Restart Romania: Real-World Impact
This week we’re beginning a series of posts about the Restart Romania Social Justice Challenge -- a community engagement collaboration of NetSquared and TechSoup Romania. The Challenge offered participants the chance to share ideas and projects for using technology to bring about social change in Romania. This weekend, five of the ten finalist projects will be selected to receive a cash prize along with ongoing technical and marketing support to fully launch their platforms.
As some of you may know, web-based Challenges are not a new phenomenon at NetSquared. So far, nearly 800 of you have contributed your social innovation projects to our project gallery and participated in our 11 Challenges. These Challenges have attracted submissions from all over the world, addressing themes across a broad span of countries and regions. Past featured projects have ranged from the Nyaya Health Wiki in Nepal to an electronic peace building project in Kenya’s Ewaso Ngiro River Basin.
However, Restart Romania is our very first regional Challenge organized around locally specific issues and their citizen-powered solutions. It was also our very first non-English Challenge!
We’ve been extremely excited about the results so far. Civil society actors from Romania submitted 144 projects across a wide range of topics. Participation was significant, with over 1900 user registrations on the Challenge site, 500 comments posted, and 675 people voting on project submissions. After considering this community feedback, a panel of expert judges narrowed the field down to ten finalists.
The projects put forth by finalists encompass diverse issues such as:
- Reporting corruption and crime: mobile and SMS applications to confront corruption or crime by allowing users to send reports directly to the authorities or the media.
- Keeping politicians honest: platforms that monitor whether politicians are keeping their campaign promises while evaluating the true costs of those promises.
- Saving the environment: a platform that monitors deforestation through satellite images and reports them to authorities via a mobile app.
- Increasing civic participation: a platform that enables citizens to directly engage in the law-making process by submitting and voting on their own initiatives.
- Promoting Financial Transparency: a platform that centralizes public financial information and creates a centralized map of public spending.
- Shaming bad behavior: a platform that enables users to upload images and stories of inconsiderate public behavior in order to embarrass the perpetrators.
Although the Challenge will have only three official “winners,” its impact has already been felt on multiple levels. Civil society actors have been incentivized to participate in the Challenge for all kinds of reasons -- the topic is locally relevant and the program provides them with an opportunity to contribute real value. Participants are engaged in thinking about and collaborating around transparency and political accountability in ways that accelerate change. Moreover, it has helped create connections and spur partnerships that have the capacity to last long beyond the Challenge itself.
The regional Challenge format also has important implications for the future of NetSquared programming. Our ultimate aim is to surface, connect and accelerate great projects that use tech for good. But we recognize that it’s difficult to develop such ideas in a vacuum without real input from colleagues and the communities we’re trying to serve. By bringing people together in a sharing of ideas, we hope to drive the creation of better products while advancing the benefits of community and human connection.
In upcoming posts, we’ll look back at the evolution of NetSquared Challenges and what sets Restart Romania apart from the rest. We’ll then delve into the significance of Restart Romania to the NetSquared platform and how we intend to replicate this model in the future. We look forward to getting your input along the way.
But before then, we have five winners to announce. Who will they be? Stay tuned next week for the final results of the Restart Romania Challenge!
In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think about Restart Romania and NetSquared Challenges. Have you ever participated? If so, what was your experience? I welcome your thoughts here or on Twitter @MarcManashil.