The problem Policymakr solves

We talk a lot about technology, and its ability to transform and improve the world. But technology is more than just transistors and algorithms. Those are just patterns on silicon. The technology that really drives the world are the patterns in your head. Those are the patterns that give rise to the patterns in silicon, the patterns in our society, and our whole concept of reality. Change those patterns, and you change your world. Maybe not overnight, but like steering the rudder on a great ship, a small change now makes a big difference later.

* taken from a talk given on July 26, 2014  at Startup School Europe

The problem.

A functioning model...

A few years ago, there was a consensus about the principles governing political life in most places, with radically different such models, of course, prevalent in the Eastern bloc, the West or the Third World.

...got broken.

Now, information and opinions are shared instantly via online communication tools that have shattered that model. This has partly pushed out traditional media—who have reacted to this by establishing an online presence. They have been joined by a lot of new operators—often with links to lobbies and vested interests.

And while superficially this trend enhances democracy...

It’s true that in some ways, this trend enhances democracy by giving citizens access to a broader choice of opinions. Yet in practice, the quality and effectiveness of democracy haven’t improved.

...people increasingly ignore facts.

There is evidence that citizens are incited in practice, in the current world, to ignore facts when making political choices in ways that have no precedent in the Western world.

There's a growing rift between elites and ordinary citizens.

The problem has been compounded by perception of a rift between elites and the rest of the population. And the rise of meritocracy actually fuels this frustration. when peoples’ aspirations are not fulfilled.

New online media are not the solution.

The readers of new online media also actively engage in politics on social media: according to the Pew Research Center, 66% of social media users have employed the platforms to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others’ postings, press friends to act on issues and vote, follow candidates, ‘like’ and link to others’ content, and belong to groups formed on social networking sites.

People are now unable to look at the long term...

This new system has made largely uncensored information immediately available, but that has come at a huge cost: by accelerating decision-making, it has lessened citizens’ ability to consider issues and their merits in a longer-term perspective.

...and trust has been lessened.

Despite using them for a wide range of reasons, just 3% of social media users indicate that they have a lot of trust in the information they find on these sites. And relatively few have confidence in these platforms to keep their personal information safe from bad actors.

Yet most people wouldn't find it hard to give up social media.

According to the Pew Research Group, some 59% of social media users think it would not be hard to give up social media, with 29% indicating it would not be hard at all.

The solution.

Policymakr won't compete with social media...

Policymakr has been designed not to compete with existing online social media, but to provide the missing layer between citizens and governmental institutions. It aims to provide its users with an independent platform on which they can analyse information engage in debate both with their peers and with elected officials from their own and other countries.

...it will provide a platform for informed, long-term focused debate.

The longer perspective opened up by this approach will establish Policymakr as a platform on which policy can again be shaped by citizens and elected officials without being subject to media or political pressure. Tools will be provided for groups to engage in informed debate and political action, away from the pressures and superficiality characterising existing social media.

Policymakr’s collaborative, project-mode, operational model explained.

We'll use online modern tools to revitalize Representative Democracy.

Once Policymakr leaves beta and launches in its first country, it will provide a modern, beautifully-designed online tool for the three categories of actors who have a legitimate interest or a useful contribution to make to the shaping of public policy to work together. People who had stopped talking to each other except to trade insults will become partners—which they should never have ceased being.

We will have a unique governance structure...

The serenity and quality that are prerequisites for this to happen will be made possible by Policymakr’s unique governance structure. As a non-governmental, non-profit platform, its independence will be guaranteed by a Supervisory Board drawn from retired politicians with unimpeachable reputations in their fields, representing a wide range of political traditions and geographical locations.

...and, superficially, some points in common with classic social media networks.

Well, only two, actually: (i) members will be able to open accounts and (ii) they will have profiles, which they will have the option to share with other members (but not the public).

But the differences will be crucial:

1. First and foremost, Policymakr will be nonprofit: its corporate objective will be serving the public interest in an unbiased, transparent way, not making money.

2. There will be no wall of useless chatter, distracting members from their work on long-term projects.

3. Zero-tolerance for inappropriate behavior will be enforced strictly.

4. Members’ identities will be systematically verified using trusted techniques pioneered by the sharing economy (Airbnb in particular), making trolling impossible.

5. Policymakr will have no ads and will be financed only by member subscriptions and by voluntary donations.