a more inclusive society, he recommends.
For instance, in the West African country of Togo, the Red Cross saved more lives and increased community resilience by involving women in disaster planning and mitigation. Across Asia, children are helping map disaster hazards, raise awareness through games, and are crucial in influencing their peers, parents, and teachers on disaster preparation.
Creating change requires years of work, mobilisation, and dedication. Giving more power to the people can build an engaged community that fast tracks social reform.