Monday, February 23, 2015

Shadow Election — Looking for a new leader

Shadow Election has been a four year adventure exploring ways to harness social media to improve global democracy.

So far it has been a series of experiments and we have had some exhilarating highs (e.g. gaining over 10,000+ Facebook fans in one week on a number of occasions), but for sure there have been the inevitable lows – particularly with the struggle to gain significant traction in developed countries. However, with a combined global Facebook fan base of over 130,000 we are certain that there is great deal of interest in our aims.  

Based on our learnings we see that the future lies in pursuing two lines of development: crowdfunded Social Advocacy and Parallel Politics.

Social Advocacy

The aim is to enable communities to advocate on an equal footing in relation to the fractional minority of individuals and special interest groups who overly influence which candidates will make it through to public elections, and thereby control crucial (but often too specific to be of general interest) points of global activity in favour of their own concerns. 

Parallel Politics

At a basic level Parallel Politics could be considered as a process of continuous live petitioning, but, instead of case-by-case petitions, it would be based on a shadow democratic system that raises up public representatives – with a moral authority undiminished by the demands imposed by the increasingly money-driven democracies we know today.

Going forward

To progress the project further we are looking for new drivers to take over the reigns and bring fresh ideas and passionate energies.

The current board will stay in place to provide support but a core part of the job will be to widen the team and find additional resources.

Share options are a possibility but the desire to truly make a difference should be the primary motivator.

A willingness and talent for public speaking would be necessary but also the ability to empower others to share the message and the limelight is as important.

If you are interested please send a link to your LinkedIn CV with a one page covering letter to:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Who will you vote for in Shadow Election India?

Which one of these main players are you going to cast a virtual vote for in Shadow Election India?

We just launched Shadow Election India in time for the final sprint before the last voting day on 12 May.

More than 800 million Indians will go to the polls in the world's largest voting event; a process which takes 5 weeks (7 April to 12 May) to complete. 

The main reason it takes so long is because a federally formed security entity has to move around the country ensuring fair and violence free voting. Find out more about this in a recent BBC article: Why does India's election take so long?

India will also be using a electronic voting system, and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

It would have been great for Shadow Election to be running for all the regional voting activities too, however, given our limited volunteer resources, we decided to focus on the three most likely prime ministerial candidates.

Everyone in the world should care and show an interest in other countries' national elections because every successful election is a victory for human resourcefullness in avoiding violent conflict and ensuring better governance.

We wish India the very best in this final stretch of the elections, and may you continue to set an example to the world by showing that a workable democracy is achievable no matter what the odds. 

Find out more about the candidates and cast a virtual vote in Shadow Election India!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Passing 100,000 global Facebook Fans today

Over 102,000 global Facebook Fans

After a reconsolidating pause we relaunched Shadow Election today just in time for the Ethiopian Presidential Elections. And the engagement rate has been astonishing: around 3,000 Likes on the Facebook Page only 9 hours after we started a very lightweight ad promotion.

This has put us securely beyond the 100,000 global Facebook Fans milestone.

We have been getting CTR (click through rates) on the Facebook ads of up to 14.5%, which to anyone who knows about these things is almost unheard of.  Our average rates have been 1-3% which is also petty awesome.

And this only works if people are really motivate by the subject matter.  In addition we have been seeing great "organic" growth too.

Shadow Election has always been a big experiment as we try to find ways to help level the political playing fields in national elections and increase democratic participation.

Although many people liked the ability to rate online political videos (and articles), we saw from the analytics it was not the key user motivation.

On a number of occasions, we have had much faster Like rates on the Shadow Election Facebook Pages than we had new users to the actual service – which at first didn't seem to make sense: why would people Like us if they didn't even use the service?

It then started to dawn on us that people seem to really appreciate the party neutral space that Shadow Election provides.  In Shadow Election people are free to "shout out" for their favourite candidates, and make comments on the elections and democracy in general.

But they also like to cast a virtual vote to show their support for a candidate. This growing willingness of people to openly show their voting intentions in social media is something we witnessed developing rapidly in our first tests of Shadow Election (then know as Keskusvaalikone – central election machine)  in the Finnish Parliamentary and Presidential elections in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Although our Finnish "Facebook" fan base is not so high, for various reasons (mostly being able to – at that time – post voting results directly to the candidates' own Facebook Pages, together with a surprise last minute battle that drew in a lot of social media activity generally) the statistics show we had a potential "impression" exposure to nearly 30% for all Finnish Facebook users.

