The institute

The institute is an independent, nonpartisan and for-purpose e-Governance startup.

We’re trailblazing the use of an accurate and trusted real-time app

 


Festival goers participating the ‘Redesigning Democracy’, a 6-day listening and workshop series held at the Woodford Folk Festival Dec/Jan 2018/19

Festival goers participating the ‘Redesigning Democracy’, a 6-day listening and workshop series held at the Woodford Folk Festival Dec/Jan 2018/19

PREAMBLE

NewVote is all about you.  

Your beliefs, your ideas, your solutions and your decisions.

NewVote is concerned about the large and growing disconnect between people and the government decision making process. Faith in our political system is at an all time low.

NewVote's mission is to break down the barriers that impede everyday people from shaping the future of our communities and nations.

NewVote is bringing democracy into the digital age through the launch of a a secure voting app that makes your voice heard in real-time. 

With NewVote, you participate in the debate on important political issues facing your communities and nations and vote on the solutions you want to implement.

It doesn’t matter which party you belong to.  We’re about policy, not parties. 

We facilitate balanced information in a clear and organised way to encourage evidence-based decision-making by a well-informed public.

We know that great ideas can come from anywhere. We believe that the wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom that exists within all of us is the most underutilised resource of our nations.

We are the bridge between you and government decisions throughout the three or four years of government, and not just when elections come around.

NewVote allows you to participate in a way that has never been done before. 

We're a world first.

 


Dion McCurdy, CEO and co-founder

Dion McCurdy, CEO and co-founder

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

NewVote is making true democracy easier by putting it in everyone's hands.

We’ve built a democracy institute and app in response to the lowest levels of trust in government (as an institution) and confidence in democracy (as the best form of government) in recorded history.

The app features wikis, tools for direct and deliberative (well-informed and reflective) democracy, crowdsourcing, multi-featured data and a policy-comparison tool.

Our aim is to enable inclusive, informed, transparent and secure collective decision-making — to increase both the amount and the quality of public engagement — in efficient and adaptable ways.

Our senior leadership is made up of Dion McCurdy, freelance lawyer and Adjunct Associate Lecturer at UQ, Dr Ron Levy, Associate Professor at ANU, and Chris Saad, former Head of Uber’s Developer Platform.

There is a massive opportunity to use technology to make the way we do democracy better. We have created an equitable and informed ‘democracy as a service’ model. This ensures our independence and long-term financial sustainability as an independent nonpartisan institute.

We provide a marketplace service for people and their leaders — both community and government — which is focused on issues, solutions and actions. Whether you’re involved with your school’s P&C, a multi-national organisation or a national government, we can help you.

Our vision is to see communities and governments address issues, implement solutions and take actions in an agile way.

The University of Queensland Student Union is piloting and promoting the app with its 52,000 students, starting on 24 July. Many other communities are also following suit.

 


NewVote team members at the Woodford Folk Festival stall in Dec/Jan 2018/19.  Left to Right: Dion McCurdy, Holly Pearce, Lailah Sinclair and Tom Wensley

NewVote team members at the Woodford Folk Festival stall in Dec/Jan 2018/19.
Left to Right: Dion McCurdy, Holly Pearce, Lailah Sinclair and Tom Wensley

What IS THE INSTITUTE?

The institute is an independent, nonpartisan and for-purpose e-Governance startup.

NewVote was born of a simple philosophy: the world is better when we’re all empowered.

Not just another platform for people to ‘have their say’ (there's plenty of those around), it’s the first platform for people to truly ‘be heard’.

We want to rebuild the relationship between everyday people and their leaders, so that we all have confidence in our democracies and the decisions they make. We want to make democracy more democratic by increasing the influence of the people, like a people’s lobby.

We need big data for good, and e-Governance for all. We are measuring the impact of our work — both our direct benefits and flow-on benefits upon the real world and publishing our research in the academic press.

NewVote empowers the people directly on an issues-basis (direct democracy), rather than a party-basis. Cutting-edge technology is used to uncover the informed ‘will of the people’ (deliberative democracy)  — and present these informed perspectives to community leaders and elected governments (representative democracy).

You can connect with your communities and government in a way that you can truly be heard - easily and directly - whilst leaders get the data they need. Your voice matters, and all you need is a profile to start voting!

NewVote is simple, agile and far-reaching, and represents a leap in the quality and efficacy of democracy.

We think NewVote is a nudge towards the future of democratic governance, a purer democracy — and a better world.

In essence, better democracy.

 


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OUr Purpose

better democracy

The future of e-governance, a purer democracy and a better world; increasing both the amount and the quality of public engagement.

 

our Vision

Smart mass participation

Democratic communities and governments make decisions to address issues, implement solutions and take actions in an informed, transparent and agile way.

 

our Mission

Connect people and leaders to A better democracy

Provide a secure, opensource democratic app with inclusive crowdsourcing, reflective co-designing and secure voting that facilitates a financially sustainable ‘democracy as a service’.


