In a TED Talk that made the global rounds of the development community earlier this year, ONE’s John Drummond invited economists and development organizations to come down from their ivory tower and crowdsource the next generation of Millennium Development Goals (by the way, it looks like his appeal succeeded!).
Inspired by his call to action, as well as the amazing experience of Brazil’s Point by Point that succeeded in mobilizing over 500,000 people for human development, we decided to go about producing our next human development report for Ukraine in a rather unconventional way.
Typically, the topic of the Human Development Report is the result of consultations among experts, national partners and a variety of stakeholders. This is all very well and good, but what if we could push the boundaries and involve citizens directly, particularly at the local level, in defining priorities for the country’s development? (Pollsters in Ukraine have a bias towards urban centres).
What if they could help us draw attention to those development indicators that really make a difference from their perspective?
This is how The Future We Want initiative was born. The platform is designed to help engage the population in Ukraine in a discussion on the issues that have a direct impact on their lives – and in the process, help UNDP define the topic for the country’s next human development report.
Based on the experience from other crowdsourcing projects, we are asking citizens a simple, open question:
What needs to change to improve the quality of life in Ukraine/in your community?
This, we believe, has the advantage of leaving the freedom to provide stories, and not only point out problems that need to be solved, but also the resources and opportunities to be developed in order to improve the quality of life in Ukraine.
Being aware that internet penetration is still rather limited in our country, we opted for two tactics to make sure that we reach out to local communities and went beyond “the usual suspects:”
- We partnered with a leading online polling platform with an already well established community covering the whole country. We also partnered with TEDx Ukraine, that shares our aim of encouraging local level participation and promoted the initiative via TV shows.
- We relied on our extensive network of partners at the local level. UNDP in Ukraine has a well established and capillary presence throughout the country thanks to long-running projects on local development, local governance, and community-led environmental protection. People without internet access are invited to fill out a paper questionnaire.
So what has been the feedback so far?
Given the experimental nature of the project, we are pleased with the response rate to date: We were able to gather input from more than 15,000 citizens – quite a difference from the traditional way of putting together our report!
We still have a few weeks to go before the platform winds down. Of course there were a few glitches along the way and we learned some important lessons in terms of citizen engagement which we plan to take advantage of for future projects.
Stay tuned for more, when we delve into the issues that are important to people – what they said and how they see a better life in Ukraine.
Crowdsourcing human development? Yes, we can