Humanitas360 and the MIT Center for Civic Media form partnership to research the intersection of technology and participatory citizenship
Citizen monitoring methodology brings together entrepreneurs and activists during event in São Paulo
“So many pot holes on street!” “My children’s school doesn’t have enough desks.” “The bus never comes on time!” Have you heard similar complaints? It is likely that you would like to see improvements in your city as well, but are not sure how to get engaged, or with whom to discuss your suggestions and complaints in order to fulfill your role as citizen.
Before this challenge, the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab developed in partnership with a few Brazilian cities a civic engagement tool known as “Promise Tracker.” After a year and a half of developing the pilot project, Humanitas360 formed a partnership with the MIT Center for Civic Media in order to continue the work in a second phase, which entails identifying how citizens strategically use the tool to bring about changes in their cities.
“Our partnership in the second phase of Promise Tracker embodies the essence of Humanitas360 as a think-do-tank: it combines innovative academic research with social entrepreneurship, leveraging citizen engagement to generate positive impact in society and in public policy,” explained Patrícia Villela Marino, Humanitas360’s president.
As the organizations launched the second phase of the project, Humanitas360 organized an event at Cubo Co-working in São Paulo. The event counted with the participation of partners such as the Social Observatory of Belém and Citizen Observatory of Ilhabela. Guests had the opportunity to participate in a debate about how new technologies have been strengthening citizens’ participation in Brazil and abroad.
Ricardo Villela Marino, Humanitas360’s co-founder, opened the event by emphasizing the importance of projects such as Promise Tracker, “A new generation of innovative entrepreneurs has to exercise a new form of thinking, rapidly identifying problems and creating solutions whether it is for technology ventures, social entrepreneurship or civic engagement. We are pleased to foment and bring to reality this new way of thinking, and count on the partnership of MIT and USP.”
What is Promise Tracker?
Promise Tracker is a free and open source tool and methodology that aims to help community groups deal with issues in their areas, collect and map data, and promote a dialogue with local governments, communities, media channels and other institutions with the goal of improving the quality of life in cities. The process begins when a citizen organizes a campaign in the Promise Tracker digital platform regarding an issue so that it can be discussed with community leaders. After that, he/she shares the campaign with the community inviting others to participate in collecting data and monitoring the service. This civic engagement combines technology with community interaction, encouraging citizens to go beyond simply complaining to bringing about real change to matters in their cities.
According to Emilie Reiser, Project Leader at the MIT Center for Civic Media and responsible for the implementation of the first phase of Promise Tracker in several regions in Brazil, “Promise Tracker is a product of ideas and feedback from the most diverse pool of participants. The beauty of it is that the tool is not a final product in itself – it is rather a platform that allows any group of users to think of and implement initiatives in order to transform their cities in areas where they see the biggest needs.”
In addition to Humanitas360 and the Center for Civic Media, Promise Tracker counts on the technical support of Stefanini to improve and maintain the digital platform.
The panel also had the participation of Jorge Machado from the USP Colab, Ivan Costa, coordinator of the Social Observatory of Belém and Carlos Nunes, from the Ilhabela Sustentável Institute – all of them collaborated in the first phase of the project.