Selected Readings on CrowdLaw

By Beth Simone Noveck and Gabriella Capone

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of CrowdLaw was published in 2018, and most recently updated on February 13, 2019.


The public is beginning to demand — and governments are beginning to provide — new opportunities for the engagement of citizens on an ongoing basis as collaborators in public problem-solving rather than merely as voters. Nowhere is the explosion in citizen participation accelerating more than in the context of lawmaking, where legislators and regulators are turning to new technology to solicit both public opinion and know-how to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of the legislative process.

Such participatory lawmaking, known as crowdlaw (also, CrowdLaw), is a tech-enabled approach for the collaborative drafting of legislation, policies or constitutions between governments and citizens. CrowdLaw is an alternative to the traditional method of lawmaking, which is typically done by the political elite — politicians, bureaucrats, and staff — working in legislatures behind closed doors, with little input from the people affected. Instead, this new form of inclusive lawmaking opens the legislative function of government to a broader array of actors.

From Brazil to Iceland to Libya, there is an explosion in new collaborative lawmaking experiments. Despite the growing movement, the field of participatory lawmaking requires further research and experimentation. Given the traditionally deep distrust of groups expressed in the social psychology literature on groupthink, which condemns the presumed tendency of groups to drift to extreme positions, it is not self-evident that crowdlaw practices are better and should be institutionalized. Also, depending on its design, crowdlaw has the potential to accomplish different normative goals, which are often viewed as being at odds, including: improving democratic legitimacy by giving more people a voice in the process, or creating better quality legislation by introducing greater expertise. There is a need to study crowdlaw practices and assess their impact.

To complement our evolving theoretical and empirical research on and case studies of crowdlaw, we have compiled these selected readings on public engagement in lawmaking and policymaking. For reasons of space, we do not include readings on citizen engagement or crowdsourcing and open innovation generally (see GovLab’s Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas) but focus, instead, on engagement in these specific institutional contexts.

We invite you to visit Crowd.Law for additional resources, as well as:

CrowdLaw Design Recommendations

CrowdLaw Twitter List

CrowLaw Unconferences:

Annotated Readings

Aitamurto, Tanja – Collective Intelligence in Law Reforms: When the Logic of the Crowds and the Logic of Policymaking Collide (Paper, 10 pages, 2016)

  • This paper explores the risks of crowdsourcing for policymaking and the challenges that arise as a result of a severe conflict between the logics of the crowds and the logics of policymaking. Furthermore, he highlights the differences between traditional policymaking, which is done by a small group of experts, and crowdsourced policymaking, which utilizes a large, anonymous crowd with mixed levels of expertise.
  • “By drawing on data from a crowdsourced law-making process in Finland, the paper shows how the logics of the crowds and policymaking collide in practice,” and thus how this conflict prevents governments from gathering valuable insights from the crowd’s input. Poblet then addresses how to resolve this conflict and further overcome these challenges.

Atlee, Tom – vTaiwan (Blog series, 5 parts, 2018)

  • In this five-part blog series, Atlee describes in detail Taiwan’s citizen engagement platform vTaiwan and his takeaways after several months of research.
  • In order to cover what he deems “an inspiring beginning of a potentially profound evolutionary shift in all aspects of our collective governance,” Atlee divides his findings into the following sections:
    • The first post includes a quick introduction and overview of the platform.
    • The second delves deeper into its origins, process, and mechanics.
    • The third describes two real actions completed by vTaiwan and its associated g0v community.
    • The fourth provides a long list of useful sources discovered by Atlee.
    • The fifth and final post offers a high-level examination of vTaiwan and makes comments to provide lessons for other governments.

Capone, Gabriella and Beth Simone Noveck – “CrowdLaw”: Online Public Participation in Lawmaking, (Report, 71 pages, 2017)

  • Capone and Noveck provide recommendations for the thoughtful design of crowdlaw initiatives, a model legislative framework for institutionalizing legislative participation, and a summary of 25 citizen engagement case studies from around the world — all in an effort to acknowledge and promote best crowdlaw practices. The report, written to inform the public engagement strategy of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, can apply to crowdlaw initiatives across different contexts and jurisdictions.
  • CrowdLaw advocates for engagement opportunities that go beyond citizens suggesting ideas, and inviting integration of participation throughout the legislative life-cycle — from agenda-setting to evaluation of implemented legislation. Additionally, Capone and Noveck highlight the importance of engaging with the recipient public institutions to ensure that participatory actions are useful and desired. Finally, they lay out a research and experimentation agenda for crowdlaw, noting that the increased data capture and sharing, as well as the creation of empirical standards for evaluating initiatives, are integral to the progress and promise of crowdlaw.
  • The 25 case studies are organized by a six-part taxonomy of: (1) the participatory task requested, (2) the methods employed by the process, (3) the stages of the legislative process, (4) the platforms used, from mobile to in-person meetings, (5) the institutionalization or degree of legal formalization of the initiative, and (6) the mechanisms and metrics for ongoing evaluation of the initiative

Faria, Cristiano Ferri Soares de – The open parliament in the age of the internet: can the people now collaborate with legislatures in lawmaking? (Book, 352 pages, 2013)

  • Faria explores the concept of participatory parliaments, and how participatory and deliberative democracy can complement existing systems of representative democracy. Currently the first and only full-length book surveying citizen engagement in lawmaking.
  • As the World Bank’s Tiago Peixoto writes: “This is a text that brings the reader into contact with the main theories and arguments relating to issues of transparency, participation, actors’ strategies, and processes of institutional and technological innovation. […] Cristiano Faria captures the state of the art in electronic democracy experiences in the legislative at the beginning of the 21st century.”
  • Chapters 4 and 5, deep dive into two case studies: the Chilean Senate’s Virtual Senator project, and the Brazilian House of Representatives e-Democracy project.

Johns, Melissa, and Valentina Saltane (World Bank Global Indicators Group) – Citizen Engagement in Rulemaking: Evidence on Regulatory Practices in 185 Countries (Report, 45 pages, 2016)

  • This report “presents a new database of indicators measuring the extent to which rulemaking processes are transparent and participatory across 185 countries. […] [It] presents a nses ew global data set on citizen engagement in rulemaking and provides detailed descriptive statistics for the indicators. The paper then provides preliminary analysis on how the level of citizen engagement correlates with other social and economic outcomes. To support this analysis, we developed a composite citizen engagement in rulemaking score around the publication of proposed regulations, consultation on their content and the use of regulatory impact assessments.”
  • The authors outline the global landscape of regulatory processes and the extent to which citizens are kept privy to regulatory happenings and/or able to participate in them.
  • Findings include that: “30 of the sampled economies regulators voluntarily publish proposed regulations despite having no formal requirement to do so” and that, “In 98 of the 185 countries surveyed for this paper, ministries and regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations.” Also: “High-income countries tend to perform well on the citizen engagement in rulemaking score.”

