Interview with Fundación Directorio Legislativo: Can Tech Bring Citizens to Congress?
In our last post, “A Critique of Legislative Monitoring Websites,” we looked at the #InternetNecesario campaign in Mexico as a model to increase civic participation in legislative debates. A review of the campaign reveals the importance of using social networks like Twitter and YouTube to attract broad participation from all sectors of society, but it also reveals the importance of key “bridge figures” who can build consensus and represent the campaign’s arguments directly with legislators.
I then received an email from María Baron of Fundación Directorio Legislativo in Argentina in response to the post. She expressed some skepticism about the role of technology and social networks in building significant consensus around proposed legislation, especially in particular sectors such as agriculture. In fact, for the past couple years Fundación Directorio Legislativo and Fundación Cambio Democrático have been collaborating on a project that aims to increase the participation of civil society in legislation related to agriculture and agro-industry. The initiative came about in response to the 2008 protest by the country’s agricultural sector, which left supermarkets without meat and dairy products. It was clear that building consensus around such a contentious issue would require years of constructive conversation among farmers, civil society organizations, citizens, and legislators. Three years later and Fundación Directorio Legislativo and Fundación Cambio Democrático continue in their attempt to build consensus and facilitate better communication among all groups.
Above is a 10-minute, edited version of our hour-long conversation. We arrived to the conclusion that technology can play a far greater role than it does today to bring more voices – more participation – to Congress. But a closer look at the Agroindustrial Consensus project reveals that internet technologies will always have their limits. Sometimes we all need to sit in the same room.