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What is the name of the tool?
| Tool Class
To what "family" does the tool belong? Pick as many categories as are appropriate. EG: Data Collection, Security, etc. The wiki will automatically create a link to the relevant tool class.
|DemTools, Citizen Engagement (Tool Class)|
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| Date Created
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| Still Maintained?
Do the developers of the tool continue to work on it, adding features and fixing problems?
| Open Source?
Is the tool's source code original source code freely available and may it be redistributed and modified? (This makes it possible for users to employ the tool for free, with some technical effort.)
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| Payment Structure
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| Languages Supported
What languages does the app's interface support? Note: some apps allow users to communicate in other languages but require the user to use an English language interface. In this case, the app is considered only to support "English".
|English, Russian, Spanish|
| Skill Level Needed
Issues is a Citizen Engagement tool belonging to the DemTools suite of democracy tools. It enables citizens to ask questions directly to their elected officials who reply in short video or audio messages.
Issues is a tool available for free on GitHub but it requires someone with experience the tool and in web server management to install.
From the Issues website:
"In a democracy there is an expectation that voters choose their leaders based on who has the best solutions to the most pressing issues faced by the community. Far too often, however, vague party platforms obscure the core policy questions at play. Cleavages on religion or ethnicity can drive votes, leaving important policy considerations left by the wayside. At the same time, political candidates are often unaware of the topics that matter most to citizens, and are unable to clearly articulate clear positions on the relevant questions of the day in concise, media-friendly ways.
With the Issues DemTool, citizens have an opportunity to send their questions directly to the people who aspire to lead them. They can also expect to receive direct answers in the form of short video responses designed to be easily shared through the web or social media.
Traditionally, debates and town halls provide a forum for connecting political leaders to their constituents. In these settings, politicians are able to highlight differences in political vision while citizens can directly ask questions to candidates and elevate important concerns of the people. The Issues tool takes some of these core concepts and translates them to an online environment. Although the Issues platform functions as a web site, the distributing questions, response videos and subsequent dialogue traverse the digital spaces where people already interact—primarily via social media.
Issues is suitable for operation in a range of country contexts where internet penetration—at least among targeted audiences—is fairly high. As most engagement on Issues will come through social media, it can be helpful to look for vibrant political conversations on Facebook or YouTube.
The Issues tool provides a way to bypass existing media intermediaries, permitting citizens and leaders to experience unfiltered engagement and dialogue. Direct interaction without filters can be particularly useful in places where media is cost-prohibitive or controlled by an authoritarian regime that stifles opposition voices. As youth are more likely to be online, and more comfortable with digital formats, Issues can be a good platform for them to engage with the political process in a new way.
Issues is most powerful in a context where citizens are uninformed about policy differences among parties or campaign conversations are not focused on the topics voters are most concerned about. By training candidates on media skills needed to present short, to-the-point messages aimed at target audiences, Issues can help prepare candidates for TV appearances, interviews and in-person debates. Questions submitted by the citizenry also help parties better understand the concerns of the voters.
With new and additional opportunities to engage with citizens, less prominent party figures—particularly youth and women—may have a chance to elevate their profile through public communication while representing a wider array of faces for the party. By working with candidates as they draft responses to citizen questions, a program incorporating the Issues DemTool can help parties evolve better defined platforms with more sharply drawn differences with their rivals.
Civil Society Programs
Civic organizations attempting to increase voter information or elevate core messages to political leaders can use Issues as a hook to raise important topics with candidates. In a different context, without the help of Issues, these topics might otherwise be ignored.
Parliaments or legislatures can use the Issues DemTool as a system for constituents to ask questions to their MPs while elected officials are able to engage directly with constituents to share their accomplishments. Issues provides MPs with an opportunity to practice their on-camera skills and shape messages to better reach citizens.
What Makes This Tool Different from Others in its Class?
Links to Tutorial Content
Projects that use this tool
- Issues was used in Columbia for the Ciudadanía y Congresistas (Citizen and Legislators) platform