In today’s democracy, politicians have a tough time reaching millennials. In the same way as religion, Western politics currently faces difficulties to create affiliation with the latest generations. Especially, the themes of politics and voting have lost interest of the younger generations over time:
- People aged from 16 to 24 were more likely to state no interest at all in politics (42.4%) than those aged 65 and over (21%) in the UK in 2011–2012.
- More than 50% of American young people do not affiliate with the Democratic or Republican Party and less than 20% feel politically engaged.
People aged from 16 to 24 were more likely to state no interest in politics
However, there is a sign that not everything is lost: young people tend to be more satisfied with the way democracy works (45%: 45 to 54 years versus 52%: 16 to 24 years). So from this can be concluded that most of the millennials still have faith in the democratic system. Recent developments, such as crowd sourcing and other movement based initiatives suggest that younger people are more likely to express themselves in other ways, in case of politics this appears from things such as boycotting environmentally unfriendly products and social media campaigns.
Brigade, a new app which allows its users to easily express their opinions on news and politics, addresses this opportunity and tries to bring the disengagement regarding politics to a halt. Brigade is founded by a group of serial tech entrepreneurs including former Napster founder Sean Parker. The idea started around 2014 with more than $9 million in venture funding and after the beta was launched (and because it is election year in the US) the app is now really taking off (Windon, 2014). According to Matt Mahon, Brigade’s CEO the company’s mission is: “to empower people in their civic life and to have influence over the direction their society goes in by having them articulate and identify where they stand on issues uncover alignment with friends, get organized into groups of like-minded people and ultimately act collectively to shape the policies that affect their lives” (2015).
The Brigade platform allows users to follow friends, debate on current issues and events, and ultimately build movements for democratic change. It enables users to actively talk and think about important issues, connect directly with each other, see where your friends and community stand and it helps to gain new insights or form an opinion. By using Brigade, young people can become involved in politics in an informal way: being heard is as easy as tapping “agree” or “disagree.” Thus, Brigade aspires its users to become a significant part of Democracy’s 21st century infrastructure again.
Brigade aspires its users to become a significant part of Democracy’s 21st century infrastructure
However, the app is more than just a Tinder for politics as it really focusses on the consumer’s perspective. Users are matched users with people with you probably can identify yourself and it also encourages millennials to actively engage in political conversations and provide valuable input on political matters. Furthermore, interactive voting guides are used to draw create more interest and understanding in local politics. Using user opinions, the platform reflected how the voter base ended up voting in the polls during a San Francisco election. The platform is still under development, but as more users sign up the platform has the potential to become a good forecaster of election outcomes.
Although there are some pitfalls, such as fraudulent posts or votes and not even speaking of becoming a platform users find engaging enough to consistently return to, we can extend the idea of a political democratic co-creation platform to the future. If we think out-of-the-box, and take a some steps ahead it might be even possible that citizens actively participate in politics and have a direct effect on the regulations which applies to them. Through a collaborative platform civilians can express their opinions, organize movements, create awareness, and vote on issues which in turn provides guidance for parliaments and other administrators. When executed really well, such a platform has the potential to redefine democracy, and get everyone involved in politics again. Although Brigade now focusses mainly on politics, I think it can be seen as the first step towards a breakthrough in disrupting democratic decision making and civic engagement.
Author: Glenn de Jong, 357570gj
BBC (2014), Most young lack interest in politics – official survey, BBC UK politics, 21 February 2014 available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-26271935
Mahon, M. (2015), Sean Parker’s Brigade App Enters Private Beta As A Dead-Simple Way Of Taking Political Positions, TechCrunch (Kim-Mai Cutler), 17 June 2015, available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/17/sean-parker-brigade/
Morley, M. (2015), Young people aren’t apathetic about politics, they just need a helping hand, The Guardian, Wednesday 15 April 2015 09.00 BST, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/15/young-people-apathetic-politics-vote-election-tickbox
UK Governance (2014), Measuring National Well-being, Governance, 20 February 2014, available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-national-well-being/governance–2014/index.html
Windon, J. (2014), How Brigade is Taking Shape: An Interview with James Windon Techpresident.com, Alex Howard, Tuesday, 25 November 2014, Available at: http://techpresident.com/news/25363/how-brigade-taking-shape-interview-james-windon