The following information has been summarised from the OurSay website, where you can find more detailed information about their work.
Mission and Purpose
OurSay was founded in 2009 with the aim of ensuring that communities could have a direct say in political decisions. Its founders Eyal Halamish and Matthew Gordon, together with friends, designed an online community engagement platform to do just this. Perhaps most importantly, OurSay envisage community engagement as a reciprocal process and the platform facilitates two way communication between communities and decision makers.
We want to ensure that in today's digital and social world, both decision makers and their communitiesare able to proactively engage with each other to make the relevant decisions (OurSay 2016)
OurSay is based in Melbourne, Australia. Its two key founders were motivated 'to do something about the lack of trust and authenticity in government decision making' (OurSay 2016). In an effort to address this huge challenge, a founding group designed an online platform through which communities and decision-makers can engage in a meaningful way.
The platform's debut was during the 2010 federal elections in Australia. Members of the public were able to pose questions to candidates, and other users then voted for their top questions. OurSay aims to provide prior commitments from politicians to provide responses to the top questions.
Since its inception the organisation has attracted a large membership and involvement from some senior Australian politicians including Premier Julia Gillard in 2012.
Specializations and activities
OurSay's main speciality is its online forum platform, which encompasses the following elements:
- the forum: the online space dedicated to discussing a particular topic or project that has been set up. OurSay work with governments and local councils to set up forums on various issues, such as Hepburn Shire's Council Plan. Each forum usually lasts for around 3-4 weeks and has a 'forum leader' (the decision maker or organisation) who commits to answering the most popular questions.
- questions: participants in a forum can post a question, as many as they like. They are encouraged to 'campaign' for their question through posting on social media and engaging with networks of friends, colleagues and so on.
- voting: each forum participant is allocated 7 votes. They can use these votes as they like to vote for the questions they most want answers to.
- responses: once the forum has closed, the forum leader will provide a response. This is not just posting a written response; they could respond through a media interview or webcast, or through a live 'response event' at a meeting or public event. All responses are recorded by OurSay and posted on the forum.
OurSay also provide a variety of other online engagement products and services.
Major projects and events
In 2012 the then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to answer three questions chosen by Australian citizens through OurSay. She responded to the winning questions through a Google Hangout which was broadcast by OurSay. 2,057 questions received over a hundred thousand votes with the winning questions covering same-sex marriage, military pensions and the government-funded school chaplaincy program.
In 2013 OurSay partnered with Hepburn Shire Council in Victoria to create a four year plan for the area with extensive community engagement. In this case, community members were able to pitch an idea for the Shire and the top ten voted ideas were discussed in person at a meeting with councillors, staff and the community.
OurSay is a social enterprise organisation. It is indepedent and non-partisan. At the time of writing it could not be determined whether OurSay is a for-profit or non-profit business.
The enterprise was started up with a $10,000 gift in 2009 (OurSay 2016).
OurSay (2016) About Us [online], available at: http://oursay.org/gov/about.html
OurSay (2016) How it works [online], available at: https://oursay.org/how-it-works
Short, M (2012) Power to the People, The Age [online], 3 December, available at:http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/power-to-the-people-20121202-2...
Wikipedia (2014) OurSay [online], available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OurSay