Noveck, Beth Simone – The Electronic Revolution in Rulemaking (Journal article, 90 pages, 2004)

  • Noveck addresses the need for the design of effective practices, beyond the legal procedure that enables participation, in order to fully institutionalize the right to participate in e-rulemaking processes. At the time of writing, e-rulemaking practices failed to “do democracy,” which requires building a community of practice and taking advantage of enabling technology. The work, which focuses on public participation in informal rulemaking processes, explores “how the use of technology in rulemaking can promote more collaborative, less hierarchical, and more sustained forms of participation — in effect, myriad policy juries — where groups deliberate together.”
  • Noveck looks to reorient on the improvement of participatory practices that exploit new technologies: a design-centered approach as opposed a critique the shortcomings of participation. Technology can be a critical tool in promoting meaningful, deliberative engagement among citizens and government. With this, participation is to be not a procedural right, but a set of technologically-enabled practices enabled by government.

Peña-López, Ismael –, Spain. Voice or chatter? Case studies (Report, 54 pages, 2017)

  • Peña-López analyzes the origins and impact of the opensource platform, a component of the city’s broader movement towards participatory democracy. The case is divided into “the institutionalization of the ethos of the 15M Spanish Indignados movement, the context building up to the initiative,” and then reviews “its design and philosophy […] in greater detail. […] In the final section, the results of the project are analyzed and the shifts of the initiative in meaning, norms and power, both from the government and the citizen end are discussed.”
  • A main finding includes that “ has increased the amount of information in the hands of the citizens, and gathered more citizens around key issues. There has been an increase in participation, with many citizen created proposals being widely supported, legitimated and accepted to be part of the municipality strategic plan. As pluralism has been enhanced without damaging the existing social capital, we can only think that the increase of participation has led to an improvement of democratic processes, especially in bolstering legitimacy around decision making.”

Simon, Julie, Theo Bass, Victoria Boelman, and Geoff Mulgan (Nesta) – Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement (Report, 100 pages, 2017)

  • Reviews the origins, implementation, and outcomes of 13 case studies representing the best in digital democracy practices that are consistently reviewed. The report then provides six key themes that underpin a “good digital democracy process.” Particularly instructive are the interviews with actors in each of the different projects, and their accounts of what contributed to their project’s successes or failures. The Nesta team also provides insightful analysis as to what contributed to the relative success or failure of the initiatives.

Suteu, Silvia – Constitutional Conventions in the Digital Era: Lessons from Iceland and Ireland (Journal article, 26 pages, 2015)

  • This piece from the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review “assesses whether the novelty in the means used in modern constitution-making translates further into novelty at a more substantive level, namely, in the quality of the constitution-making process and legitimacy of the end product. Additionally, this Essay analyzes standards of direct democratic engagements, which adequately fit these new developments, with a focus on the cases of Iceland and Ireland.”
  • It provides four motivations for focusing on constitution-making processes:
    • legitimacy: a good process can create a model for future political interactions,
    • the correlation between participatory constitution-making and the increased availability of popular involvement mechanisms,
    • the breadth of participation is a key factor to ensuring constitutional survival, and
    • democratic renewal.
  • Suteu traces the Icelandic and Irish processes of crowdsourcing their constitutions, the former being known as the first crowdsourced constitution, and the latter being known for its civil society-led We the Citizens initiative which spurred a constitutional convention and the adoption of a citizen assembly in the process.

Bernal, Carlos – How Constitutional Crowd-drafting can enhance Legitimacy in Constitution-Making(Paper, 27 pages, 2018)

  • Bernal examines the use of online engagement for facilitating citizen participation in constitutional drafting, a process he dubs “Crowddrafting.” Highlighting examples from places such as Kenya, Iceland, and Egypt, he lays out the details the process including key players, methods, actions, and tools.
  • Bernal poses three stages where citizens can participate in constitutional crowddrafting: foundational, deliberation, and pre-ratification. Citing more examples, he concisely explains how each process works and states their expected outcomes. Although he acknowledges the challenges that it may face, Bernal concludes by proposing that “constitutional crowddrafting is a strategy for strengthening the democratic legitimacy of constitution-making processes by enabling inclusive mechanisms of popular participation of individuals and groups in deliberations, expression of preferences, and decisions related to the content of the constitution.”
  • He suggests that crowddrafting can increase autonomy, transparency, and equality, and can engage groups or individuals that are often left out of deliberative processes. While it may create potential risks, Bernal explains how to mitigate those risks and achieve the full power of enhanced legitimacy from constitutional crowddrafting.

Finnbogadóttir, Vigdís & Gylfason,Thorvaldur – The New Icelandic Constitution: How did it come about? Where is it? (Book, 2016)

  • This book, co-authored by a former President of Iceland (also the world’s first democratically directly elected female president) tells the story the crowdsourced Icelandic constitution as a powerful example of participatory democracy.
  • “In 2010 a nationally elected Constitutional Council met, and four months later a draft constitution was born. On the 20th. of October 2012, The People of Iceland voted to tell their Parliament to ratify it as its new constitution.” Four years later, the book discusses the current state of the Icelandic constitution and explores whether Parliament is respecting the will of the people.

Mitozo, Isabele & Marques, Francisco Paulo Jamil – Context Matters! Looking Beyond Platform Structure to Understand Citizen Deliberation on Brazil’s Portal e‐Democracia (Article, 21 pages, 2019)

  • This article analyzes the Portal e‐Democracia participatory platform, sponsored by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Since 2009, the online initiative has provided different opportunities for legislators to engage with constituents and representatives through various methods such as surveys, forums, and collaborative wiki tools. Hence, the article examines the participatory behavior of Brazilian citizens during four particular forums hosted on Portal e-Democracia.
  • The researchers confirmed their hypothesis (i.e., that debates with diverse characteristics can develop even under the same design structures) and also drew several additional conclusions, suggesting that the issue at stake and sociopolitical context of the issue might be more important to characterizing the debate than the structure is.

