abgeordnetenwatch.de (abgwatch)

Published on: 12/09/2008
Document
The intention of "abgeordnetenwatch.de" is to use the Internet to enable more direct participation of civil society in political decisions and to make politics in general more transparent. The impartial online platform allows German citizens to ask members of parliament individual questions and to receive answers. Both questions and answers are public. Thus, in the course of time a virtual voters memory is developing. The project creates win-win situations for both the electorate and the elected, encouraging honesty and integrity. The platform was founded by Gregor Hackmack and Boris Hekele in December 2004. First it was limited to the members of the state parliament of the free city of Hamburg. In December 2006 “abgeordnetenwatch.de” was expanded to the German federal parliament. Since September 2007, it is also possible to contact German MoP of the European Parliament. The project has been growing continuously from day one. In average, more than 10.000 people are visiting the online platform every day and are asking up to 5.000 questions each month. Overall, 94 % of all members of parliament are participating in this form of online dialogue.

Policy Context

The carrier of both “abgeordnetenwatch.de” and “kandidatenwatch.de” “Parlamentwatch” is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, whose operation is based on freedom of speech and within the framework of the German constitution.

Description of target users and groups

The internet platform is directed at the German members of parliament, their voters and more generally citizens.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

In the beginning “abgeordnetenwatch.de” was run by volunteers only. But with its expansion the work had to be professionalized. In its office in Hamburg there are at present four employees and trainees (the number depends on the amount of work). A team of moderators (usually students on a free lance basis) checks whether questions and answers conform with an ethical codex. "abgeordnetenwatch.de" is a charity and mainly financed by indivual donations. Currently, 434 donors support "abgeordnetenwatch.de" on a regular basis. Furthermore, the Munich based foundation Bonventure supports the project with social venture capital.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Proprietary technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

Since the start of the project in December 2006 “abgeordnetenwatch.de” has counted 23193 questions and 19153 answers. That means 82.58 % of all citizens' questions have been answered by the members of the Parliament. Incidentally 95% of all MoPs are participating. One third of all visitors are young or first time voters. Hence the platform offers a great possibility for this group to receive information and contributes to avoid disenchantment with politics. The site is promoted by several media partners like “SPIEGEL-Online” and “sueddeutsche.de”, to mention just a few of them. Thus the site is becoming more and more known among the German population. “abgeordnetenwatch.de” cooperates with the non-governmental organization “Mehr Demokratie e.V.”, an interest group which campaigns for more direct democratic rights like referendums on municipal as well federal layer.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

The Internet does bear a huge emancipatory potential. Both politicians and citzens benefit from communication platforms such as "abgeordnetenwatch.de". While politicians were hesitant in the beginning they have gained trust in the project and do answer citizens' questions. The platform helps citizens to overcome their prejudices against politicians and gives them direct access to politcal decision makers. Thus, citizens' ideas and input enters the parliamentary process on a direct way without being filtered by lobbyists or the media. Last but not least, "abgeordnetenwatch.de" is turning into a virtual voters' memory and serves as a valuable source for first hand quotes and poltical statements. Scope: Local (city or municipality), National, Regional (sub-national)