Democracy Pays Off – Voter education program and online platform for voter participation that help people employed

Democracy Pays Off – Voter education program and online platform for voter participation that help people employed

South Korea
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Let’sVoteTogether.com believes that a democratic society thrives when politicians and elective representatives are accountable to its citizens. Active participation in the political decision making process of voters is crucial in making the elected accountable and responsive to people’s needs. However, political apathy is not uncommon in many countries, and South Korea is no exception. Voting rates have been alarmingly low in the recent elections and strong political apathy is widespread among young voters in Korea. Bipolarized political scene has enforced this political apathy. Let’sVoteTogether.com thinks that building more a democratic society and counteracting political apathy can be achieved through a market-based, creative approach.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

South Korea has a long history of democratization. Koreans suffered with military dictatorship for more than 20 years. The power of citizens finally made the military government to step down. Now, Korea is considered one of the fully democratized countries according to Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual report of world democracy index.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

‘Make Democracy Thrive by Making People Prosper’ is a key idea of Democracy Pays Off. The first step is to make people (especially the unemployed) prosper by giving them a job that is sustainable and meaningful. The next step is to have their jobs to contribute to economic and political stability. Indeed political stability is a key to economic success. They are like two sides of a coin. Thus, in the long run, creating jobs that help democracy to mature will be one of the most effective ways to make a region (country) thrive. Typically, voter registration campaigns are considered as a non-profit activity. Democracy Pays Off shows that exercising one’s right to vote not only decides the future scope of a country and individuals, but it can also generate income as a business. This model encourages political participation through a market-based approach.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Democracy Pays Off has two primary activities – one is to run a year-round voter education program called ‘VOTE School,’ and the other is to create an online gateway ‘Open Party’ to track politicians’ actions over time and to provide voters with information on policies and political decisions made by the politicians. VOTE School is an education program designed for inactive voters. All courses aim at getting them to register to vote, to cast a vote, and to participate in the political decision making process more actively as a voter. VOTE School plans to be operated as a nationwide network of regional education programs so that voters in any region can easily access the program. Each regional school will need to follow the guideline of VOTE School Main Campus for the course integrity and political balance. Open Party is a web-based data archive of politicians’ track records of his or her political activities including speeches, legislative activities, voting record in the congress, etc. Major policies – whether national or regional – are also reviewed and summarized in Open Party for voters’ understanding of the issues and changes that the policy can bring. Through Open Party, voters have easy access to important information on politicians and policy, which voters can use as evaluation criteria in their voting process. Both VOTE School and Open Party are geared toward mobilizing people to get more interested in political decision making process and to exercise their rights as voters by participating in the election.
About You
Organization:
Let'sVoteTogether.com
About You
First Name

Young

Last Name

Kim

Twitter

twitter.com/letsvotekorea

Facebook Profile
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Let'sVoteTogether.com

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Things change. One’s view changes, too. I was an indifferent voter. I never missed the election, but politics have never been my priority or a big interest. Political activists were like aliens to me. Politicians were just people on TV. I was too busy to work for my career.

Things changed when a respected researcher was accused of being a “commie.” He wrote tens of books and papers, many of which were considered as key readings for understanding Korean history. All he did was what a normal researcher would do, just studying, writing, and sometimes giving his expert opinions to media. But once he became one of candidates for a chief of a government committee, conservatives – the extreme right, to be exact – began politically assassinating his perspectives. The poor researcher could not survive the bombardment of wrongful accusations. He gave up leading the committee, and kept silence for a while. This happened not too long ago in Korea, where people believed democracy is fully mature.
I got furious. This kind of wrong accusation was only possible because too many people just did not care. Some politicians took advantage of this apathy, and could attack just whomever they wished to attack. Moreover, these politicians were supported by the tax money that I paid. That was when I realized political apathy can be abused by bad politicians. However, getting people to hear about this problem was not enough. I thought things can only change when people receive a direct and visible return by their political participation. That was the starting point of Democracy Pays Off.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Basically two simple measures can be used to assess Democracy Pays Off – voting rate and the number of jobs created. For relatively short period of time, we have operated a successful campaign for voter participation with our partners. Due to the efforts of many individuals and organizations including ours, there has been a noteworthy increase in voting rate with the last two elections in Korea. In terms of job creation, it is frankly too early to judge about the outcome, as the project is still in its early stage. However, we believe that linking political watch with job opportunity will affect the whole society (already making progress in Korea) in the near future.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