Alsina, Victòria and Luis Martí, José – The Birth of the CrowdLaw Movement: Tech-Based Citizen Participation, Legitimacy and the Quality of Lawmaking

  • This paper introduces the idea of CrowdLaw followed by a deep dive into its roots, true meaning, and the inspiration behind its launch.
  • The authors first distinguish CrowdLaw from other forms of political participation, setting the movement apart from others. They then restate and explain the CrowdLaw Manifesto, a set 12 collaboratively-written principles intended to booster the design, implementation and evaluation of new tech-enabled practices of public engagement in law and policymaking. Finally, the authors conclude by emphasizing the importance of certain qualities that are inherent to the concept of CrowdLaw.

Beth Simone Noveck – Crowdlaw: Collective Intelligence and Lawmaking

  • In this essay, Noveck provides an all-encompassing and detailed description of the CrowdLaw concept. After establishing the value proposition for CrowdLaw methods, Noveck explores good practices for incorporating them into each stage of the law and policymaking process
  • Using illustrative examples of successful cases from around the world, Noveck affirms why CrowdLaw should become more widely adopted by highlighting its potential, while simultaneously suggesting how to implement CrowdLaw processes for interested institutions

Crowdsourcing Expertise

Simons Foundation: “Ever wish there was a quick, easy way to connect your research to the public?

By hosting a Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’ at a science conference, you can instantly share your research knowledge with millions while improving the science content on the most heavily trafficked and broadly accessible resource in the world. In 2016, in partnership with the Wiki Education Foundation, we helped launched the Wikipedia Year of Science, an ambitious initiative designed to better connect the work of scientists and students to the public. Here, we share some of what we learned.

The Simons Foundation — through its Science Sandbox initiative, dedicated to public engagement — co-hosted a series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons throughout 2016 at almost every major science conference, in collaboration with the world’s leading scientific societies and associations.

At our edit-a-thons, we leveraged the collective brainpower of scientists, giving them basic training on Wikipedia guidelines and facilitating marathon editing sessions — powered by free pizza, coffee and sometimes beer — during which they made copious contributions within their respective areas of expertise.

These efforts, combined with the Wiki Education Foundation’s powerful classroom model, have had a clear impact. To date, we’ve reached over 150 universities including more than 6,000 students and scientists. As for output, 6,306 articles have been created or edited, garnering more than 304 million views; over 2,000 scientific images have been donated; and countless new scientist-editors have been minted, many of whom will likely continue to update Wikipedia content. The most common response we got from scientists and conference organizers about the edit-a-thons was: “Can we do that again next year?”

That’s where this guide comes in.

Through collaboration, input from Wikipedians and scientists, and more than a little trial and error, we arrived at a model that can help you organize your own edit-a-thons. This informal guide captures our main takeaways and lessons learned….Our hope is that edit-a-thons will become another integral part of science conferences, just like tweetups, communication workshops and other recent outreach initiatives. This would ensure that the content of the public’s most common gateway to science research will continually improve in quality and scope.

Download: “Crowdsourcing Expertise: A working guide for organizing Wikipedia edit-a-thons at science conferences

Participatory Democracy’s Emerging Tools

, and (The GovLab) at Governing: “As we explore the role of new technologies in changing how government makes policies and delivers services, one form of technology is emerging that has the potential to foster decision-making that’s not only more effective but also more legitimate: platforms for organizing communication by groups across a distance….

Whether the goal is setting an agenda, brainstorming solutions, choosing a path forward and implementing it, or collaborating to assess what works, here are some examples of new tools for participatory democracy:

Agenda-setting and brainstorming: Loomio is an open-source tool designed to make it easy for small to medium-sized groups to make decisions together. Participants can start a discussion on a given topic and invite people into a conversation. As the conversation progresses, anyone can put a proposal to a vote. It is specifically designed to enable consensus-based decision-making.

Google Moderator is a service that uses crowdsourcing to rank user-submitted questions, suggestions and ideas. The tool manages feedback from a large number of people, any of whom who can submit a question or vote up or down on the top questions. The DeLib Dialogue App is a service from the United Kingdom that also allows participants to suggest ideas, refine them via comments and discussions, and rate them to bring the best ideas to the top. And Your Priorities is a service that enables citizens to voice, debate and prioritize ideas.

Voting: Democracy 2.1 and OpaVote are tools that allow people to submit ideas, debate them and then vote on them. Democracy 2.1 offers voters the additional option of casting up to four equally weighted “plus votes” and two “minus votes.” OpaVote is designed to enable elections where voters select a single candidate, employ ranked-choice or approval voting, or use any combination of voting methods.

Drafting: DemocracyOS was designed specifically to enable co-creation of legislation or policy proposals. With the tool, large numbers of users can build proposals, either from scratch or by branching off from existing drafts. Currently in use in several cities, it is designed to get citizen input into a process where final decision-making authority still rests with elected officials or civil servants. For drafting together, is an annotation tool that can be used to collaboratively annotate documents.

Discussion and Q&A: Stack Exchange enables a community to set up its own free question-and-answer board. It is optimal when a group has frequent, highly granular, factual questions that might be answered by others using the service. ….(More)”


Index: Prizes and Challenges

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on prizes and challenges and was originally published in 2015.

This index highlights recent findings about two key techniques in shifting innovation from institutions to the general public:

  • Prize-Induced Contests – using monetary rewards to incentivize individuals and other entities to develop solutions to public problems; and
  • Grand Challenges – posing large, audacious goals to the public to spur collaborative, non-governmental efforts to solve them.

You can read more about Governing through Prizes and Challenges here. You can also watch Alph Bingham, co-founder of Innocentive, answer the GovLab’s questions about challenge authoring and defining the problem here.

Previous installments of the Index include Measuring Impact with Evidence, The Data Universe, Participation and Civic Engagement and Trust in Institutions. Please share any additional statistics and research findings on the intersection of technology in governance with us by emailing shruti at

