Restarting Romania!

Anna Kuliberda
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Last Saturday, I was honoured to participate in the Restart Romania Gala, the culminating event of the social justice challenge organized by TechSoup Romania in partnership with TechSoup Global and NetSquared. For us, it was the first regional challenge organized around locally specific issues and their citizen-powered solutions, so I was particularly excited to be present during the gala! You can learn more about the Challenge here.

We came from Warsaw to see the event and meet the community. Everyone who attended also served as the jury: we viewed and evaluated projects, and we each got a single vote to cast for our favorite. The event took place in Bucharest in the former Postal Services Palace, which now is National Museum of Romanian History.

We met organizers, sponsors and, what most important, social activists and their teams. The goal was to choose and award the best ideas. Only 5 out of 9 could win. Not the easiest choice, because there were a lot of great ideas. In this dignified place, surrounded by ancient stones and almost blinded by the shining crown of Romanian Kings, everybody started to making their decisions.

But let’s take a couple steps back!

First there was the challenge organized by Techsoup Romania in partnership with TechSoup Global, where 144 ideas were submitted! Nearly 2,000 people created accounts on the platform to support their favorite projects by commenting, voting and inspiring.

In effect 10 best ideas were chosen by the jury made up of experts and they got invited to the next step -- the E-Marathon, 3 days and 2 nights of planning and coding to bring the ideas to life. Over 100 volunteers (developers and designers) took part in this process. The help was brought by big global players as Microsoft and Cisco, but also by the local partners, who wanted to be involved as well. The projects concerned assorted issues related to solving social problems, from anti-corruption to shedding light on societal issues, to the presentation of interesting and useful public information, so they can serve the implementation of social change.

Restart Romania Gala

The purpose of the gala was to choose and celebrate five winners from the nine finalists. It opened with an exhibition of ideas. Everybody could ask the creators questions to learn more on the approach and problems in every solution. It was a good moment to make the decision on which project to vote. Then we gathered on the official part on the event, lead by Chris Worman, Executive Director of Techsoup Romania. Every team had one final opportunity to tell us why to vote on their project, but they had to make their case in only 2 minutes. Everything happened very fast, because voting was based on a SMS system.

And the winner is...

After short break for counting the votes, Chris asked the winners to go on the stage. The winning apps are the following (links Romanian only):

  • Harta zonelor despadurite (Map of deforested areas) - a map of deforestation in Romania made by analyzing satellite images.
  • Bursa Spagilor (Bribe Market) - a platform to enable citizens to report how much they paid for a public free service.
  • Cineceapromis (I know what you promised) - the platform to collect all politicians promises in times of campaigns and estimate the cost of the pledges.
  • MedAlert (NO to corruption in the health care system) - reporting corruption in the health system through a mobile app and an SMS service.
  • BaniPierduti.ro (Where's my lei, man?) - a platform to centralize all public financial information (public budgets, annual balance sheets) of projects with public funding.

Every project leader got a $5,000 cheque funded by FACT. However there were no real losers, because every app gained its community of support. I hope we will see the results soon online, working for Romanians!

We had the opportunity to make short interviews with 3 out of 5 finalists. See the movie to meet  Elena Calistru (BaniPierduti.ro), Madalina Mocan from Ratiu Center for Democracy and Ioana Petrache from CeRe Participare (Cineceapromis) and Codru Vrabie (Bursa Spagilor).