 


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our why: the democratic deficit

Around the globe, Australia is famous for its wealth, innovation and prosperity.

We are known as a nation whose citizens dare to take risks, chase their dreams and take their ideas to the world. But right now, democracy — the system that lies at the very heart of our success — is at a crossroads.

At a time when we all must stand shoulder to shoulder, facing unprecedented economic, environmental and social challenges, the people of Australia — and across the world — have lost faith in our systems of government.

 

The current democratic model has failed to keep pace with changes in society and is unresponsive to the needs of citizens.

Democracy has become the problem;
some call it a crisis.

 

THE EVIDENCE

Never before, in all our recorded history, have there been such low trust in government as an institution or such low confidence in democracy as the best form of government. We see this in:

  • The decline in membership of political parties.

  • Political corruption and nepotism in democracies.

  • The rise of divisive populist candidates and parties.

  • Governments perceived as slow to pass reforms despite clear and long-standing majority support of the people.

  • The increasing power of entities without electoral accountability.

  • The proliferation of complex governance arrangements that evade accountability and transparency.

  • Foreign government interference in national elections.

  • The general lack of political literacy of the people.



WHY THE CURRENT SYSTEM IS NOT WORKING

The conventional options to participate in democracy — trying to influence decisions via your representative, community forums, protests, petitions, polls and, more recently, social media — are failing, and are not a fair and accurate measure of public sentiment anyway.

The important issues and information are dispersed and drowned out in our democracy by the sensational, the 24-hour news cycle and the stimulation overload that is the information age.



REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY, PLEBISCITES AND REFERENDA

The current system doesn't allow the general public to decide their position on specific political issues, only to vote for representatives once every three or four years.

Election results then enable a winning party to enact its ‘mandate’ whether a majority of people agree with their complete policy package or not. We need to infuse more democratic best practice into representative democracy.

On the rare occasion when the people’s direct involvement is sought on a specific issue (ie. plebiscites and referenda), it’s the government's prerogative to raise the question, decide upon the wording and define the process — in Australia, at least.

These factors potentially bias the results and frustrate the attempt to obtain an accurate reflection of the will of the people. These votes are also expensive and resource-heavy operations, costing upwards of A$100million each time they occur.



IN OTHER WORDS

The failure of the current system to satisfy the human need to be ‘heard’ feeds into the people’s feelings of disconnection, disillusionment and disengagement towards government and democracy generally.

This is the democratic deficit. This is our why.

 


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the digital opportunity. A MASSIVE DISRUPTING POTENTIAL

Digital devices and the internet can connect and inform us like never before.

At no time in our history has technology developed at such a rapid rate. We're able to do things that were unimaginable even 20 years ago.

Since the advent of web 2.0, social media and smartphones (in nine out of ten pockets), everyone is a potential informed voter and change agent. The desire of the people to be heard is palpable — yet they are rarely being heard in government — whether in Canberra or Washington.

Australians’ enthusiasm to vote directly on issues is visible with the high use of comparison apps. Although unverified and widely seen as inaccurate, ABC Vote Compass alone engaged 1.6 million users in the 2019 federal election.

NewVote is the missing link between the virtual world and the real world, facilitating smart mass participation.

NewVote has the vision and functionality to disrupt the following online sectors:

  • Elections, such as GoVote,

  • Research surveys, such as Survey Monkey,

  • Community engagement, such as Bang the Table,

  • Ideological and issues-based platforms, such as GetUp,

  • Professional polling, such as Newspoll, and

  • Petitions, such as Change.org.

 


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future plans

FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABILITY

NewVote is moving from start-up to operational phase with seed funding now. Our plan is to raise funds over the next year to scale up and then prosper into the future with our financially sustainable model.

  • NewVote is ad-free and free to access for all users, forever.

  • Community and government leaders pay a verification fee (for each new user account created) and a low monthly subscription fee (for each user).

We have a progressive fee structure — corresponding to the type of community or level of government.

RESEARCH FUNDING

We’re actively pursuing research grants to provide a secondary, long-term funding stream. For example, the Commonwealth Research Collaboration, Future Cities, a 10-year, $150m potential funding pool. The 2018 bid was shortlisted and received much positive feedback. It will be submitted again for the next round of funding, commencing 1 July 2019.

GOVERNANCE

This year, we will instil advanced governance in our constitution, so that NewVote will stand the test of time – hopefully, outliving us all. Specifically, we will:

  • appoint high-level (unremunerated) directors to the board,

  • convene a Governance Council and appoint respected Australians from across the political spectrum — we’re about being nonpartisan,

  • create the role of an independent ‘Editor’ who acts as ultimate arbiter for disputes relating to the wikis,

  • craft a constitution that has checks and balances — splitting institutional powers between the Executive, Board of Directors, Governing Council, Editor and the Research Committee, and

  • institute the framework for citizen juries.

RESEARCH PROGRAM: studying, evaluating and reporting

We — like you — need to be sure that what we say is what we do, and what we do really has our intended impact.

