Ask Away enables New Zealand youth to set the political agenda. Users ask questions, promote or endorse other users’ questions, and receive answers from political candidates or parties. Voting for questions provides an un-intimidating, one-click way of participating in the political conversation, and also shows the commitment by candidates if they contribute answers.
In the traditional media landscape, politicians, media and commentators would hold sway over what issues were relevant to audiences thus affecting the national political discourse. For young New Zealanders, Ask Away enables direct, two way communication on their own terms. Ask Away is an online platform designed to increase political engagement among New Zealand youth.
Firstly, Ask Away enables visitors to ask a question for all the parties to answer. This is thrown into a pool of questions from other visitors.
Users can vote for the questions on the platform they think are important to them, and would like to see political candidates respond to. The page which visitors land on shows a list of ‘trending’ questions, sorted by an algorithm.
Each day, the parties and candidates will answer the most popular questions as voted by the platform's users.
Ask Away gave young people the opportunity to talk about issues they cared about and gave parties the opportunity to engage. For the first time it offered young people a positive and welcoming environment in which to have a positive political participation and ultimately help shape the conversation.
The result from Ask Away was outstanding. Over the course of the election campaign 22,000 New Zealanders came to the site and asked over 1000 questions of 9 different parties. What became apparent over the course of the election was that politicians ignored this platform for engagement with young people at their peril. It was enthusiastically embraced, in the end, by the full spectrum of political parties. The conversations were policy led rather than politician led.