Yesterday, Nicosia’s buffer zone hosted a taster party to introduce mahallae: a digital neighborhood for civic engagement. It all started with an unconventional conference that developed into an idea for a digital hub for peacebuilding innovation in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Over the past months, a mixed team of civil society actors and UNDP has fleshed-out this concept into a digital neighborhood (that’s what mahallae means in several languages) that brings together people interested not only in peacebuilding, but more generally in civic engagement and social change.
The full platform will launch later this year, but you can read more about the components of mahallae and sign-up to receive updates on www.mahallae.org.
There are many things to look forward to on mahallae. I’m particularly interested in the thought that is going into making the platform accessible to a wide audience, with diverse interests. For example, the story of civic engagement in Cyprus is being shared by making a large database of projects available for public exploration through two visualizations. I’ve baseline studies of projects in a region done before, they mostly end in a report that a select few read. The civic engagement map on mahallae will have a much wider appeal, and could become a model to share project information from other regions.
Another way mahallae reaches out to a wide audience is by making concrete tools for civic engagement available to them. Some are targeted at measuring civic engagement and social cohesion; others at providing gateways for increasing civic engagement. Some have a gaming aspect that the team hopes to develop further (and I’ll be blogging more about gamification for peace in this context soon). Mahallae also offers a collaboration space where people can come together around concrete ideas for projects.
In a way, mahallae is all about stories of civic engagement. It offers a space to tell the story of civic engagement by aggregating and sharing project information. It gives people a chance to see how they fit into this story by measuring how their actions and attitudes contribute to civic engagement. It also offers a space for people from diverse backgrounds to engage in changing this story with their own personal contribution.