You hear a lot these days about how democracy is in decline around the world. Given this climate, the need for democratic practice is perhaps greater now than at any time in recent history. That’s where Ethelo comes in.
2019 was our biggest year to date. Our team grew, we acquired Citizen Budget, received awards for our work, and started an exciting new focus on climate planning and carbon budgeting. And we’re just getting started; we have even bigger things in store for 2020.
Here’s a look back at some of our highlights from the past year and a preview of where we are heading in the new year.
Citizen Budget acquisition
In May, Ethelo and Open North announced the acquisition of the Citizen Budget simulator, which has been used for public budget engagement by more than 100 municipalities across Canada. Adding Citizen Budget’s toolset to Ethelo’s existing framework has made Ethelo even more powerful and allows for enhanced decision-making and reporting capabilities.
With the addition of Citizen Budget, Ethelo is now one of the most comprehensive deliberative engagement platforms on the market, providing a one-stop shop for governments at all levels that are looking to do public engagement on complex, critical, and contentious issues.
Moving forward, Ethelo’s team plans to expand Citizen Budget’s use outside Canada and include tools to allow for online dialogue, real-time results, and collective budget analysis. All of these features will help empower residents to participate in important decision-making processes and enable organizations to gather key insights for better budgeting and financial planning.
McConnell Foundation Grant
In July, Ethelo received a $300,000 grant from the McConnell Family Foundation to advance the eDemocracy initiative in cities across Canada. The McConnell Family Foundation is one of Canada’s oldest and largest private foundations. It is dedicated to innovative approaches to social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges.
The two-year grant came from the foundation’s Cities for the People Initiative, which supports urban innovation that contributes to more resilient and liveable cities for all people. Ethelo will be used to enhance the public conversation about the future of cities and urban areas on issues ranging from climate change to housing policy.
Cities for the People’s goal is to make fundamental changes to the way we think about and build cities in an effort to address inequality, demographic shifts, and a changing environment. Making these changes requires input from a diverse cross-section of a city’s residents, not just those who are able to attend meetings or public hearings. Ethelo gives cities the tools they need to create a truly inclusive process for tackling these challenges.
Ben West joins the team
Thanks to the success Ethelo had in 2019, we were able to add several new members to our team to support Citizen Budget, the growing eDemocracy program, and prepare us to tackle climate change and carbon budgeting in 2020.
Ben West joined the team in October 2019 to lead eDemocracy Solutions, Ethelo’s (newly renamed) nonprofit partner. He’s spent the past two decades working on climate change and brings an unparalleled wealth of knowledge and networks to the table.
West began his tenure by presenting Ethelo to the Ecocity World Summit in Vancouver, where he talked about effective public engagement and communication about climate change. He also unveiled a live demo of Ethelo’s carbon budget platform for summit attendees.
“It’s time for our democracy to evolve in ways that provide convenient yet meaningful opportunities for more meaningful participation,” West said. “The scale of change required to face the climate emergency is so significant that everyone should have a say about how this is done. This is a big challenge and an exciting opportunity. Together we can re-shape the world for the better.”
'It's Time' Awards
One of Ethelo’s largest projects to date was It’s Time, an initiative of Vancouver’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission. That project and its implementation partner, Context Research, won two major awards this year spanning multiple facets of public engagement and public relations.
The It’s Time Project received the Gold Prize for Digital Campaign of the Year from the Canadian Public Relations Society and the Core Values award from IAP2 Canada, for “Extending the Practice through Creativity, Contribution & Innovation in the Field.”
Context used Ethelo to collect public feedback from Metro Vancouver residents online. The Ethelo consultation engaged more than 17,000 participants and received more than 11,000 comments over two phases, hosting a lively discussion about future transportation options and fairness in a region facing a traffic congestion and affordability crisis.
Carbon Budget launches
More than 1,200 governments have signed on to the UN’s goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030. Almost $2 trillion per year needs to be invested in municipal infrastructure upgrades to reach that goal. Getting there is going to require extensive community engagement to create plans that work for each municipality’s residents.
Ethelo’s new eDemocracy Carbon Budget platform is built for communities that have adopted GHG reduction objectives. Combined with targeted engagement strategies (a new service provided by eDemocracy Solutions) this is a new way to move from policy planning to community engagement and collaboratively designed plans to reach GHG reduction targets that have a social license from the community.
For each Carbon Budgeting engagement, a representative cohort of participants will have the ability to compare the costs, GHG reduction opportunities, and trade-offs of common climate solutions policies. This information is analyzed and aggregated in real-time to create a comprehensive, democratically sound plan made up of a set of options that are broadly supported.
Look for more on the Carbon Budget program in 2020 as we launch it in earnest across Canada, and hopefully around the world.
Looking ahead to 2020
As you can see, it’s been a pivotal year for Ethelo. We hope to build on that momentum to do even more in the months ahead. Specifically, we hope to expand Ethelo’s use in the U.S., where political polarization is on the rise, and faith in democracy is at its lowest point in generations.
We see Ethelo as an opportunity to introduce deliberative democracy in North America and around the world, and show the value that it can have for helping the government and other organizations connect with their constituents.
If you’d like to join us in our fight to make the voice of the people heard in 2020, there are a few ways to do it. We now have a charitable foundation to facilitate our research and public interest activities, and if you’d like to make a tax deductible donation you can do so by clicking here. Any donations of at least 100 dollars will be sent a tax receipt. If your 2020 resolutions include helping with democratic empowerment and sustainable global climate, we can help make this a reality.
Additionally, in the coming year, we are also planning an Ethelo membership drive to recruit people to be part of our public consultations and other engagements. If you want to make your voice heard about issues impacting your life now and in the future, sign up below to become a member of our community.
Happy new year from all of us at Ethelo, we’ll see you in 2020!