Gregor Hackmack's and Boris Hekele's non-partisan website parliamentwatch.org is generating more transparency and accountability in politics. Their principle is simple; it allows citizens to publically question their members of parliament with all records of questions and answers permanently saved on the website. This provides a safe space for a respectful and substantial dialogue between citizens and politicians. In addition, parliamentwatch.org provides data on politicians' voting records, extra earnings and committee memberships.
Currently, the website is utilized for the German national parliament, eight state parliaments, the German members of the European parliament and fourteen town councils. More than 90% of all politicians participate and answer via parliamentwatch.org and more than 120,000 questions and 100,000 answers have been published on the platform thus far. Parliamentwatch.org partners with more than twenty media outlets and is fully integrated in their respective news websites. The project is currently supported by 1,140 monthly donors and also generates revenue from charging politicians fees for a premium profile in the run-up to the elections. Beyond Germany, Gregor and Boris have helped to start similar projects in Austria, Luxemburg and Ireland.
The public in Germany, particularly younger citizens, are alienated and disengaged from politics and the political process. Distanced by the lack of transparency in parliamentary activities and the lack of direct connection to elected officials, citizens are distrustful and disconnected from the system. Unfortunately, this problem is not confined to Germany. Gregor and Boris have received inquiries from all over the world to expand their website to other countries and to fill a critical gap that exists in the market.
Parliamentwatch.org is currently developing an expansion strategy for their international roll-out. Gregor and Boris are first focusing on an open-source or smart network approach to allow their impact to spread the fastest. Their main challenge continues to be whether the current business model based on donations and premium profiles will operate in other countries and if so, how best to introduce this structure. While some operations like technical support are likely to be centralized in Germany, others like moderating questions and answers are better run on a local level and considerations such as this will be a key part of any scaling strategy they decide on. Gregor and Boris are also considering crowdsourcing parts of their model to generate more content from users and they will be working with advisors to determine the feasibility of this approach. By meeting the growing demand for parliamentwatch.org around the world, Gregor and Boris are reshaping the political system into a more participatory and transparent environment.