Restart Romania in the streets and soon on the Web

So what happened to Restart Romania, are those sites evolutionizing citizenship yet?  Romania was out rioting to kick off the new year, protesting various things, where were the Restarters?

In the streets with them. Unfortunately, Restarter sites like DemocracyOnline were not yet ready and this platform for refining citizen voice could not be used to pull common concerns out of the thousand messages proudly splashed across placards.  However, being there gave Restarters a sense of mass democracy in action, leading to valuable insights.  The leader of DemocracyOnline even managed to pull off a couple focus groups with protesters (warming up over a glass wine) and has been tweaking his platform since.  

Both DemocracyOnline and 6 of the 9 other finalist sites are getting ready to launch.  Some are done, some have undergone drastic redesign, all are stress testing and finalizing PR plans.  Mid-March they will begin launching in a series of press events hosted by the Canadian, German and American ambassadors.  (Restart Romania winners were MedAlert, I Know what you Promised, Deforestation Map, Lost Money, and Bribery Market, and the finalists were DemocracyOnline, Orasul Meu, Civic SOS, and Dispari.ro.)

“The problem is we don’t have a civil society, not really. We’re 20 billion neurons without synapses…which means only one neuron, not a brain." 
– activist attending the Restart Romania gala

Important to our community-building through challenges like this, is the process -- seeing how the Restart Romania experience itself helped open the discussion about the Web for social change. Almost every day, people call with new ideas and ask for volunteers or to volunteer themselves. 

Last month, heavy snows trapped hundreds in their homes and led to nearly 100 deaths. A start-up NGO, seeing the disaster in both natural and management terms, approached us to develop an Ushahidi map to spot trouble areas as the melting snows lead to floods.  It was good that Restart helped them understand we would be happy to support their idea.  It was better to hook them up with a Restarter who used Ushahidi and then to watch a new platform www.trimitesos.ro (textSOS) emerge a week later. 

Watch the TechSoup Global blog for news (and links) to the launches of the Restart Romania projects in the next few weeks.

As background, my Restart Romania posts are here, here, and here, and the post by Daniel Ben-Horin on The Huffington Post is here

(Pictured: Elena Calistru, Bani Pierduti)

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