Digitalisation represents an opportunity to redistribute political power within Switzerland,’ says Daniel Graf, founder of the WeCollect platform. The platform helps with collecting signatures from private citizens in support of political initiatives. Now, working with Che Wagner in Basel, he wants to set up a democracy charity. The intention is that digitalisation will give civil society a voice, and Daniel Graf wants nothing less than to keep developing democracy in Switzerland: ‘It’s high time,’ he says. He uses the political backing behind the Gletscher Initiative to prove this: over just four months, the people who launched the initiative were able to collect more than 120,000 signatures via WeCollect’s platform. Many of these signatories did not just sign their name – they also wanted to support the campaign on a financial level. The next step would be motivating more citizens to take part in initiatives and referenda. After all, many people who are entitled to vote have never even signed a petition.
Now, a charity is to drive forward the evolution of democracy. The charity will be non-partisan and independent, managed by a streamlined board of trustees. This board will decide which initiatives and referenda to support, manage project funds and run online platforms like WeCollect. Before this idea can be implemented, they need to rethink the form of the charity itself. ‘Of course, the charity needs to have objects that cannot be construed in any other way,’ says Daniel Graf. ‘But we want to create a charity made up of a cluster of interests.’ As with crowdfunding, the money for this comes from the general public. Their objective is to gain around 1,000 supporters: ‘If we can reach that figure, we can assume that the public is interested in our charity.’ The hope is that the charity will give private citizens a voice. The charity aims to reach out to young voters, in particular, and encourage them to actively participate in democracy. The charity’s independence of existing party structures is something that Graf sees as an advantage, as it can bring new alliances to the table and lay out its priorities without being influenced by a political agenda. The WeCollect platform will be an important tool in this regard. It is being expanded, and, in the future, will be available for matters on a national, cantonal and commune-based level. The democracy platform is an incubator: ‘It helps to get the ball rolling on political issues and really get them off the ground,’ says Daniel Graf. Crowdfunding was launched on 13 September. At the start of October, they reached their target of 1,000 supporters, gathering small-scale donations that added up to more than 100,000 Swiss francs.