Reading: Introduction to civic-tech participatory practices and tools
Now that you have learnt what digital civic engagement and civic tech are, it is time to get to know some examples of civic-tech participatory practices and tools from different countries in Europe and the USA. In the rest of the modules of the course, you will find a different topic on digital civic engagement with more tools and initiatives, but we want to give you the first taste ;-)
In the next Module 2, you will learn about the key basic skills for digital participation. As an example of civic-tech practice for this topic, just for you to get a practical idea before to deepen into other examples in the module, we would like to present a tool launched in 2020 called “Blacklight”, from the nonprofit journalism site “MarkUp”. This tool allows you to test the privacy-busting function of your favourite websites user-tracking technologies and get to know who is getting your data. Try it! According to their website, “you may be surprised at what you learn”.
In Module 3, you will learn about monitoring public policy, and before that, we would like to name an example of this, the “Scuola di Open Coesione” in Italy. This is a secondary school student-centred initiative, but open to every Italian citizen, who tries to empower people to actively engage with public funding. In this initiative, you can learn about how public money is spent in a given local area, what kind of projects are getting funded and their progress, challenges, etc. According to Atenas & Havemann , this is a good example of openness and democracy that can promote efficiency and effectiveness in government. On their website you will find the info in several languages. Take a look and learn more about this project on more open and transparent monitoring!
Module 4 is focused on connecting and engaging for social impact, and just for you to get a practical idea, we would like to present an example from the USA of a student campaigning initiative called “March for our lives” that started in Berkeley University The campaign is about gun prevention measures and their official mission statement is “Not One More,” representing the idea that not one more person will be killed during a school shooting or any meaningless gun violence . As we learnt at the beginning of module 1, technology and social media play a crucial role in youth civic engagement, as you can see in this campaign where Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat have been used. Explore their website, learn more about how to use social media to empower social change, and join the movement! #MarchForOurLives.
Finally, Module 5 is about digital local participation, and we would like to show you an initiative from Latvia, a country where civil society has played a significant role in changing how legislative procedures are organised. “ManaBalss”, which it Latvian means “My Voice”, is an NGO that creates tools for better civic participation. Its online platform, is a public e-participation website that lets Latvian citizens propose, submit, and sign legislative initiatives to improve policies at both the national and municipal level. Once an initiative gets 10,000 signatures online, it is submitted to elected representatives for a hearing. Since the creation of ManaBalss.lv in late 2010, 314 citizens’ initiatives have been launched, and around 68% of submitted initiatives have been adopted into law. This initiative has been recognised around the world as an open government success story. For example, it was mentioned by then U.S. President Barack Obama featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, and lauded by organizations like the OECD.
In addition to every specific civic-tech topic covered during the course, if you are curious about other civic-tech tools, you can explore these “fact-checking” tools to explore critical online conversations, detect fake news, etc:
- FakerFact: an AI bot that will tell you whether an article you are reading might be fake news.
- TruePic: an image verification tool.
 Atenas, J., & Havemann, L. (Eds.). (2015). Open Data as Open Educational Resources:
Case studies of emerging practice. London: Open Knowledge, Open Education Working Group.
 #MarchForOurLives. A Guide to Social Movements and Social Media.