At Spaces for Change.S4C, crowd-sourcing – research questions, policy answers, public opinion and statistical data – is a buzzword. S4C has increasingly built capacity and gained reputation for promoting enhanced public engagement in democratic problem-solving using digital technology.
Saturday, March 29, 2014 e-conference, “National Conference and Us” once again presented another unique opportunity to use crowd sourcing techniques and internet-based tools to solicit ideas, valuable information and input from over 6,700 members of Spaces for Change’s Discussion Forum who want their voices and matters that affect them to be heard at the ongoing national conference. Three lead discussants who are also delegates representing various interest groups in the ongoing national conference were there to listen to them and interact with the large group of young Nigerians in a new and dynamic way.
The two conference moderators, three lead discussants and thousands of participants congregated on Spaces for Change’s discussion portal on Facebook social networking site – https://www.facebook.com/groups/spacesforchange/ – at 4. p.m. They all connected to the discussion forum from their respective abodes across Nigeria and abroad, using any preferred digital device in order to take active part in the 194 comments-long online conversation. In the first hour, the lead discussants responded to questions collated from diverse constituencies, interest groups including those compiled from two dedicated pre-conference web sessions. The remaining one and half hours featured a no-holds-barred learning exchange and stimulating debates between participants and the lead discussants, providing new points of access into the political system, creating new possibilities for collective action and organizational linkage across distances.
Federalism, resource control, regional governance, youth and democratic participation, social security for all citizens, citizenship, religion and national security are the key issues that dominated the e-conference discussions, provoking more nuanced debates of important civic issues. It was an also an opportunity to vent freely and reopen past wounds that have hardly healed, towards locating mutual grounds of reconciliation and understanding. For instance, some took advantage of the presence of Peter Esele and Jaye Gaskia – both of whom played leading roles in negotiating the fuel subsidy fiasco which triggered a nationwide uprising in January 2012 – to address unresolved citizen-state contentions that continue to fuel anger and mistrust towards the labour movement.
That two-and-half-hour e-conference which brought together more than 6,700 members of Spaces for Change’s and the delegates to the national conference “under one roof” did not just signal an overturning of the political apathy among the younger generation, but also reflected the growing appetite for genuine democratic change. Several others joined the e-conference discussion on Twitter, rigorously following the instant updates on the bespoke #S4Cconfab hashtag. The robust participation of young citizens in the web-conference and the array of critical national issues discussed and questions raised compellingly demonstrate that an opportunity exists to take a fundamentally different approach to public engagement.
This report summarizes the e-conference proceedings, detailing the questions asked and the responses given in their authors’ own words. We are grateful to the conference moderators Bucky Hassan and Judith Mbah, the lead discussants, all members of Spaces for Change, local and international observers, and a host of volunteers who contributed to the overall success of the e-conference.
To download the full report of the e-conference please click HERE