“Your idea. Your district. Your democracy.” – with this slogan the internet platform muc.me launched this August, providing new, simple ways of participating in Munich’s local politics. Everyone can submit their ideas for improving their neighborhood and vote on other citizens’ suggestions.
The six students of TUM who designed and developed muc.me in the course of the Junge Akademie of TUM, thus create a new way of getting in touch with the city councils. At the same time, the politicians benefit from the poll results which give them an idea of how the idea is received by the public. A formal request based on a post receiving a large number of positive votes immediately has a compelling argument towards the city council.
Borough politics in Munich
The main goals of muc.me are to inform people about the possibilities of direct participation in local politics and to appeal especially to Munich’s younger citizens. It is focused deliberately on borough-related topics. “We see a lot of potential in borough politics to reach out to politically disengaged citizens, because local decisions influence our everyday lives and the council committees are easily accessible – provided one knows how,” says Prof. Stefan Wurster, Professorship of Policy Analysis at the TUM School of Governance and mentor of the team behind muc.me.
Particularly worth mentioning is that muc.me offers a place for discussion of the so-called council’s budget (“Stadtbezirksbudget”), which was just introduced in 2018. This budget shall be used specifically for ideas proposed by citizens. The amount is defined by the number of inhabitants in a district: Each council has 2€ per citizen at its disposal for this. Thus, muc.me allows its users to submit proposals for the described council’s budget which other users can then vote for or against.
Collected data and privacy concerns
On questioning, the students commented that their greatest specific challenge was to do with data privacy and all the bureaucracy associated with it. “TUM puts great stress on data privacy and protection. But as we all know, this is very important and just has to be done,” comments Simon Rehwald, co-founder of muc.me and Master’s student in Information Systems.
When registering, users specify which district of Munich they live in. This information is supposed to be displayed in the poll results so that the borough councils know what their residents think about a specific topic or if a certain topic is seen differently across the boroughs. “It’s indispensable information for a borough’s politicians whether it’s the local residents who favor a road rerouting or the commuters passing through the borough, for example,” explains Jonas Ruchti, Electrical Engineering student and core member of the team.
Current outreach and future plans
So far, the team has successfully convinced the politicians of the borough councils of Maxvorstadt, Aubing-Lochhausen-Langwied, Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt and Feldmoching-Hasenbergl to support and use muc.me. More boroughs will be approached in the future.