Gregor Hackmack has created an impartial online platform that enables direct, public dialogue between individual citizens and their elected representatives, holds politicians accountable to the public, and gives citizens easy access to political information. With a rigorous commitment to transparency, Gregor brings value to politicians and voters alike and is overcoming the gap between them to enable a new form of democratic participation.
It’s the people behind the parties, that shape politics
Gregor casts light on the often “hidden” business of parliamentary politics
Parliament Watch prevents the politicians from losing touch with their base
It’s a win-win situations for both the electorate and elected alike
THE NEW IDEA
Working to counteract widespread political apathy, Gregor makes state and federal politics transparent and accessible to citizens. Through his two online gateways, Parliament Watch and Candidate Watch, Gregor enables direct dialogue between citizens and elected members of parliament or candidates for office. With the help of these online platforms, Gregor casts light on the often “hidden” business of parliamentary politics by allowing citizens to track politicians’ actions over time. Gregor’s websites record the politicians’ speeches and contributions to parliamentary debates, as well as their voting record in parliament.
Gregor’s platforms spark a new form of interaction between elected officials and their constituents, because they allow citizens to post public questions for their politicians, to which politicians may respond, thus starting a direct dialogue with the electorate. Gregor’s system accounts for the reality that it is people behind parties that shape politics, and he holds politicians accountable to the citizens who voted for them. Politicians realize simultaneously that Parliament Watch offers them an opportunity to strengthen their ties to their constituents and rally support for their ideas; it also prevents them from losing touch with their base. Others have found that they must follow suit or be left behind. Gregor creates win-win situations for both the electorate and elected alike, encouraging honesty and integrity.
Gregor’s system is not simply a third-party clearinghouse for political information, but rather a forum for public discourse shaped by citizens and politicians. It wins the trust from political parties because it adheres to the principle of strict political neutrality, employs neutral moderators, screens questions, and relies on a carefully selected ethics commission to prevent the platform from being manipulated or used for activist or lobby purposes. To increase social impact, Gregor uses the publicly available collective knowledge created through Parliament Watch and Candidate Watch to further strengthen public accountability of politicians and encourage citizen participation. He uses prominent media partners as effective distributors of the information created and works with newspapers and TV stations to set in motion an interactive movement of citizens who feel they have the ability to shape politics; multiplying into all parts of society. Gregor is spreading Parliament and Candidate Watch to the remaining German states and has taken concrete steps to take it next to the European Parliament and several other countries.
Gregor was born in 1977 and grew up in a small village in the most rural part of Western Germany; it was anything but peaceful: When he was thirteen, the German government decided that this area would be the home of a large nuclear waste disposal site. There were massive anti-nuclear protests, and Gregor got engaged and even convinced his apolitical parents to demonstrate with him. In his last year of school, the national police announced that it would quarter anti-protest troops in his high school gym. Gregor became one of the organizers of a student protest that occupied the gym for days and drew national media attention. He and his co-protesters were expelled from school but used the media attention not only to make the police back down and sign a contract promising not to use public premises such as schools, but also to strike a deal with the school allowing them all to be reinstated.
„He set up a website to allow students to more closely coordinate their movement to keep them abreast of developments as they happened“
Since this incident, Gregor has been fascinated by the media and its power to help ordinary citizens pursue political change. In high school, he founded the student newspaper, making sure it was financed by external sources and printed outside the school to secure neutrality. In college he worked in the Phillips press office, and also part time for the newspaper Die Welt.
Before beginning his studies, he spent a year in Scotland doing his civil service with youth that had learning disabilities. Being responsible for two kids aged 16 and 17 he had to lay out a clearly structured day and rules for them. This changed his attitude towards accepting authority as something useful if lived out in a collegial manner, and ultimately helped him mature.
After studying at the LSE in London, Gregor returned to the city state of Hamburg in Germany. He became involved in a student movement to keep public universities without fees and open to all students. His interest was in facilitating citizen action: Working with a close friend, who is an accomplished programmer, he set up a website to allow students to more closely coordinate their movement to keep them abreast of developments as they happened; at the same time, he enabled the university to continue giving lectures throughout a student strike. The site was a success.
Immediately thereafter, he began adapting the tool for use in a major local referendum on electoral reform. The aim was to make electoral law more person-focused by giving the voter the right to elect persons and not just parties. Gregor was elected to the board of the CO More Democracy which helped citizen advocates for reform gather information and coordinate their efforts. The referendum was a success, and Gregor actually contributed to the introduction of a new law in the city state of Hamburg, leading to a direct voting system in seventeen constituencies.
The success of the referendum came as a surprise to everyone, but while his colleagues were celebrating, Gregor knew that this would only be a sustainable victory if he found a way to make politicians and voters feel the positive impact of the reform. At the same time, he observed that citizens where overwhelmed by the opportunity to elect persons, because they did not know most candidates, so they told Gregor they tended to blindly vote for the delegate on top of the party voting list. Thus, in 2004, the idea for Parliament Watch and Candidate Watch was born.
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