Prize-Induced Contests

  • Year the British Government introduced the Longitude Prize, one of the first instances of prizes by government to spur innovation: 1714
  • President Obama calls on “all agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges” in his Strategy for American Innovation: September 2009
  • The US Office of Management and Budget issues “a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions”:  March 2010
  • Launch of, “a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions”: September 2010
    • Number of competitions currently live on in February 2015: 22 of 399 total
    • How many competitions on are for $1 million or above: 23
  • The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act is introduced, which grants “all Federal agencies authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions”: 2010
  • Value of prizes authorized by COMPETES: prizes up to $50 million
  • Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions memorandum issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget to aid agencies to take advantage of authorities in COMPETES: August 2011
  • Number of prize competitions run by the Federal government from 2010 to April 2012: 150
  • How many Federal agencies have run prize competitions by 2012: 40
  • Prior to 1991, the percentage of prize money that recognized prior achievements according to an analysis by McKinsey and Company: 97%
    • Since 1991, percentage of new prize money that “has been dedicated to inducement-style prizes that focus on achieving a specific, future goal”: 78%
  • Value of the prize sector as estimated by McKinsey in 2009: $1-2 billion
  • Growth rate of the total value of new prizes: 18% annually
  • Growth rate in charitable giving in the US: 2.5% annually
  • Value of the first Horizon Prize awarded in 2014 by the European Commission to German biopharmaceutical company CureVac GmbH “for progress towards a novel technology to bring life-saving vaccines to people across the planet in safe and affordable ways”: €2 million
  • Number of solvers registered on InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing company: 355,000+ from nearly 200 countries
    • Total Challenges Posted: 2,000+ External Challenges
    • Total Solution Submissions: 40,000+
    • Value of the awards: $5,000 to $1+ million
    • Success Rate for premium challenges: 85%

Grand Challenges

  • Value of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, sponsored in part by DOE to develop production-capable super fuel-efficient vehicles: $10 million
    • Number of teams around the world who took part in the challenge “to develop a new generation of technologies” for production-capable super fuel-efficient vehicles: 111 teams
  • Time it took for the Air Force Research Laboratory to receive a workable solution on “a problem that had vexed military security forces and civilian police for years” by opening the challenge to the world: 60 days
  • Value of the HHS Investing in Innovation initiative to spur innovation in Health IT, launched under the new COMPETES act: $5 million program
  • Number of responses received by NASA for its Asteroid Grand Challenge RFI which seeks to identify and address all asteroid threats to the human population: over 400
  • The decreased cost of sequencing a single human genome as a result of the Human Genome Project Grand Challenge: $7000 from $100 million
  • Amount the Human Genome Project Grand Challenge has contributed to the US economy for every $1 invested by the US federal government: $141 for every $1 invested
  • The amount of funding for research available for the “Brain Initiative,” a collaboration between the National Institute of Health, DARPA and the National Science Foundation, which seeks to uncover new prevention and treatment methods for brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, autism and schizophrenia: $100 million
  • Total amount offered in cash awards by the Department of Energy’s “SunShot Grand Challenge,” which seeks to eliminate the cost disparity between solar energy and coal by the end of the decade: $10 million


Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Tasks and Peer Production

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2014.

Technological advances are creating a new paradigm by which institutions and organizations are increasingly outsourcing tasks to an open community, allocating specific needs to a flexible, willing and dispersed workforce. “Microtasking” platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk are a burgeoning source of income for individuals who contribute their time, skills and knowledge on a per-task basis. In parallel, citizen science projects – task-based initiatives in which citizens of any background can help contribute to scientific research – like Galaxy Zoo are demonstrating the ability of lay and expert citizens alike to make small, useful contributions to aid large, complex undertakings. As governing institutions seek to do more with less, looking to the success of citizen science and microtasking initiatives could provide a blueprint for engaging citizens to help accomplish difficult, time-consuming objectives at little cost. Moreover, the incredible success of peer-production projects – best exemplified by Wikipedia – instills optimism regarding the public’s willingness and ability to complete relatively small tasks that feed into a greater whole and benefit the public good. You can learn more about this new wave of “collective intelligence” by following the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and their annual Collective Intelligence Conference.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press, 2006.

  • In this book, Benkler “describes how patterns of information, knowledge, and cultural production are changing – and shows that the way information and knowledge are made available can either limit or enlarge the ways people can create and express themselves.”
  • In his discussion on Wikipedia – one of many paradigmatic examples of people collaborating without financial reward – he calls attention to the notable ongoing cooperation taking place among a diversity of individuals. He argues that, “The important point is that Wikipedia requires not only mechanical cooperation among people, but a commitment to a particular style of writing and describing concepts that is far from intuitive or natural to people. It requires self-discipline. It enforces the behavior it requires primarily through appeal to the common enterprise that the participants are engaged in…”

Brabham, Daren C. Using Crowdsourcing in Government. Collaborating Across Boundaries Series. IBM Center for The Business of Government, 2013.

  • In this report, Brabham categorizes government crowdsourcing cases into a “four-part, problem-based typology, encouraging government leaders and public administrators to consider these open problem-solving techniques as a way to engage the public and tackle difficult policy and administrative tasks more effectively and efficiently using online communities.”
  • The proposed four-part typology describes the following types of crowdsourcing in government:
    • Knowledge Discovery and Management
    • Distributed Human Intelligence Tasking
    • Broadcast Search
    • Peer-Vetted Creative Production
  • In his discussion on Distributed Human Intelligence Tasking, Brabham argues that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and other microtasking platforms could be useful in a number of governance scenarios, including:
    • Governments and scholars transcribing historical document scans
    • Public health departments translating health campaign materials into foreign languages to benefit constituents who do not speak the native language
    • Governments translating tax documents, school enrollment and immunization brochures, and other important materials into minority languages
    • Helping governments predict citizens’ behavior, “such as for predicting their use of public transit or other services or for predicting behaviors that could inform public health practitioners and environmental policy makers”

Boudreau, Kevin J., Patrick Gaule, Karim Lakhani, Christoph Reidl, Anita Williams Woolley. “From Crowds to Collaborators: Initiating Effort & Catalyzing Interactions Among Online Creative Workers.” Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-060. January 23, 2014.

  • In this working paper, the authors explore the “conditions necessary for eliciting effort from those affecting the quality of interdependent teamwork” and “consider the the role of incentives versus social processes in catalyzing collaboration.”
  • The paper’s findings are based on an experiment involving 260 individuals randomly assigned to 52 teams working toward solutions to a complex problem.
  • The authors determined the level of effort in such collaborative undertakings are sensitive to cash incentives. However, collaboration among teams was driven more by the active participation of teammates, rather than any monetary reward.

Franzoni, Chiara, and Henry Sauermann. “Crowd Science: The Organization of Scientific Research in Open Collaborative Projects.” Research Policy (August 14, 2013).

