Show, don’t tell — Solve Ninja Civic Forum lays an action oriented way to solve local issues

Have you ever looked around your neighbourhood and the issues that plague your community and wondered ‘Hey! What can I do about these things?’

Maybe it’s the lack of good waste segregation habits in your building, street lamps that don’t work, a dumping site at the corner of your road… things that irk you, things you want to change. When you see these things, which category do you fall into in the diagram below?

One of the questions that sparked the idea for the Civic Forum. Find out how we went about answering the question here.

“If you’re a young person interested in solving problems in your community, very often you just don’t know where to begin! Or you might have identified a problem that needs solving, but you aren’t quite sure how to get things off the ground,” says Pranav Shikarpur, a Reap Benefit Solve Ninja who has been working on our soon-to-be-launched Civic Forum. The open platform is a digital space for action-based citizens across India to collaborate, learn from one another and engage with their local governments.

For the past few months, Reap Benefit has been working on a slew of interactive digital platforms intended to help citizens find, learn about and share ways in which they can solve local civic problems in their communities.

In early April 2020, the Covid19 response dashboard was launched and used by over citizens across the country. This was followed by the Solve Ninja Chat Bot which uses WhatsApp to nudge public problem solvers to take civic action in their communities while also providing useful, hyperlocal information like the location of local fever clinics.

Joining these solutions is the Civic Forum.

Here are some of the things you’ll find on the Civic Forum.

Shruthi Badri and Pranav Shikharpur have been involved in the development of the forum and spoke to us about it.

Solve Ninja Pranav Shikhapur has been problem solving with Reap Benefit since he was a student at school and is currently an undergraduate student. Over the years, he shares that he has benefited deeply from having access to mentoring, problem solving hacks, and information from Reap Benefit. Yet, not all young people have direct access to this knowledge and help though.

“The forum will act as a digital space where citizens can come to learn from others about citizen engagement strategies, tried and tested solutions to problems and public policy,” shares Pranav.

Shruthi, a public policy student found herself struggling to find details about government bills and policies online. “Often the government websites that hosted the information had expired links,” shares Shruthi who adds that in the case of local policies this gap is even wider. “It can be very difficult to find information.”

During a conversation with Kuldeep Dantewadia, the co-founder of Reap Benefit, Shruthi mentioned in passing how great it would be to have a Reddit-like discussion website for policy in India.

“Before I knew it, I was on a call led by Pranav that was discussing just that!” recalls Shruthi. “Apparently they’d already been working on exactly the same idea through a forum. Of course the scope of the forum extended beyond policy to all local issues, but that was my entry point into the initiative.”

Breaking Silos

The civic forum intends to break silos and create a platform for collaboration by offering a public space for conversations around civic issues. Open-source solutions and strategies will be shared so that collective knowledge building occurs, rather than re-invention of the wheel. The forum will also attempt to build a community around engaged, active citizens who want to direct their energies to problems they can solve.

Shruthi shared that the forum is intended for anyone who thinks of themselves as an engaged citizen, or would like to become one.

“Often, engaged citizens tend to think about issues that are furthest away from daily lives — debates on TV or social media about national policy for example. The civic forum aims to redirect some of this energy to their local communities where it is possible for them to have high impact that is more personally felt.”

The forum currently has a Citizen Engagement section where users can share examples of citizen engagement that they or someone else has taken part in to solve a civic problem in their locality.

Just some of the discussions around Citizen Engagement on the forum.

The Local Solutions section allows the sharing of solutions that you or someone else has built to solve a civic problem in your locality. The intention is to build an easy to understand knowledge repository of civic actions that can be replicated anywhere in the world.

The Policy category is for posting about policies that have an impact on the lives of citizens at a Local Level. When citizens are aware of their rights and policies in play they will be able to hold local governance more accountable.

How you can get involved

Pranav shares how citizens can get involved on the forum.

The first step is to sign up. Head over to forum.solveninja.org and create a login. Once a person has signed up, we recommend they first look through previous discussion threads that are already up to get a feel for how to start these discussions. Then they can engage in an existing discussion by replying/liking/sharing with its posts and then start their own discussion thread.

Reap Benefit hopes to see people starting discussions about local policies, local solutions, local issues, and local government schemes on the forum, helping us co-create a vast repository for all civic resources to facilitate local problem solving and public policy.

We’re sure you have lots of questions, and we’ve tried answering some of them in the FAQs section of the forum here. If there’s a question you have that we haven’t answered, leave us a comment on the forum!

So, what are you waiting for? Your first step towards public problem solving, is one click away!

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Engaging youngsters in solving local environmental problems with data and solutions #energy #waste #water #sanitation