Public matters : an accessible submissions process : exploring the potential of speculative design to facilitate meaningful civic engagement for young voters in Aotearoa : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Every person should have the ability to confidently and sustainably engage with the way the Parliament of Aotearoa operates and changes. Design has the potential to explore opportunities to bring people into civics, allowing greater citizen control, facilitating increased public trust in civic institutions and legitimising the decisions made. The development of laws is a foundational way Parliament shapes the lived experience of Aotearoa around its citizens. Engaging in this process can be prohibitive and unsustainable for members of the general public, contributing to declining public trust in civic institutions. Owing to its core tenets, democracy functions best when its processes and institutions are engaged with and populated by a diverse range of carefully considered perspectives given the power to make a difference. This project focuses on creating robust parliamentary submissions as an opportunity for people to engage directly with the development of laws without requiring them to go through intermediaries such as their Members of Parliament. Young voters (18-24) make up the focus group for this project, recording comparatively low civic engagement rates tied to barriers impeding meaningful and sustained participation rather than perceived apathy. The rates of young people’s civic participation have increased steadily in past years at rates higher than any other group in the country (Electoral Commission). This progression indicates the value and potential of accessible solutions designed to increase ease of civic engagement and foster trust and legitimacy for this group. At present young people lack appropriate avenues which give them confidence to engage. When groups of the public under-engage with processes as significant as these, laws can be implemented that are not appropriate for the country broadly or will not be supported once put in place. Speculative design has the potential to make this process more accessible for young voters by leveraging theories like that of plain language and participatory democracy to bring them into the conversation. This may assist young voters in creating robust submissions which can be acted upon by select committees. This project leveraged a combination of secondary research and practice-based testing informed by the UK’s Design Council Double Diamond framework. This approach culminated in the speculative digital tool Public Matters. Public Matters intends to aid young voters throughout the submission process; from understanding proposed legislation, constructing and editing a comprehensive written submission, submitting to the appropriate parliamentary select committee and engaging the user in a feedback loop. This aims to build trust in Parliament and facilitate sustainable patterns of engagement.
Figures are re-used with permission.
civic engagement, civic participation, speculative design, young voters, submission creation, legislative development, digital civic engagement, select committees, participatory democracy, plain language, group collective intelligence