Everysay (by PublicSquare): The Why, Who, What
The PublicSquare Blog
By Yash Paliwal (Founder) | Background: I have been working on Everysay // PublicSquare formally since Jan 2019 and wanted to collect some thoughts on why our team is building Everysay, who are we building it for and what exactly are we trying to build.
When we look at the numbers for national voter turnout across Canada (or any modern democracy), engagement hovers around the two-thirds mark pretty much across the board, with numbers for municipal voter turnout in cities like Toronto being even lower at around the one-thirds mark. This is appalling to say the least.
Everysay was born from a combination of my disengagement from the Canadian political system, along with the stark realization that technology can really bridge the gap that is left by our antiquated governance system. I started to realize that intelligence algorithms (like the ones used by every single social media platform) definitely can be designed to optimize for engagement on issues, rather than just trying to capture as much of our attention as possible by over-promoting sensationalist, click-bait content (*coughs* facebook, twitter, instagram *coughs*).
Over a couple years, my informal conversations on frustrations with the current system, turned into formal discussions around a product that can satiate the desire for a better policy engagement system. Early conversations revealed that in the Canadian political context, the segment where the most tangible change can be affected is the municipal level for the following reasons:
When it comes to public policy, everyone is impacted, however, after 100s of conversations on the topic, it’s clear that there is great segmentation in terms of public policy engagement. Our simplified model for thinking about engagement breaks down the market into three categories:
We observe that there’s a very small number of people who are highly engaged in conversation with their representatives and feel satisfied with the experience. The vast majority seem to sit in the middle category wherein these users find themselves caring about some issues, but feel disgruntled with the cumbersome and antiquated nature of the feedback loop to our governance system (one vote every 4 years is very limited feedback). There’s also the third category of users who are highly disengaged and absolutely unconcerned with the governance of our cities/countries. As such, we’re most excited about that middle group, for whom we aim to move the needle on satisfaction with engagement.
That said, we long for a future, where engagement can be increased for all people. We hold that all people are stakeholders in our cities and should have their opinions valued. There are many challenges to this, but we believe that efforts can be made to at the very least bring more valuable opinions to the table. If done right, we believe this will allow for more ideal outcomes (public transportation systems that server far more people, housing affordability increased for the masses, etc.) and more efficient economics systems (faster and better communication/feedback means a better city, sooner).
The most effective feedback loop between any governance system and it’s related constituency.
In the ideal world, we see Everysay(or platforms like Everysay) filling the communication gap that currently exists between governments and their constituents. Our current system is based on four-year election cycles where individuals’ involvement is generally limited to choosing one politician among an option of 2–4 tangible candidates is highly antiquated in it’s over-emphasis on people politics and individual egos. This system made sense when it was developed, during times when cities lacked instantaneous, mass communication technologies and largely evolved at a snail’s pace. So what may be a pragmatic solution that leverages modern day tech and accounts for the breakneck speeds at which our cities, national economics and lifestyles evolve?
Well, we envision a more effective feedback loop would entail the following:
With the above points in focus, we aim to build and launch our first public pilot focused on Housing in Toronto. By early June we’ll have Everysay for Housing live for Toronto residents to learn about the issues impacting them in Housing today. The feedback we collect during this pilot will be shared with city government, media outlets and the public as a whole.
Our goals for this pilot are as follows: