Trending in Action: “Ideas for Change in America”

According to the folks at Change.org, “Ideas for Change in America is a crowd-sourcing competition that empowers citizens to identify and build momentum around the most innovative ideas for addressing challenges our country faces. The 10 most popular ideas will be presented at an event in Washington, DC to relevant members of the Obama Administration, and Change.org will subsequently mobilize its full community to support a series of grassroots campaigns to turn each idea into reality.”

Here’s a list of the ideas submitted so far for 2010. The 2009 list, unfortunately, hasn’t really been touched, but we know that building movements take awhile, right? And I guess there’s something valuable to be gained by bringing new campaigns on while still laboring on those other priorities? Or maybe the political landscape has shifted such that some of those other issues (health care, immigration, civil liberties) don’t seem as ripe today as they did in the honeymoon phase of the Obama Administration?

Some thoughts:

  • Crowdsourcing suggests that a crowd will come up with the best possible ideas only when that crowd displays considerable diversity, so that you’re actually bringing ideas from across a spectrum, not from an amalgamation of a relatively homogenous group. Unfortunately, the people who spend time at Change.org (and the organizations that are the partners for the contest), while I tend to agree with most of their orientation (!), are mainly fairly tech-savvy, younger, left-leaning people (hence the idea to “end the oligarchy”), which may ultimately mean that some good ideas that could be drawn from other parts of society are lost.
  • There is a certain ‘trendiness’ here: for example, one of the ideas that was originally sent to me was to require television of Supreme Court cases. I, for one, would really like to watch the Supreme Court, and it would be a cool teaching tool, but there are also some concerns about how such publicity might change the tenor of deliberation. What’s more interesting to me, really, than the pro and con of this issue is what it reflects: our current emphasis on transparency.
  • Finally, I’ve been watching with interest the whole mobilization process that organizations are using to elevate their suggestions. In the end, the ideas that emerge victorious may be not necessarily those that resonate most with some amorphous public but those surrounded by constituencies that know how to use these media to rally people to their cause. In that sense, it’s not unlike the fundraising challenges that have used social media recently, and not immune to the controversies surrounding them.

    But what I’d really like to know is what ideas YOU have to make this a better country. What kinds of policy changes? What kinds of structural reforms? You can submit your ideas here. And can an effort like this play a role in the process of building momentum around these issues? If you think so, then go vote!

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