The Danish Daily Dagbladet Information has launched a think tank that aims to address the problems facing Denmark and the country's new government. The results will be handed over to the new Prime Minister Helle Thorning -Schmidt after she has completed 100 days in office.
The interesting thing about this research project? Everyone is invited.
Readers of Information are invited to contribute to the think tank, appropriately named 100 Dage (100 Days) , alongside NGOs, experts, politicians, organisations, corporations and even established think tanks.
Through this blend of expert insight and popular opinion, the paper hopes to gain a more profound insight into the mood of the Danish people and how best to deal with the current political and economic environment.
Nikolai Thyssen, from Information, said in an email interview "we're breaking the silos in which political discussions usually take place (politicians talking to civil servants, economists talking to think tanks, activists talking to NGOs etc. etc.)". The crowd sourcing method is a means of shaking up the traditional method of political research encouraging "new lines of thought".
Read a full interview with Nikolai Thyssen here.
WAN-IFRA: First and foremost, can you give a brief summary of the concept and
explain how your readers can contribute to the think-tank?
THYSSEN: It's not a regular think tank. It doesn't have a director and it doesn't employ economists. It's an open invitation to our users to introduce ideas and solutions to the challenges facing Denmark and the government that was just elected.
We are using a platform built by the Danish-Turkish company WeDecide. It's designed to help groups making good decisions. There's a gentle touch of gamification. We set up the challenges to work on - for example: "How do we make sure that all pupils can read and write when leaving school?" Everyone who participates gets a certain amount of credit that they can invest as influence in proposals.
Once a week the three proposals with the most support are selected and the group will work together to refine and develop those proposals. When the new PM has served her 100 days, hopefully we can give her a catalogue of ideas and solutions to the challenges - and hopefully those ideas will be founded on real life experience and knowledge that wasn't accessible in the political sphere.
WAN-IFRA: What prompted the decision to launch the think-tank and why decide to crowd source it?
THYSSEN: We want to engage people with real experience - so when introducing a challenge about schools, we're are also asking pupils, parents, teachers and principals to join the discussion with their experience and their ideas.
In a sense regular think tanks are resistant to new ideas. They bring together people with a common view of the world, with the same educational background and same social horizon. Our ambition is to break down those silos and bring together ideas born from real life experience with experts and politicians.
WAN-IFRA: How have your readers reacted to the launch of the site and what has
user engagement been like so far?
THYSSEN: We launched less than a week ago - I had no idea how/if our users would engage. But it has been great start - tons of great ideas already and the community is growing every day.
WAN-IFRA: Have professionals and experts (the NGOs and established think-tanks
that you mention) been willing to become involved in the project and share
their expertise, or were they a little reluctant?
THYSSEN: This is most definitely the biggest challenge. Politicians and experts expect to be treated differently than readers and users. The live in articles, users live in the comments below. There is a very clear hierarchy there, and I think a lot of experts find it slightly odd to swim in the same pool as the readers and users.
Having said that, most people we call and ask to participate and contribute have done so enthusiastically.
WAN-IFRA: Does the paper have any further plans to launch other crowd sourcing or
community projects in future?
THYSSEN: This is just the beginning. It's been more than a decade since Dan Gilmore famously proclaimed, "my readers know more than I do". Many journalists understand this, but also get very disappointed every time they look at the user comments that their journalism provokes. They hear about the wisdom of the crowds, and all they see is bickering. So, we must be doing something wrong.
Usually we ask our users for their opinion. We ask them to be commentators on our agenda. This is an attempt to ask different questions: Instead of "what do you think", we're asking "what do you know, what have you learned?, what insight can you share?" I think the answers will also be different and I'm sure this will radically change the way we do journalism.