GUSF would like to introduce our newest grantee, CiviWiki, in their first blog post. If you like what you see, you can support them by visiting their crowd funding page here .
CiviWiki is a non-profit organization founded by Washington University students bothered by the current state of democratic engagement. Most citizens are uniformed, lacking essential knowledge about key policy issues, and unaware of their representatives’ stance on these issues. Growing up with the internet, we have seen it revolutionized our civilization. And it is already effecting politics, as the majority of social media users post about at least one political issue each year. Unfortunately, the nature of social media isn’t well suited for an informed, and meaningful, discussion of politics. We tend to form likeminded social networks which create echo-chambers, reinforcing a dominate narrative without considering other views, or critically examining the truth of statements. The linear reply based comment systems prevents collaborative discussions and rapidly deteriorate into a series of disconnected conversations, muddling the issue. And, these conversations are disconnected from the political process, meaning that even if someone comes to support a policy, their voice isn’t taken into account by representatives.

We believe we can make a better system. We started by developing a modular posting system modeled after a debate notetaking structure. We call each post a “Civi.” A Civi is a single point in the greater discussion which can be linked in series, leading to policy proposals. By breaking the discussion into a series of single points, each contention can be responded to and discussed. This makes it possible to organize a much larger, collaborative discussion of the issue. But more importantly, it allows users to rate their agreement with individual points in the discussion, allowing them to build their own policy perspective, rather than wholly agreeing or disagreeing with a single author’s narrative. We use this rating to both find the best content, and to intelligently lead the user through the discussion, exposing them to important opposing views, and leading them to the policy proposals they are most likely to support. The attached infographic shows how this discussion is then tied directly to the political process. When a user supports a policy proposal, we both use that data to petition their representatives; and we save the user’s opinion to their account, where it is used to help the user compare political candidates and make an informed vote come Election Day.

We want to thank the Greater University Service Foundation for helping to spark our crowdfunding campaign. We are currently over 20% of our goal and just received a pledged donation which will take us within 15% of our target. To donate to the project and to learn more about CiviWiki from one of our videos (which happen to have some great background music) please visit our crowdfunding campaign at