My Voice (in Latvian – ManaBalss.lv) is a civic organization based in Latvia and launched in June 2011 to provide a possibility for the citizens of Latvia to promote their initiatives and gain support for these initiatives for further submission to national parliament of Latvia.
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Mission and Purpose
"ManaBalss" (My Voice) is a Latvian grassroots NGO creating tools for better civic participation in decision-making processes. Its flagship project is ManaBalss.lv - a public participation platform where Latvian citizens (age 16+) using strong authorization tools can submit and sign legislative initiatives to improve policy on the national and municipal level. Once 10’000 signatures are gathered online, the initiative is submitted to elected representatives for a hearing.
Since 2011, from the 38 initiatives reaching the decision - a final vote in the legislator, 26 have been approved and have changed laws or normative acts. Additional 16 initiatives currently are in the review process in the parliament.
Origins and Development
ManaBalss.lv, a social initiative framework similar to Avaaz.org and Change.org, aims to let people bring their ideas into the agenda initiatives for parliaments or state institutions. It was launched in Latvia at the start of July, 2011. It stands out with its user-friendly interface and integrated functionality for all involved parties — the users, administrators and the target group (decision makers).
It started like a side project by a group of colleagues brainstorming about their country. They noticed that even though Latvians are considered to be politically very inactive and reluctant to engage with anything, they actually are the contrary – they have done the Baltic Way, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival every 4 years, and the annual Big Cleanup. What is interesting, is that Latvians do all those things voluntarily, nobody is paid for them. So, the group of colleagues concluded that Latvians are a nation of active citizens after-all, but they are disenchanted with the political system and they feel that they have no say, no voice, and no power. That's how that group of colleagues thought up ManaBalss: its creation would let every individual and every organisation get heard, gather like-minded people, and show the public need to authorities and get their ideas done!
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
During the years operational costs of ManaBalss.lv have been covered by micro-donations, most commonly from 0.5 to 5 EUR. It is one of the drivers to promote active population engagement and high quality standards for the publications.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
The organization's unique results are due to four basic principles that the ManaBalss.lv creators developed over a 12-month period of research and planning:
- Development of crowdsource initiatives — Authors of new initiatives are given council by a network of voluntary experts. Their advice helps create thought-out and useful initiatives from the representatives of the people.
- 100 percent legitimacy — The framework interacts with Latvia’s Internet banks, providing a free and reliable identity check. Saeima members can be absolutely sure that the number of petitioners is a real representation of the civic will. Additionally, the list of supporters can be compared to the national voters’ register. Personal data accessed by the ManaBalss.lv framework is completely protected; its creators consulted with the best Latvian hackers on the matters of Internet safety.
- Initiative tracking — The framework has the built-in ability to allow the media or NGOs (non-government organizations) to report on the initiatives’ progress. This pushes participants to follow through on their commitment, and helps them garner more votes if greater support for a particular initiative is necessary.
- Built for the user — The creators worked with leading marketing and technology experts in Latvia to create the ultimate synthesis of functionality and form and an interface that’s attractive and easy to use. Website http://manabalss.lv/ scores high on both functionality and user interface quality.
Major Projects and Events
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
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European Citizens' Initiative