  • In this paper, the authors explore the concept of crowd science, which they define based on two important features: “participation in a project is open to a wide base of potential contributors, and intermediate inputs such as data or problem solving algorithms are made openly available.” The rationale for their study and conceptual framework is the “growing attention from the scientific community, but also policy makers, funding agencies and managers who seek to evaluate its potential benefits and challenges. Based on the experiences of early crowd science projects, the opportunities are considerable.”
  • Based on the study of a number of crowd science projects – including governance-related initiatives like Patients Like Me – the authors identify a number of potential benefits in the following categories:
    • Knowledge-related benefits
    • Benefits from open participation
    • Benefits from the open disclosure of intermediate inputs
    • Motivational benefits
  • The authors also identify a number of challenges:
    • Organizational challenges
    • Matching projects and people
    • Division of labor and integration of contributions
    • Project leadership
    • Motivational challenges
    • Sustaining contributor involvement
    • Supporting a broader set of motivations
    • Reconciling conflicting motivations

Kittur, Aniket, Ed H. Chi, and Bongwon Suh. “Crowdsourcing User Studies with Mechanical Turk.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 453–456. CHI ’08. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2008.

  • In this paper, the authors examine “[m]icro-task markets, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, [which] offer a potential paradigm for engaging a large number of users for low time and monetary costs. [They] investigate the utility of a micro-task market for collecting user measurements, and discuss design considerations for developing remote micro user evaluation tasks.”
  • The authors conclude that in addition to providing a means for crowdsourcing small, clearly defined, often non-skill-intensive tasks, “Micro-task markets such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk are promising platforms for conducting a variety of user study tasks, ranging from surveys to rapid prototyping to quantitative measures. Hundreds of users can be recruited for highly interactive tasks for marginal costs within a timeframe of days or even minutes. However, special care must be taken in the design of the task, especially for user measurements that are subjective or qualitative.”

Kittur, Aniket, Jeffrey V. Nickerson, Michael S. Bernstein, Elizabeth M. Gerber, Aaron Shaw, John Zimmerman, Matthew Lease, and John J. Horton. “The Future of Crowd Work.” In 16th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2013), 2012.

  • In this paper, the authors discuss paid crowd work, which “offers remarkable opportunities for improving productivity, social mobility, and the global economy by engaging a geographically distributed workforce to complete complex tasks on demand and at scale.” However, they caution that, “it is also possible that crowd work will fail to achieve its potential, focusing on assembly-line piecework.”
  • The authors argue that seven key challenges must be met to ensure that crowd work processes evolve and reach their full potential:
    • Designing workflows
    • Assigning tasks
    • Supporting hierarchical structure
    • Enabling real-time crowd work
    • Supporting synchronous collaboration
    • Controlling quality

Madison, Michael J. “Commons at the Intersection of Peer Production, Citizen Science, and Big Data: Galaxy Zoo.” In Convening Cultural Commons, 2013.

  • This paper explores a “case of commons governance grounded in research in modern astronomy. The case, Galaxy Zoo, is a leading example of at least three different contemporary phenomena. In the first place, Galaxy Zoo is a global citizen science project, in which volunteer non-scientists have been recruited to participate in large-scale data analysis on the Internet. In the second place, Galaxy Zoo is a highly successful example of peer production, some times known as crowdsourcing…In the third place, is a highly visible example of data-intensive science, sometimes referred to as e-science or Big Data science, by which scientific researchers develop methods to grapple with the massive volumes of digital data now available to them via modern sensing and imaging technologies.”
  • Madison concludes that the success of Galaxy Zoo has not been the result of the “character of its information resources (scientific data) and rules regarding their usage,” but rather, the fact that the “community was guided from the outset by a vision of a specific organizational solution to a specific research problem in astronomy, initiated and governed, over time, by professional astronomers in collaboration with their expanding universe of volunteers.”

Malone, Thomas W., Robert Laubacher and Chrysanthos Dellarocas. “Harnessing Crowds: Mapping the Genome of Collective Intelligence.” MIT Sloan Research Paper. February 3, 2009.

  • In this article, the authors describe and map the phenomenon of collective intelligence – also referred to as “radical decentralization, crowd-sourcing, wisdom of crowds, peer production, and wikinomics – which they broadly define as “groups of individuals doing things collectively that seem intelligent.”
  • The article is derived from the authors’ work at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, where they gathered nearly 250 examples of Web-enabled collective intelligence. To map the building blocks or “genes” of collective intelligence, the authors used two pairs of related questions:
    • Who is performing the task? Why are they doing it?
    • What is being accomplished? How is it being done?
  • The authors concede that much work remains to be done “to identify all the different genes for collective intelligence, the conditions under which these genes are useful, and the constraints governing how they can be combined,” but they believe that their framework provides a useful start and gives managers and other institutional decisionmakers looking to take advantage of collective intelligence activities the ability to “systematically consider many possible combinations of answers to questions about Who, Why, What, and How.”

Mulgan, Geoff. “True Collective Intelligence? A Sketch of a Possible New Field.” Philosophy & Technology 27, no. 1. March 2014.

  • In this paper, Mulgan explores the concept of a collective intelligence, a “much talked about but…very underdeveloped” field.
  • With a particular focus on health knowledge, Mulgan “sets out some of the potential theoretical building blocks, suggests an experimental and research agenda, shows how it could be analysed within an organisation or business sector and points to possible intellectual barriers to progress.”
  • He concludes that the “central message that comes from observing real intelligence is that intelligence has to be for something,” and that “turning this simple insight – the stuff of so many science fiction stories – into new theories, new technologies and new applications looks set to be one of the most exciting prospects of the next few years and may help give shape to a new discipline that helps us to be collectively intelligent about our own collective intelligence.”

Sauermann, Henry and Chiara Franzoni. “Participation Dynamics in Crowd-Based Knowledge Production: The Scope and Sustainability of Interest-Based Motivation.” SSRN Working Papers Series. November 28, 2013.

  • In this paper, Sauremann and Franzoni explore the issue of interest-based motivation in crowd-based knowledge production – in particular the use of the crowd science platform Zooniverse – by drawing on “research in psychology to discuss important static and dynamic features of interest and deriv[ing] a number of research questions.”
  • The authors find that interest-based motivation is often tied to a “particular object (e.g., task, project, topic)” not based on a “general trait of the person or a general characteristic of the object.” As such, they find that “most members of the installed base of users on the platform do not sign up for multiple projects, and most of those who try out a project do not return.”
  • They conclude that “interest can be a powerful motivator of individuals’ contributions to crowd-based knowledge production…However, both the scope and sustainability of this interest appear to be rather limited for the large majority of contributors…At the same time, some individuals show a strong and more enduring interest to participate both within and across projects, and these contributors are ultimately responsible for much of what crowd science projects are able to accomplish.”

Schmitt-Sands, Catherine E. and Richard J. Smith. “Prospects for Online Crowdsourcing of Social Science Research Tasks: A Case Study Using Amazon Mechanical Turk.” SSRN Working Papers Series. January 9, 2014.

