On November 19th, 2013, the U.S. Senate held a second hearing on bitcoin for the Banking Committee. One member of the committee, Senator Jerry Moran (R – Kansas), stood out by going to the Bitcoin subreddit to learn about bitcoin before the hearing.
His post read:
I encourage you to click on his post and read some of the top responses. You will learn a lot about bitcoin and witness a rare example of a politician listening instead of talking.
This post is a milestone for civic engagement and crowdsourcing for two reasons:
- Senator Moran believed he could gain valuable information by using reddit to talk directly to a group of people. This type of leader-to-group communication is rare and Senator Moran has set the example for other representatives to do the same.
- Reddit proved that it is an efficient and effective way for our leaders to listen to the people. Reddit’s up/down voting feature allows the community to vote on the merits of each response. This allows the community to not only decide democratically which responses they think are the best, but also make those responses rise to the top of the page and become visible to the leader. The end result is a crowdsourced list of high-quality responses that the leader can quickly consume.
Reddit and other crowdsourcing technologies must become the new norm for civic engagement. It is the only way our leaders can efficiently listen to the people. They will find that citizens armed with the right technology can not only come up with great ideas, but also tell you how they feel about an issue.
I challenge every government representative to embrace these new technologies. Don’t throw away your mailboxes, phone numbers, and website contact forms, but you have to try something new if you want to improve communication between you and your constituents. Start asking questions on reddit, create your own subreddit, or develop your own crowdsourcing technology just for your constituency. The connection you create with the people you lead will determine your ability to lead them.