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If political parties were startups ...

28 August 2015
If political parties were startups ...

Progressive parties across Europe, like many established organisations, are increasingly being challenged by the rise of alternative players. New organisations – from Avaaz and Change.org to Podemos and the Five Star Movement – are emerging in response to changes in the way citizens expect to be able to engage with politics in the 21st century.

In a new essay for Policy Network, Guillaume Liegey equates this disruption to the challenge being mounted to many businesses by innovative new startup companies.

Imitating the way successful startups have become indispensable to their customers, Liegey warns that parties will “have to become indispensable organisations that provide indispensable services to their people”. For this to happen they need to be “better at capturing the tremendous demand for civic engagement”.

To do this, he argues that the political party of the future will need to refocus its energy to revolve around a fundamental set of questions: "Who are the people it exists to serve and how can it solve their problems? How are its solutions better than those of existing players?"

Liegey goes on to propose four main areas that progressive parties should focus on:

  • Becoming the ‘Greenpeace’ for social justice: winning the battle of ideas on redistribution and tackling inequality by calibrating arguments more effectively
  • Running a war machine to increase turnout in the long run not only through door-knocking but also informal meetings with citizens and school visits
  • Becoming an incubator for people who want to have an impact on society in line with progressive values by contributing to the campaigns of NGOs and civic engagement activities
  • Harvesting all the left’s talents to lead the government of the future, for instance by reserving 25 per cent of seats for promising leaders specially selected from outside politics and coached by the party locally‚Äč


Liegey sets out a testable roadmap to enable traditional parties to pursue each of these core aims within their existing structures. Taking inspiration from the best practice of successful startups, he believes that parties must adapt to ensure their own survival, gain a competitive advantage against their adversaries, and ultimately to become indispensable organisations in the realm of progressive civic engagement.

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