  • In this paper, the authors describe an experiment involving the nascent use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk as a social science research tool. “While researchers have used crowdsourcing to find research subjects or classify texts, [they] used Mechanical Turk to conduct a policy scan of local government websites.”
  • Schmitt-Sands and Smith found that “crowdsourcing worked well for conducting an online policy program and scan.” The microtasked workers were helpful in screening out local governments that either did not have websites or did not have the types of policies and services for which the researchers were looking. However, “if the task is complicated such that it requires ongoing supervision, then crowdsourcing is not the best solution.”

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.

  • In this book, Shirky explores our current era in which, “For the first time in history, the tools for cooperating on a global scale are not solely in the hands of governments or institutions. The spread of the Internet and mobile phones are changing how people come together and get things done.”
  • Discussing Wikipedia’s “spontaneous division of labor,” Shirky argues that the process is like, “the process is more like creating a coral reef, the sum of millions of individual actions, than creating a car. And the key to creating those individual actions is to hand as much freedom as possible to the average user.”

Silvertown, Jonathan. “A New Dawn for Citizen Science.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24, no. 9 (September 2009): 467–471.

  • This article discusses the move from “Science for the people,” a slogan adopted by activists in the 1970s to “’Science by the people,’ which is “a more inclusive aim, and is becoming a distinctly 21st century phenomenon.”
  • Silvertown identifies three factors that are responsible for the explosion of activity in citizen science, each of which could be similarly related to the crowdsourcing of skills by governing institutions:
    • “First is the existence of easily available technical tools for disseminating information about products and gathering data from the public.
    • A second factor driving the growth of citizen science is the increasing realisation among professional scientists that the public represent a free source of labour, skills, computational power and even finance.
    • Third, citizen science is likely to benefit from the condition that research funders such as the National Science Foundation in the USA and the Natural Environment Research Council in the UK now impose upon every grantholder to undertake project-related science outreach. This is outreach as a form of public accountability.”

Szkuta, Katarzyna, Roberto Pizzicannella, David Osimo. “Collaborative approaches to public sector innovation: A scoping study.” Telecommunications Policy. 2014.

  • In this article, the authors explore cases where government collaboratively delivers online public services, with a focus on success factors and “incentives for services providers, citizens as users and public administration.”
  • The authors focus on six types of collaborative governance projects:
    • Services initiated by government built on government data;
    • Services initiated by government and making use of citizens’ data;
    • Services initiated by civil society built on open government data;
    • Collaborative e-government services; and
    • Services run by civil society and based on citizen data.
  • The cases explored “are all designed in the way that effectively harnesses the citizens’ potential. Services susceptible to collaboration are those that require computing efforts, i.e. many non-complicated tasks (e.g. citizen science projects – Zooniverse) or citizens’ free time in general (e.g. time banks). Those services also profit from unique citizens’ skills and their propensity to share their competencies.”

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Data

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing data was originally published in 2013.

As institutions seek to improve decision-making through data and put public data to use to improve the lives of citizens, new tools and projects are allowing citizens to play a role in both the collection and utilization of data. Participatory sensing and other citizen data collection initiatives, notably in the realm of disaster response, are allowing citizens to crowdsource important data, often using smartphones, that would be either impossible or burdensomely time-consuming for institutions to collect themselves. Civic hacking, often performed in hackathon events, on the other hand, is a growing trend in which governments encourage citizens to transform data from government and other sources into useful tools to benefit the public good.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Baraniuk, Chris. “Power Politechs.” New Scientist 218, no. 2923 (June 29, 2013): 36–39.

  • In this article, Baraniuk discusses civic hackers, “an army of volunteer coders who are challenging preconceptions about hacking and changing the way your government operates. In a time of plummeting budgets and efficiency drives, those in power have realised they needn’t always rely on slow-moving, expensive outsourcing and development to improve public services. Instead, they can consider running a hackathon, at which tech-savvy members of the public come together to create apps and other digital tools that promise to enhace the provision of healthcare, schools or policing.”
  • While recognizing that “civic hacking has established a pedigree that demonstrates its potential for positive impact,” Baraniuk argues that a “more rigorous debate over how this activity should evolve, or how authorities ought to engage in it” is needed.

Barnett, Brandon, Muki Hansteen Izora, and Jose Sia. “Civic Hackathon Challenges Design Principles: Making Data Relevant and Useful for Individuals and Communities.” Hack for Change,

  • In this paper, researchers from Intel Labs offer “guiding principles to support the efforts of local civic hackathon organizers and participants as they seek to design actionable challenges and build useful solutions that will positively benefit their communities.”
  • The authors proposed design principles are:
    • Focus on the specific needs and concerns of people or institutions in the local community. Solve their problems and challenges by combining different kinds of data.
    • Seek out data far and wide (local, municipal, state, institutional, non-profits, companies) that is relevant to the concern or problem you are trying to solve.
    • Keep it simple! This can’t be overstated. Focus [on] making data easily understood and useful to those who will use your application or service.
    • Enable users to collaborate and form new communities and alliances around data.

Buhrmester, Michael, Tracy Kwang, and Samuel D. Gosling. “Amazon’s Mechanical Turk A New Source of Inexpensive, Yet High-Quality, Data?” Perspectives on Psychological Science 6, no. 1 (January 1, 2011): 3–5.

  • This article examines the capability of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to act a source of data for researchers, in addition to its traditional role as a microtasking platform.
  • The authors examine the demographics of MTurkers and find that “MTurk participants are slightly more demographically diverse than are standard Internet samples and are significantly more diverse than typical American college samples; (b) participation is affected by compensation rate and task length, but participants can still be recruited rapidly and inexpensively; (c) realistic compensation rates do not affect data quality; and (d) the data obtained are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods.”
  • The paper concludes that, just as MTurk can be a strong tool for crowdsourcing tasks, data derived from MTurk can be high quality while also being inexpensive and obtained rapidly.

Goodchild, Michael F., and J. Alan Glennon. “Crowdsourcing Geographic Information for Disaster Response: a Research Frontier.” International Journal of Digital Earth 3, no. 3 (2010): 231–241.

  • This article examines issues of data quality in the face of the new phenomenon of geographic information being generated by citizens, in order to examine whether this data can play a role in emergency management.
  • The authors argue that “[d]ata quality is a major concern, since volunteered information is asserted and carries none of the assurances that lead to trust in officially created data.”
  • Due to the fact that time is crucial during emergencies, the authors argue that, “the risks associated with volunteered information are often outweighed by the benefits of its use.”
  • The paper examines four wildfires in Santa Barbara in 2007-2009 to discuss current challenges with volunteered geographical data, and concludes that further research is required to answer how volunteer citizens can be used to provide effective assistance to emergency managers and responders.