Shadow Election has been a volunteer effort with some partner cash investments and a small Finnish government grant to cover running costs; so it was proving to be too expensive to pay for the servers and to maintain our own service without additional funding.

Fortunately, however, Juha Mattila and I found out through our day jobs in the social media agency Zipipop Freud, that we could use a the Offerpop service to replicate the popular "live" voting poll.

And it seems to be working very nicely indeed – although if there is one more thing we have learnt is that the reaction in every country is different.  Also the nature of the relationship between the Shadow Election and the real elections results has varied considerably; but, having said that, there has always been significant correlations between the two.

Of course we want to go back to developing something more sophisticated as soon as we can, and here is our current suggestion for the next experiment (based on the thoughts of our passionate CTO Alex Keskitalo – the father of the Shadow Election concept):

Users rate what they think the candidates stand for.

This would have some profound consequences:

  • What people think candidates represent is in many ways more relevant than what the candidates say they stand for.
  • Candidates should be very keen to follow Shadow Election and try to engage with the service when they see their message is not coming through as they thought – or visa verse.
  • It keeps the all important human "face" while also enabling issues to be rated and the data collected for analysis.
  • It would hopefully give another user activity alongside the popular voting.

We would love to know what our community thinks about this approach as the next step forward.

And the more Fans we continue to get the more chances we have of raising funding – so please do help spread the word.

I am really excited by our last minute involvement with the Ethiopian Presidential Election because I lived and worked in Ethiopia for over 3 years.  While there I gathered many fond memories and friends, and would love to help support the democratic development. 

It is important to emphasize that our poll is neither scientific nor representative of the registered voters in Ethiopia – it is, however, a "social object" for people from all over the world to gather around and have a debate about how the real elections and candidates could and should be.

I thank everyone who has so far engaged with Shadow Election Ethiopia, and I wish those living in Ethiopia peaceful and successful elections. 

Richard von Kaufmann, Chair & co-founder

Click here to find out more about the Shadow Election team, and special thanks to our Commander-in-Chief, Juha Mattila, for keeping the dream alive and pushing us on ever upwards. 

NB: The roots of Shadow Election are in Finland where the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegnstudied for his Masters degree in Sanitation Engineering.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Calling all Kenyans around the world


Global opinions 

It is part of the long-term aims of Shadow Election to capture global opinions on global issues and to influence politicians to work together to solve them for the benefit of all nations. We are currently far away from being able to implement these lofty ambitions, however, as a step on that journey, we introduced the global voting map for the current Kenyan elections – and would therefore like to encourage the Kenyan diaspora to cast a vote in Shadow Election Kenya

The Central Bank of Kenya says that 1.3 billion USD was sent back in remittances, which, with a GDP of around 41.84 billion, means that about 2.8% of Kenya's GDP is provided by the diaspora. 

Currently there are about 1.5 million Kenyans registered at embassies abroad but only those in the East African Community or able to go to an embassy "in person" will be eligible to vote in the upcoming March 5th elections.  This obviously severely restricts the potential number of diaspora votes. 

For the IEBC (Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission) there are obviously logistical challenges in enabling more diaspora voting; however, one would hope in the next elections a country that is renowned of being able to send large amounts of money by mobile phone will be able to deliver postal or remote e-voting options. 

For the time being, however, the diaspora can with minimal effort cast a virtual vote, and campaign for their preferred candidate via Shadow Election. This vote does not obviously count as a real vote, but if it can help influence the voting of friends and family back in Kenya then it could almost become a proxy vote; and at least some active engagement has been made. 

Global voting

We believe that the world is now so integrated that what happens politically in one country effects us all to a greater or lesser extent – be it through trade, migration, military aggression, remittances, etc Therefore it is not without relevance to see information on how other nationals view our own politicians.  Shadow Election is not alone in this regard as The Economist ran a global poll on who should be the next US President in the 2012 elections, and Obama was the clear international winner. 

We have never claimed to be a scientific poll but social media is increasingly being seen as another tool to gauge public opinion – as can by seen by the use of social media statistics in the Daily Nation's Kenya Elections site. 

So go make your voice heard in Shadow Election Kenya!