That’s why we are measuring the impact of our work — both our direct benefits and flow-on benefits upon the real world. Our specific research focuses are:

  • the current state of our democratic decision-making system — the people, the institutions, the elected representatives and the outside influencers, and

  • the factors that influence the voting mindset of the people, the decision-making of our leaders and the interrelationship between the people and leader more generally, and

  • innovations in democratic empowerment, including the type of democracy that the people want.

We have a research committee already in place to study, evaluate and report on the impact of our work — this is a part of our DNA.  As creators of the app, and guardians of its users’ data for the public good, the institute will communicate to the whole world with precision, clarity and insight.


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the real and potential impact of our work

DIRECT BENEFITS

  • An easy, convenient and interactive way to empower people in our democracy at any level.

  • A direct connection between people and their leaders, focused upon issues, solutions and actions.

  • An accurate and trusted real-time pulse of informed public sentiment.

  • A crowdsourcing tool for credible and innovative solutions to political issues.

  • Insightful, multi-featured data that leaders can use.

  • Better understanding of issues, solutions. actions, candidates and parties.

FLOW-ON BENEFITS

  • A more evidenced-based approach to decision-making.

  • To reduce the effect of algorithmic social media bubbles and instead harness the power of data for good.

  • To draw political focus on to policy and away from personalities and partisan politics.

  • Representatives (and their staffers) are better informed and able to efficiently codesign and collaborate on decision-making.

  • To restore trust of politicians and government, and confidence in democracy.

  • To increase engagement and the integrity of community and government decision-making.

  • Communities and governments that address issues, implement solutions and take actions in a smarter and more transparent, accountable and effective way.


Dion McCurdy presented the NewVOte concept at  TedXBrisbane  in a   one-minute pitch     to the crowd in December 2017, Brisbane, Australia.

Dion McCurdy presented the NewVOte concept at TedXBrisbane in a one-minute pitch to the crowd in December 2017, Brisbane, Australia.

Origins of an idea

FOUNDING STORY by CEO Dion McCurdy

The story of NewVote is the story of my life. I have witnessed massive advances in technology whilst democratic innovation has either stalled or shuffled two steps forward and one step back.

I was born in 1984, the same year Alexey Pajitnov invented Tetris and Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple Macintosh — this was a decade before the modern Web even existed.

I’ve always considered myself lucky to be part of the last generation to experience an internet-free childhood and the first generation to become an adult with the internet in place.

I believe the internet can be used to enhance our most important and integral institution — our democracy.

In high school, our ancient history teacher taught us about a very different kind of democracy that existed in Ancient Athens, direct democracy. This, I was told, is impossible today. But the roots of democracy in the ancient world fascinated and inspired me.

From little things, big things grow.

After university, I had a gap year overseas. I was in Argentina in 2012 when Partido de la Red created the first of the new wave of digital democracy software, DemocracyOS. It simply allowed users to raise issues for a public vote and allowed them to leave a comment.

When I returned home later that year, my passion galvanised and my purpose became clear: to fuse the power of the internet, with the power of democracy, for the betterment of the planet, and all humankind.

I believe that what we have found in NewVote is something transcendental, that will bring democracy along with it to the next era.

And so the seeds of NewVote were planted. Four years on, the idea came to life.

 


Australian Digital Democracy Forum in November 2017, hosted by NewVote in Melbourne, Australia.  From Left to Right, Nathan Spataro of FLUX party and SecureVote, Karel Boele of PeopleDecide, Rebecca Dhal of Collabforge, Jamie Skella of Horizon State and Adam Jacoby of MiVote.

Australian Digital Democracy Forum in November 2017, hosted by NewVote in Melbourne, Australia.
From Left to Right, Nathan Spataro of FLUX party and SecureVote, Karel Boele of PeopleDecide, Rebecca Dhal of Collabforge, Jamie Skella of Horizon State and Adam Jacoby of MiVote.

Milestones.The Institute

10 November 2016

NewVote is founded as a for-purpose (a not-for-profit), Australia.

September 2017

Registered educational charity with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission, Australia.

November 2017

We fostered cooperation among the digital democracy sector at the inaugural Australian Digital Democracy Forum, Melbourne, Australia.

December 2017

Presented the concept at TedXBrisbane in a one-minute pitch to the crowd, Australia.

November 2018

Assembled a research committee who have responsibility for our research fund and research program.

January 2019

Dr Ron Levy, an Australian National University academic, joined us as our research director.

March 2019

Chris Saad, the former Head of Uber’s Developer Platform, joined us as our start-up adviser.

February 2019

Australian Government officially recognised us as an Approved Research Institute (ARI). The Australian Tax Office endorsed us as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR-1).

April 2019

Presented our model on the panel, Participation, Engagement and Empowerment at the United Nations University-backed International Conference on the Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, Melbourne, Australia.

May 2019

Democracy Expo, Melbourne Knowledge Week event co-facilitated with the Power to the People study at Meat Market, Melbourne, Australia.

To see the app milestones, click here.

 

 
 
 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminster Fuller