Hudson-Smith, Andrew, Michael Batty, Andrew Crooks, and Richard Milton. “Mapping for the Masses Accessing Web 2.0 Through Crowdsourcing.” Social Science Computer Review 27, no. 4 (November 1, 2009): 524–538.

  • This article describes the way in which “we are harnessing the power of web 2.0 technologies to create new approaches to collecting, mapping, and sharing geocoded data.”
  • The authors examine GMapCreator and MapTube, which allow users to do a range of map-related functions such as create new maps, archive existing maps, and share or produce bottom-up maps through crowdsourcing.
  • They conclude that “these tools are helping to define a neogeography that is essentially ‘mapping for the masses,’ while noting that there are many issues of quality, accuracy, copyright, and trust that will influence the impact of these tools on map-based communication.”

Kanhere, Salil S. “Participatory Sensing: Crowdsourcing Data from Mobile Smartphones in Urban Spaces.” In Distributed Computing and Internet Technology, edited by Chittaranjan Hota and Pradip K. Srimani, 19–26. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7753. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 2013.

  • This paper provides a comprehensive overview of participatory sensing — a “new paradigm for monitoring the urban landscape” in which “ordinary citizens can collect multi-modal data streams from the surrounding environment using their mobile devices and share the same using existing communications infrastructure.”
  • In addition to examining a number of innovative applications of participatory sensing, Kanhere outlines the following key research challenges:
    • Dealing with incomplete samples
    •  Inferring user context
    • Protecting user privacy
    • Evaluating data trustworthiness
    • Conserving energy

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Funds

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2013.

Crowdsourcing funds, or crowdfunding, is an emerging method for raising money that allows a wide pool of people to make small investments, gain access to ideas and projects they feel personally connected to, and spur growth in small businesses and social ventures. Popular crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo helped bring the practice into the public consciousness. Now, civic crowdfunding platforms like Citizinvestor and Spacehive are helping to apply this innovative funding model already in use for helping to fund artists, charities and inventors to help address public concerns traditionally considered under government’s purview.

Crowdfunding has also received recent attention from policymakers in the US through the US Securities JOBS Act, which provides an exemption from the registration requirements for offerings of securities by a company made through an SEC registered Crowdfunding Platform.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Aitamurto, Tanja. “The Impact of Crowdfunding on Journalism.” Journalism Practice 5, no. 4 (2011): 429–445.

  • This article analyzes the impact of crowdfunding on journalism, where, “readers’ donations accumulate into judgments about the issues that need to be covered.”
  • Aitamurto’s central findings inspire optimism regarding the potential of crowdfunding for the public good. She finds that, “From the donor’s perspective, donating does not create a strong relationship from donor to journalist or to the story to which they contributed;” rather, “[t]he primary motivation for donating is to contribute to the common good and social change.”

Baeck, Peter and Liam Collins. Working the Crowd: A Short Guide to Crowdfunding and How It Can Work for You. Nesta, May 2013.

  • This report “aims to give a quick overview of crowdfunding, the different versions of the model and how they work.”
  •  The authors list four technological innovations that have contributed to the growth of modern crowdfunding:
    • An online place for pitches
    • Moving your money with a click
    • The social engine
    • Fueling campaigns with algorithms
  • Baeck and Collins consider public and social projects to be one of the areas where crowdfunding can have a significant impact. They argue that civic crowdfunding “has the potential to disrupt how money for charitable causes is sourced and how public services and spaces are used and paid for.”

Best, Jason, Sherwood Neiss and Davis Jones. “How Crowdfund Investing Helps Solve Three Pressing Socioeconomic Challenges.” Crowdfunding PR, Social Media & Marketing Campaigns.

  • This paper outlines the forces driving the widespread use of crowdfund investing, namely social media, the existence of funding systems that marginalize people outside of major urban centers and the ability of people to function remotely from their work spaces.
  • The authors also discuss a number of public-facing benefits of crowdfund investing:
    • Crowdfund Investing Creates Jobs
    • Bringing capital in off the sidelines for use by small businesses
    • Funding entrepreneurs everywhere
    • Capital no longer for the chosen few
    • Crowdfund Investing Grows GDP
    • Reduction in the failure rate of small businesses
    • Crowd monitoring reduces agency costs

De Buysere, Kristof, Oliver Gajda, Ronald Kleverlaan, Dan Marom, and Matthias Klaes. A Framework for European Crowdfunding, 2012.

  • This paper seeks to provide a “concise overview of the state of crowdfunding in Europe, with the aim of establishing policy and a distinct framework for the European crowdfunding industry,” which the authors believe, “will aid in the economic recovery of Europe.”
  • The authors, in their advocacy for greater crowdfunding opportunities for businesses in Europe, provide a rationale for the practice that also helps demonstrate the potential benefits of greater crowdfunding opportunities within government. They argue that, “Crowdfunding can offer unique support for budding and existing entrepreneurs on multiple levels. No other investment form, be it debt or equity, can provide the benefits of pre-sales, market research, word-of-mouth promotion, and crowd wisdom without additional cost.”

Hollow, Matthew. “Crowdfunding and Civic Society in Europe: A Profitable Partnership?” Open Citizenship 4, no. 1 (May 20, 2013).

  • In this paper, Hollow explores the rise of crowdfunding platforms (CFPs), particularly related to civil society. He notes that, “[f]or civil society activists and others concerned with local welfare issues, the emergence of these new CFPs has been hugely significant: It has opened up a new source of funding when governments and businesses around the world are cutting back on their spending.”
  • Hollow argues that, “aside from their evident financial and economic benefits, CFPs also have the capacity to help foster and strengthen non-parliamentary democratic structures and practices. As such, they should be supported and encouraged as part of a framework of further European democratization and civic integration.”

Mollick, Ethan R. “The Dynamics of Crowdfunding: An Exploratory Study.” Journal of Business Venturing (June 26, 2013).

  • This paper “offers a description of the underlying dynamics of success and failure among crowdfunded ventures,” focusing on how personal networks and the project quality and viability have an impact on the success of crowdfunding efforts.
  • Mollick also highlights how other factors, like the geography of the project, design choices made by crowdfunding sites and developments in technology in this space all have an influence on the relationship between backers and project founders.
  • The paper finally demonstrates that projects that succeed do so by a small margin and those that fail seemingly by a large margin suggesting the influence of social bias and crowd influence.