We plan to make Let’sVoteTogether.com a total solution to voters – helping voters to make informed decisions, reviewing the current political issues, spreading the idea of democracy globally. In order to achieve the goal offering a total solution, we are planning to expand our customer base and address market segments that are more diversified. For example, students who are not old enough to vote may still be interested in politics, and VOTE School will provide courses for these future voters. Widening geographical range of service will also be an important strategy of Let’sVoteTogether.com.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Perhaps the biggest hindrance to the successful project is people’s prejudice against business and politics. The word ‘business’ and ‘politics’ may remind many people of corruption and power abuse. Such viewpoint could affect Let’sVoteTogether.com, as customers (and stakeholders) could feel the business should not be related to politics.

Another obstacle is the difficulty of being ‘unbiased’ and ‘fair’. Bipartisanship is not easily achieved in the current political landscape where the extreme opinions often attract more voters. Therefore, any opinions related to politics can be interpreted as ‘biased’.

Admittedly, Democracy Pays Off will also go through these problems. Then the best approach will be to do marketing more aggressively. Once Let’sVoteTogether.com gets familiar to the general public, many obstacles will be tackled more easily.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have collaborated with a number of organizations in Korea, including Work Together Foundation, Korea Youth Alliance, Korean Voters Association, etc.

Explain your selections

The initial funding for the project was done by friends and family of the project team members. One of the members also put a big portion of his savings into the project. Winning a national competition for social venture hosted by the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor allowed us to receive the government grant for 6 months. As a business, we also try to create a reasonable profit by providing specialized service to our customers, which is still in early stage.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

The first step toward sustainable business operation of Let’sVoteTogether.com is to expand our customer base. Thus far the target of our marketing efforts has been limited to relatively young voters, as they tend to show the most serious political apathy. However, market research shows that voters in their 40s and 50s as another important customer base of VOTE School, as they want to teach their children about democracy and to make informed decisions at the poll.

Another plan to financially stabilize our project is to launch a professional version of Open Party, where more detailed and processed information about policy and politicians is provided. Subscription to the professional version of Open Party will be charged for a small monthly fee so that researchers or policymakers, more active citizens will be able to utilize the detailed information.

In addition, collaboration with both government and civic sector is important for Let’sVoteTogether.com for spreading its message of political participation as well as to hold the sustainability. For example, support from National Election Committee of Korea would enable us to provide more VOTE School classes for the under-represented voter groups such as the physically handicapped, the recently immigrated, etc.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Underemployment

SECONDARY

Lack of access to information and networks

TERTIARY

Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Underemployment of the youngsters in Korea is more than serious. A quarter of young people between 15 and 29 are unemployed, and this problem gets more serious as the growth of jobs stagnates.
Democracy Pays Off tackles youth unemployment issue by having them start their own ‘businesses’ of teaching or data collecting, with little risk. An unemployed young man can start VOTE School in his hometown and teach voters the importance of participation. Or this young man can become a data archiver for Open Party, who collects all the records about a politician, policy, or operation of government and submits his collection to Open Party’s archive. All they would need is the manual and the Internet connection. This way, a significant number of decent jobs will be provided by Democracy Pays Off

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

SECONDARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

TERTIARY

Other (please specify below)

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Let’sVoteTogether.com has planned to extend its geographical reach by building a national network of voter education program, VOTE School. If the current plan is realized, a sort of ‘franchise’ system of VOTE School will be operated across the country by 2012. We also plan to extend our reach to other countries where democracy and citizen’s political participation is either still young or weak. We think that our model of job creation combined with political activism will be effective not just in Korea but also in many other countries. For the time being, Democracy Pays Off plans to build partnership with organizations in our target market, one of Asian countries, over the next three years.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Let’sVoteTogether.com has actively launched a series of vote campaigns for major elections in Korea since its establishment. We have collaborated with a number of NGOs for campaigns, and several Korean celebrities have helped us spread the idea that voters’ participation is essential to achieving and sustaining democracy of the nation and well-being of its citizens. One of main partners is ChungEoRam Academy, a NPO that specializes in adult education and knowledge-sharing online platform. Thus far the collaboration has focused on planning a variety of campaign events together, but we hope to have more opportunities for collaboration with more NGOs, who share the same vision with us.

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