In March 2018, President Macri said, during the inauguration speech for the legislative season, that this year legal abortion will be discussed in the Parliament. This would be the first time in Argentine history this debate would actually take place, after six failed attempts. What would happen in such scenario? How would our representatives vote? These two questions were our guide in order to launch a collaborative form in social networks collecting information about the positions of senators and deputies over the legal abortion bill. In just a few hours, the public and us managed to compile 60 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and 30 of the Chamber of Senators. A week later, the information obtained grow to more than 80 percent of deputies and 69 percent of senators. Results showed that it would be a close vote and that undecided representatives will be key.
The collaborative work gained so much momentum that people started to add other types of information in our form: gender, age, religion, civil status, etc. In a few days, more than 150 people collaborated gathering information and thousands visited our website to see results. After a week of work, we had an interesting characterization of our Parliament, which was quoted in most important newspapers in Argentina. The resulting data set combined information that previously was scattered in different forms and articles, and providing a coherent final picture.
For example, we appreciate that vote does not depend on ideology, with supporters and opposers across the political spectrum, but there are a strong relationships between religion and age. Younger representatives are more inclined to support legal abortion, as well as Agnostic people.
These data motivated people to demand more information and statements from public representatives about legal abortion in Argentina, to the extend that some asked us for the Twitter accounts of deputies to ask directly to undecided deputies or senators, so we decided to go on step further we had already gone.
We built a web app (“www.activaelcongreso.org”conceptual translation: Turn on the congress) that enables citizens to tweet or phone-call their deputies in order to engage in a debate to try to change their minds depending on their position regarding abortion. It’s only been a week since the launching and we already have public declarations of some indecised deputies regarding the wave of queries they have gotten from the citizens.
This is a project of collective journalism, while most debates are hidden inside the walls of the congress, we thought this time, with such a sensible theme it could not be this way, we already open up the debate to the public, but not just with information, but also with pre-congress debate interaction between representatives and represented.
What makes this project innovative?
Not only we manage to gather this data for the first time but we also built it with the most absolutely transparency possible. For the online fill of the gdrive sheet citizens had to put the source of they believe so it was no questions of the credibility of the process where of course our job was also to check the source was real and credible.
Even more, we developed a specialized app so people can engange with deputies taking into account the intention of vote previously mapped, and more, being able to try to modified it in real time by lobbying from their cell phones or computers.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
On one hand, we have other media coverage sharing our data and reaserch, and on the other, we have amount of people that interacted with the congress trough “www. Activaelcongreso.org “
On the first impact measure we reached a lot of media replication of our initiative (both local and international):
Mapping Replication News:
App Replication News:
On the second impact measure we had over 1800 people interacting in our webapp just in the first week. We espect this number to grow once we launch are 1.0 webapp version next week.
We also had a lot of deputies and political figures declarations about how surprised they were about this initiative, some of them are even using the collaborative vote mapping over their own information sources. And of course we expect that more undecided ones are going to make public their choice in the next weeks.
Source and methodology
Then we started to ask for additional data (Gender, Religion, etc.) to cross data to have a better understanding about the factors behind the political position.
Finally we developed this webapp page with all this information embed and buttons to call and tweet deputies instantly from citizens own accounts/phones.