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This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

LawMaker is a lobby for the lobbyless – a free advocacy tool for those of us who don’t have a professional working for them to influence our governments. LawMaker allows Americans to (1) crowdsource ideas for new laws, (2) build voter coalitions, and (3) engage politicians to advocate for change. Our mission is to democratize democracies by empowering the creation of new laws that originate from real people at the grassroots, instead of from lobbyists and wealthy special interests.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

LawMaker was created to address a troubling downward trend in citizen confidence in democratic institutions. This has resulted in a cynical, frustrated, and volatile electorate, as well as polarizing politicians who campaign on cultural division instead of concrete policy. LawMaker was designed to benefit both voters and elected officials by addressing the root causes of civic frustration.

A 2014 Princeton University study found, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact, upon public policy.” It is thus no coincidence that trust in the US government is at an all-time low. According to the Pew Research Center:

• 76% of Americans say their government “is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.” (2018)
• 61% say it is “unlikely their elected officials would help them address a problem if contacted.” (2018)
• 74% believe that most elected officials put their own interests first. (2015)
• Only 18% say they can trust the government to do what is right. (2018)

Dissatisfaction with the U.S. government is at 77% after a steady incline from 29% in 2002. In the same period, voter communications to politicians have increased by 400%. Voters are looking for ways to be heard by their representatives, and feel a growing discontent toward a government that isn’t listening.

In light of the 2016 US Presidential Election and the subsequent increase in political engagement, LawMaker has been able to provide a productive tool for the burgeoning numbers of concerned and active citizens. In the past two years, civic engagement numbers have spiked dramatically. According to Pew, 2017 saw a 19% increase in policy-focused action compared to 2016. Popular event organizing site, Eventbrite, saw a 30% increase in political events in 2017 with a mammoth 93% increase in participation. The LawMaker team is utilizing this opportunity to provide voters a new way to engage that allows them to propose and build support for their own ideas for legislation, rather than solely put their energy into supporting the platforms of parties, lobbies, and special interest groups.

LawMaker’s objective is to create a more active and informed citizenry by empowering policy ideation and collaboration that sparks real civic change from the grassroots. The platform gives voters a tangible way to engage their elected officials and advocate for specific policy changes for their communities. LawMaker's user experience is summarized with the following steps:

Step 1. Propose a Policy: Users propose an idea to improve their city, state, or nation. There is no need for complex legal language – just a problem statement and how the user thinks government can address it. Authors can use text or video.

Step 2. Share the Idea: Authentic shares have great power online. Users share their ideas on their social networks to earn support among people who see the same problem and envision similar solutions. All supporters are verified to be real people with confirmed addresses, so their support can be quantified and conveyed to the appropriate elected officials.

Step 3. Crowdsource Amendments: Users can improve their proposal with like-minded people using LawMaker’s “amendment” tool. Other users propose amendments to a policy idea, and the author chooses the ones that best complete her/his vision, thus adding “co-authors” to their proposal to help spread awareness.

Step 4. Advocate for Change: Once an idea has earned a foundation of support, LawMaker helps users engage their elected officials in a public online dialogue to advocate for change.

Step 5. Political Accountability: Before each election, LawMaker will send users a rundown of how each of their elected officials and candidates responded to or voted on the LawMaker policies the user supported and opposed, allowing users to make better voting decisions than ever before.

As with all civic movements, as our numbers grow, so will our impact. LawMaker aims to earn 50,000 users in California before expanding to New York, Florida, Illinois, and Texas. Exposure in these influential states will ease expansion into the remainder of the country. LawMaker also has strategic plans to expand into Canada, Mexico, England, and India.

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Year: 2018
Level of government: Other


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