Exeter student entrepreneur’s online democracy tool used in Sabb elections

Exeter student entrepreneur’s online democracy tool used in Sabb elections

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Image credit: Tickbox
Image credit: Tickbox

Tickbox, a website that allows voters to understand and compare candidate information, is being test run for the first time during the current Sabbatical Officer elections.

The online tool was created by second year History student Matthew Morley in order for voters to compare candidates based on their policies and aims. Students are able to put a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ on a variety of student related issues and policy areas before being shown the Sabbatical officer candidates whose policies most match their choices.

Tickbox was a runner up in the recent prestigious Born Global business competition and is to run during the 2014 European Elections in the South West. Tickbox plans to be used nationwide during the 2015 General Election.

The business has been supported by the Students’ Guild entrepreneur support unit IGNITE since its early development stages. IGNITE also supported the business through its partnership with SETSquared,  a collaboration of South West universities in supporting business enterprise, and by providing networking opportunities within the Cabinet Office. The University of Exeter’s Innovation Centre also supported the venture by giving pitch coaching, marketing supporting and mentoring.

Third year Economics student Marcus Beard said of the website: “This kind of project makes me really excited. It showcases the best of Exeter’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

A Students’ Guild spokesperson said: “Tickbox is a student-run business supported by the IGNITE entrepreneur support unit. This is the first time we have used a function such as Tickbox for Students’ Guild elections and this is a unique opportunity for our students to use a facility which will be used in upcoming European Elections. We hope that this will allow students to make a more informed choice when voting in the sabbatical elections.”

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Exeposé spoke to Matthew Morley:

1.      What was your inspiration for developing Tickbox?

I used to canvass in local elections. I would walk up to your door and tell you stories about how great this person was and how their love of the countryside qualified them to represent your views. I spent four months with the words ‘leave me alone’ ringing in my ears. I realised there had to be a better way of doing politics. It seems an almost obvious solution now to just put all the information online and give a people a tool to compare candidates based on what they would actually do. But no one was doing it, that’s why I came up with Tickbox. Because people do care about issues and they need a way to get real information on who would represent them.

2.      What was the development process like?

In a word: hard. We went through 17 different designs before we got to the Tickbox you see today. Our main principle was to keep the site as simple and easy to use as possible. It had to appeal to people who knew about politics and those who knew nothing at all. This took a lot of design work and the site we’ve made is deliberately very visual, rather than pages of dense text. It’s taken months of hard work and dedication but I’m thrilled with what we’ve created.

3.      How did the Students’ Guild/IGNITE get involved with Tickbox and how have they supported you?

IGNITE have been fantastic. I don’t think that we would be at the level we are today of Ignite had not supported us. They help was everything from talking to mentors, access to the Innovation Centre, all the way down to the day to day things like having someone to bounce an idea off of or having a chat over a coffee. The Students’ Guild have only really come on board with TickBox recently in the run up to the Students’ Guild [Sabbatical] elections. We have been working hard to make sure that all students are given the information they need for the issues they care about in this election. Their support has given us a perfect opportunity to test our service, get to know what students like and dislike and how we can make Tickbox even better.

4. What do you hope Tickbox will add to this year’s Sabb elections and how is it going so far?

Stop people needing to watch endless youtube videos! What we’re trying to do is make it easier for students to get the information they need about the issues they care about. Rather than trying to work out from a bewildering range of canvassers what candidates will actually do, they can just go online. We’ve made it easy to search and compare the candidates and believe in doing so it allows the student to engage far more easily with the electoral process. So far it’s going fantastically with good feedback from our users. I’m sure we will meet Exeposé again and see what impact we had on the elections!

Olivia Luder, Online Editor

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