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After years of ferocious disagreements – often within families– over issues such as Brexit and Covid, Polis is the tool that we need to distil our positions, find the best wisdom and to build consensus. Social media pours petrol onto disputes, whereas Polis, used anonymously, unearths the best ideas and builds compromise. Although best known for its success in Taiwan, the British government has been using Polis, too.

Now we in Harrogate can use it too – to make our town a better place.

Polis is a real-time system for gathering, analysing and understanding what large groups of people think in their own words, enabled by advanced statistics and machine learning.

Covid has showed us how tech can be a major force for good. It is time that the way we speak to one another about fraught issues is helped – not hindered – by the very best technology.

Elections are too infrequent to give law-makers and policy-makers any idea of what the people want. On national issues, polling companies and focus groups provide the government with some limited data. However, on a local level, elected officials and officers have few tools for listening to what the people want, leading to a disconnect with decisions and a disengagement from politics. Polis cures this problem. Twitter doesn’t reflect where the British people are on issues.

Take the thorny issue of the Harrogate Gateway. Does anyone really know what the people of Harrogate think? We know what pressure groups say – and they are of vital importance to our democracy – but what does everyone else think? Are their better solutions? Polis uncovers previously hidden wisdom.

Our voting system is too rigid, with too many people disengaged from it, with parties pitted against each other as if at war. We all know that the best conversations are when people listen, learn and, often, adapt their positions. Polis facilitates such a conversation, but on a large scale. The data it collects – all anonymous – is far more detailed than what a simple (and often biased) traditional survey can produce.

Spearheaded by Andrew Gray, the decision-makers in Harrogate will be helped by the information produced on this free platform.

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