How Deloitte is helping to innovate for the social good of democracy

Deloitte Australia continually seeks and nurtures unique solutions to create transformational change for a better society. I recently had the honour of announcing the winner of the Deloitte-sponsored Social Innovation category of the Good Design Australia awards, held in Sydney.

 Innovation is a part of Deloitte’s DNA. So too is being a responsible business whose purpose is to make an impact that matters. Promoting and preserving democracy is at the heart of the winning entry for the 2017 Good Design Australia Social Innovation award. As such, it ably delivers on Deloitte Australia’s key imperatives.

Hailing from neighbouring New Zealand, Massey University’s Design+Democracy Project is a consulting practice aimed at empowering disengaged young voters to reacquaint them with their democracy. Deloitte Australia will provide the winning venture with up to $50,000 of pro bono support to help take the solution to other countries.

The World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report showed a global decline in election turnout in western democracies of more than 10% over the last 25 years. As well as New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK are among the many countries affected. And, while voting is compulsory in Australia, an estimated 10% of our population declines to register to vote and a further 6% of votes are spoiled – possibly out of protest.

While the overall Design+Democracy project has created various platforms to fulfil its mission in different NZ elections, the winning design for the Social Innovation award was an app called ‘VoteLocal’. Chiefly developed by designers and lecturers Karl Kane and Tim Parkin, the app aims to engage local voters in New Zealand mayoral elections. It also serves to educate them about what local councils do, how they impact people’s lives and why – in a nation without compulsory voting – voting for them really matters! Taking the user through a series of issues-based game-like questions, VoteLocal shows respondents how all forms of government must balance competing needs. By asking people to operate a sliding scale between two issue positions (such as prioritising cars versus other forms of transport), it uses collated responses to advise eligible voters which candidates are best suited to their preferences and needs.

VoteLocal provides information directly from the candidates about what they stand for, informs users about what councils do, and debunks any assumptions that they are not relevant. Designed with and for 18–24 year olds, VoteLocal sparks fun and engaging conversations about local politics with friends and family. For 2016, VoteLocal focused on the mayoral races in Auckland, Palmerston North, and Wellington.

The whole Design+Democracy project was formed in 2013 after New Zealand’s Electoral Commission called on academic and research communities to respond to declining voter participation – particularly among young, poor and disengaged citizens. Those involved work in partnership with industry, government, and the social sector to ignite a passion for democracy in young people through user-centred design.

It’s all about breaking a cycle of mutual neglect, according to Karl Kane and Tim Parkin. Both are passionate about the role of design in addressing social and civic issues. “We are thrilled to have won this award and to be receiving such generous pro bono support from Deloitte”, the creators said.

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