An ambitious participatory politics project, the Provo People’s Lobby is meant to congregate citizens of different ages, persuasions, occupations and civic interests onto an online ‘town square-style’ forum. It collects policy suggestions from residents, which are posted on its website for comments and rating by others. Residents may also submit their names for random selection into a ‘facilitated policymaking bootcamp’ of sorts, in which residents are empowered to create policy of their choice within one month online. At the end of that month, that policy is voted upon by the Provo City Council, determining whether to further pursue action.
The Lobby’s ‘policymaking bootcamp’ is a convenient way for any demographic of person living in Provo to be influential in the civic process. During the first week that the Lobby is in session online, the congregated residents introduce themselves to each other. During this time, they also contribute which issues about living in Provo they appreciate and where they believe there is room for improvement.
This discussions transitions the Lobby participants into the next phase: the topic selection process. At this time, the participants are debating the policy issue that they believe is most crucial to devote resources and influence to while in the capacity of the Lobby. Fascinatingly, during the first and second rounds, both Lobbies choose to focus on preserving green space in Provo. Such a result having occurred twice consecutively is quite revelatory for the City Council. Indeed, the Provo People’s Lobby gives voice to the otherwise underappreciated preferences of the greater community.
The resulting policy formulated in the Lobby’s policymaking bootcamp is ultimately presented to the Provo City Council. The names of the Lobby participants are never released with the policy so that no resident is held accountable negatively for their contributions. Historically, the Council has deeply appreciated the opportunity to play host to this experiment in participatory digital democracy. They believe that it is not only a sign of innovation in Provo but a meaningful opportunity to hear the voices of the citizens in an organic, productive environment – differing greatly from the tones found on social media platforms like Facebook.
The Provo People’s Lobby, on behalf of the Provo City Council, invites you to engage in the discussion online by clicking here. We hope to see your ideas and reactions online.