In the last few years I have spent a lot of time in the compony of volunteers and activists that tirelessly work for their version of a better, more compassionate, more equal and more sustainable world. Often young and full of energy and integrity it gave me, being of a generation or two older, a lot of hope for the future. I did, however, also see their struggles and a lot of burnout. It became clear that individual efforts though incredibly valuable locally did little to change the underlying structure causing the issue in the first place. This became the inspiration to build a better operating system for human civilisation and our custodianship of the planet. A crazy dream to be sure, but inspiring. Because if you are not going to save the world, why bother getting up in the morning?
What it does
Crowdpol is a social platform that provides tools for changemakers, from crowdsourcing ideas to crowdfunding projects, so you can be exponentially more effective at making change. Through Crowdpol you will be able to create a profile, list your interests and values, add the skills you want to share and the geographical locations you can do this, so that others can find you and you can find them. Unlike other social platforms, Crowdpol does not spy on you, sell your data or have third-party advertising. We are open source, transparent and funded by our members. We hope you’ll want to become one of us.
How I built it
We (i.e. mainly Brett our lead developer) built the platform on MongoDB and Meteor going through a few iterations, user tests and considerable scope creep arriving at the design we now have.
Challenges I ran into
Personally, I had zero experience in programming and very little in project management, so the entire process has been a challenge with plenty of mistakes along the way. Leaving the backend an issues such as data privacy and integrity of online voting aside, there are almost endless challenges to resolve. How do we create an inclusive online democracy that can inform issues from the local level all the way up to the global arena? How do we decide which are the biggest challenges we face and how do we decide on which solutions we should explore? How do we finance global solutions to global issues? How do we join forces locally to work towards common global goals and how do we measure this local impact on the global scale? How do we keep this platform open and free to use without advertising or monetising our users data? How do we support individual changemakers? How do navigate from the local to global scale and back and how do we visualise relevant data in the system? How do we give users control over their data, feed and user experience in a clear and accessible way with the best possible of signal to noise ratio?
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I'm very proud of the interface we have developed and the overall structure of the system. There are loads of issues still to resolve, but by and large I think we have a really workable product, or will have as soon as the kinks are worked out of it. I think we have a viable contender for a global governance system managed from the ground up.
What I learned
That software projects are infinitely more complex than I had imagined, almost as hard as creating a new operating system for human civilisation. Maybe even a bit harder... ;)
What's next for Crowdpol - Tools for Changemakers
Crowdpol aims to be an integrated platform that engages civil society, allowing individuals and organisations to coordinate actions and tasks, gather information and upload it without delays so the situation can be monitored in real time. Resources in the form of volunteers with defined and verified skill sets as well as physical resources tagged on a map would be useful. A visual interface based on maps and relevant icons/images would be a lot easier to navigate than continuous streams of text in different channels. An improved method to handle and represent the flow of information is crucial. Reliable means to protect the privacy of individuals and their information needs also to be built into such a system. This would put civil society in a much more powerful position, allowing for bottom up, community supported solutions rather than top down, authoritarian ones. It could force the government into co-designing actions with local communities. With ground up feedback decisions can be made effectively locally and supported centrally, instead of dictated centrally.
To test Crowdpol...
...use the links below, the password is "bulletproof"
Would you like to contibute?
Crowdpol is not for profit and open source. Clearly it is a slightly too massive project for a single hackathon, but if you are keen to help out with anything, from code to content, or would just like to know more about the project, please don't hesitate to contact me!
All the best,