'War without blood’: this is how Mao Tse-tung defined politics. A male chauvinist conception of the world, some may argue; though very suitable if we take a look at the recent history of modern democracies. Not in vain, Sun Tzu's 'The Art of the War' is one of the most read books among political communication experts. Know your enemies - Sun Tzu said - and know yourself, and you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles. But how easy is it to know your enemies, or even your allies, in the current times?
Three years ago we founded Kuorum.org with the mission of improving communication between politicians and citizens.
We soon realised that a basic premise to foster political engagement among the population is to go back to the most important asset in politics: people. We wanted every citizen in the world to have access to up-to-date information about their local, regional, and national political representatives. It sounds like a simple idea, but if you do the math it is indeed a titanic task.
Attending to the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, there are 116 countries that can be classified as full or flawed democracies - as opposed to hybrid or authoritarian systems. Which means around three million elected politicians in democratic countries; three million people making decisions for four and a half billion citizens. Decisions that will eventually affect the whole world population. But who are these three million chosen ones? What are they currently working on? And, ultimately, how could we influence their decisions?
In order to provide simple answers to these questions, we recently launched the Internet Politician Database (IPDb), an open data project aimed at building a comprehensive database with all the politicians in the world.
The project was conceived as a transparency wiki where volunteering editors monitor their political representatives and academic supervisors look after the quality of data. So far more than 5,200 politician profiles have been uploaded and PhD laureates and professors at top universities such as Harvard and the London School of Economics have already joined the project. And, thanks to a collaboration agreement with UK-based MySociety, 60,000 more politician profiles will be added soon.
Along with the professional and personal details of every politician, the volunteers of the project collect the causes that their representatives are defending at any given time, thereby allowing Kuorum users to support these causes and build communities around them. Kuorum's algorithm calculates a political leaning index for every user in order to ease the rise of these lobbying communities.
Finally, those politicians who want to take control over their profiles can request an account activation. Parliamentarians, mayors, and city councillors in the UK, Spain, and Switzerland have already activated their profiles. Hopefully, many more will come, thereby helping us to build the 'peace without blood' for the years to come.
Kuorum.org is a social tech business based in Manchester. If you want to collaborate with us, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.