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The State of Things

A project by: Matt Mahmoudi

£1,490
pledged of £5,000 target
29%
FUNDED
26
SPONSORS
This project will only receive pledges if at least £2,000 is pledged by Fri 29 Jun 2018
Rethinking politics; fighting apathy.

an educational platform for politics

Politics in the West is more polarised than ever before. Whilst this development has reinvigorated youth engagement in the political system – as evidenced by the historic youth turnout in the UK’s 2017 election – a more sinister mode of politics has emerged. This new breed of politics is premised on flexible interpretations of the truth, angry discourse, and the legitimation of extremist positions. It worries us. Not only does it hinder notions of community engagement and empathy, it also suggests to those with less political knowledge – especially students under voting age – that this is politics as normal. We disagree with this new dynamic and hope that you will support our project to illustrate to students that not only is politics omnipresent, but it can also be accessible, entertaining, and well-informed. Above all, our goal is to inform young students that they do have a role to play in politics.

We are raising £5,000 pounds to build an educational platform that addresses shortcomings in citizenship and political education across the UK and other regions of the world.

Who are we?

We are a group of 11 students and graduates in disciplines ranging from Education to Politics, International Relations, Law, and Development, primarily from the UK, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Romania and Denmark. What brings us all together is not only our common experiences and backgrounds in journalism and communication but our vision of a new, inclusive, pluralist and relatable way of learning about politics and how it affects our lives.

The project is spearheaded by a managing team of three:

  • Matt Mahmoudi - Founder (MPhil, PhD Candidate at Pembroke 2017-2020).
  • Georgiana Epure - Co-founder
  • David Orr - Co-founder
  • Luke Naylor-Perrott - Creative (BA History Student at Pembroke, 2015-2018

Our approach

To spur youth engagement in politics, we will be launching a multi-faceted programme called the State of Things. It will be centered upon three principles: accessibility, non-partisanship, and entertainment.

The first phase is to develop a website to illustrate how politics permeates everyday life. To this end, we will tease out the politics behind seemingly mundane objects, identifying themes and explaining how they relate to our target age group. For example, a coffee bean can be used to discuss policies such as Fairtrade, agricultural subsidies, and trade deals in an engaging way that piques students’ natural curiosity. As we extend our reach, different country pages will be developed with objects specific to that country. Our hope is that this method will provide an engaging forum to illustrate that politics is deeply imbued with nearly all practices of daily life and thereby move beyond politics’ recent visceral character.

The website will be loosely divided into three sections; the first one hosts these objects, and the second provides a glossary of important political topics. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other websites that provide a similar offering to this age group. The website will also be interactive, and encourage students to provide submissions of objects they would like to see ‘politically unveiled’. A third section will provide students with the opportunity to share their own content related to politics, comments, and ideas, and thus keep them in the loop through engagement and content creation.

We also believe in the power of print media to spur change. To this end, our second phase will see elements from the website and novel content developed into a magazine for students. This publication will be distributed to schools across the UK.   In our third phase, we will offer forums for interested youth to engage with local politicians. This ‘day in the life’ approach will provide students with a more tangible understanding of political life and enable them to pose their questions to their representatives. We will develop these links during the first phase of the project.

Why Now?

In today's polarised world, it is often easy to distance oneself from the decision-making process. Nevertheless, a healthy democracy necessitates an educated population, who understand the political implications of their choices. We believe a nurturing environment where young people can both learn, and create, political content, is a way of building bridges across the aisle; of cross-fertilising new ideas about what society and the good life should look, irrespective of ideological leanings.

Next steps

We need students’ input to successfully implement this plan. Therefore, we will be running a series of focus groups with students and teachers in early 2018 to strengthen our understanding of what they would like this platform to do for them. We are flexible in our approach, and expect our approach to be amended based on their feedback. Ultimately, this is a project for students, and we will make it as tailored to their interests as possible.

Funding & your impact

As resources for schools have dramatically decreased, and political education becomes less of a priority, we must think of new ways of delivering education to our young population. Using the affordances of the internet, graphic design and immersive story-telling, our platform seeks to serve as a resource to this end; using a double pronged approach to support under-served populations by fusing young people's affinity with technology with online classroom best practice.

The average number of sixth form students per school in this country, as of 2015-2016, is 1736. even if 10% of students at 10 schools used the website, then it would cost GBP 3/student (the more students we are able to reach, the less the cost per student). Needless to say that your contribution in this endeavour is highly valued - the amount we are able to gather at this point will directly impact the quality of the platform and its development - and will help us create a truly inclusive platform for the education of politics.

Where will the money go?

  • The minimum target will be spent on renting server space (with a Virtual Private Server host), and paying a developer to build basic version of the web-based platform.
  • If we hit our full target, we will be able to rent our server space, pay a developer to build the full version of the platform (multiple iterations), fund us through the creation of original multimedia content (video materials), and help us with our initial marketing and communications plan.
  • Our team has only recently been fully assembled, and are currently conducting market-research. We will update you on our developments every three weeks.

Rewards

  • All donations will naturally be matched with rewards, as a token of our appreciation.

Help us succeed!

  • YOU DON'T NEED TO GIVE MONEY TO HELP: Of course, any help at all is much appreciated! Even sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or via email, is very helpful.
  • ... With that said, our work is contingent on funding to realise the scale of the project. Please sponsor us to help bridge this important gap.