Stemler, Abbey R. “The JOBS Act and Crowdfunding: Harnessing the Power—and Money—of the Masses.” Business Horizons 56, no. 3 (May 2013): 271–275.

  • This paper discusses the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act signed into law by President Obama in 2012, with a specific focus on the CROWDFUND Act, which enables entrepreneurs and small business owners to sell limited equity in their companies to a “crowd” of investors.
  • The objective of the Act is to exempt crowdfunding from registration requirement costs, allowing the potential of equity-based funding to be realized, by creating a pathway for underfunded entrepreneurs to access otherwise inaccessible streams of funding.
  • Stemler argues that the Act helps to legitimize crowdfunding as a community-building and fundraising tool for the business community, and also helps build better relationships between small business owners and government.

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2013.

As technological advances give individuals greater ability to share their opinions and ideas with the world, citizens are increasingly expecting government to consult with them and factor their input into the policy-making process. Moving away from the representative democracy system created in a less connected time, e-petitions; participatory budgeting (PB), a collaborative, community-based system for budget allocation; open innovation initiatives; and Liquid Democracy, a hybrid of direct and indirect democracy, are allowing citizens to make their voices heard between trips to the ballot box.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Bergmann, Eirikur. “Reconstituting Iceland – Constitutional Reform Caught in a New Critical Order in the Wake of Crisis.” in, (presented at the Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation, Leiden University, 2013).
  •  This paper explores the tumultuous history of Iceland’s “Crowdsourced Constitution.” The since-abandoned document was built upon three principles: distribution of power, transparency and responsibility.
  •  Even prior to the draft being dismantled through political processes, Bergmann argues that an overenthusiastic public viewed the constitution as a stronger example of citizen participation than it really was: “Perhaps with the delusion of distance the international media was branding the production as the world’s first ‘crowdsourced’ constitution, drafted by the interested public in clear view for the world to follow…This was however never a realistic description of the drafting. Despite this extraordinary open access, the Council was not able to systematically plough through all the extensive input as [it] only had four months to complete the task.”
  • Bergmann’s paper illustrates the transition Iceland’s constitution has undertaken in recent years: moving form a paradigmatic example of crowdsourcing opinions to a demonstration of the challenges inherent in bringing more voices into a realm dominated by bureaucracy and political concerns.
Gassmann, Oliver, Ellen Enkel, and Henry Chesbrough. “The Future of Open Innovation.” R&D Management 40, no. 3 (2010): 213– 221.
  • In this paper – an introduction to a special issue on the topic – Gassmann, Enkel and Chesbrough discuss the evolving trends in open innovation. They define the concept, referencing previous work by Chesbrough et al., as “…the purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”
  • In addition to examining the existing literature for the field, the authors identify nine trends that they believe will define the future of open innovation for businesses, many of which can also be applied to governing insitutions:
    • Industry penetration: from pioneers to mainstream
    • R&D intensity: from high to low tech
    • Size: from large firms to SMEs
    • Processes: from stage gate to probe-and-learn
    • Structure: from standalone to alliances
    • Universities: from ivory towers to knowledge brokers  Processes: from amateurs to professionals
    • Content: from products to services
    • Intellectual property: from protection to a tradable good
Gilman, Hollie Russon. “The Participatory Turn: Participatory Budgeting Comes to America.” Harvard University, 2012.
  •  In this dissertation, Gilman argues that participatory budgeting (PB) produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders.
  • The dissertation also highlights challenges to participation drawing from experience and lessons learned from PB’s inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989. While recognizing a diversity of challenges, Gilman ultimately argues that, “PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”
Kasdan, Alexa, and Cattell, Lindsay. “New Report on NYC Participatory Budgeting.” Practical Visionaries. Accessed October 21, 2013.
  • This research and evaluation report is the result of surveys, in-depth interviews and observations collected at key points during the 2011 participatory budgeting (PB) process in New York City, in which “[o]ver 2,000 community members were the ones to propose capital project ideas in neighborhood assemblies and town hall meetings.”
  • The PBNYC project progressed through six main steps:
    •  First Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Delegate Orientations
    • Delegate Meetings
    • Second Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Voting
    • Evaluation, Implementation & Monitoring
  •  The authors also discuss the varied roles and responsibilities for the divers stakeholders involved in the process:
    • Community Stakeholders
    • Budget Delegates
    • District Committees
    • City-wide Steering Committee  Council Member Offices
Masser, Kai. “Participatory Budgeting as Its Critics See It.” Burgerhaushalt, April 30, 2013.
  • This report is a critique of the participatory budgeting (PB) process, focusing on lessons learned from the outcomes of a pilot initiative in Germany.
  • The reports focuses on three main criticisms leveled against PB:
    • Participatory Budgeting can be a time consuming process that is barely comprehensive to the people it seeks to engage, as a result there is need for information about the budget, and a strong willingness to participate in preparing it.
    • Differences in the social structure of the participants inevitably affect the outcome – the process must be designed to avoid low participation or over-representation of one group.
    • PB cannot be sustained over a prolonged period and should therefore focus on one aspect of the budgeting process. The article points to outcomes that show that citizens may find it considerably more attractive to make proposals on how to spend money than on how to save it, which may not always result in the best outcomes.
OECD. “Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-making.” The IT Law Wiki.
  • This OECD policy report features discussion on the concept of crowdsourcing as a new form or representation and public participation in OECD countries, with the understanding that it creates avenues for citizens to participate in public policy-making within the overall framework of representative democracy.
  • The report provides a wealth of comparative information on measures adopted in OECD countries to strengthen citizens’ access to information, to enhance consultation and encourage their active participation in policy-making.

Tchorbadjiiski, Angel. “Liquid Democracy.” Rheinisch-Westf alische Technische Hochschule Aachen Informatik 4 ComSy, 2012.

  • This thesis presents discusses how Liquid Democracy (LD) makes it for citizens participating in an election to “either take part directly or delegate [their] own voting rights to a representative/expert. This way the voters are not limited to taking one decision for legislative period as opposed to indirect (representative) democracy, but are able to actively and continuously take part in the decision-making process.”
  • Tchorbadjiiski argues that, “LD provides great flexibility. You do not have to decide yourself on the program of a political party, which only suits some aspects of your opinion.” Through LD, “all voters can choose between direct and indirect democracy creating a hybrid government form suiting their own views.”
  • In addition to describing the potential benefits of Liquid Democracy, Tchorbadjiiski focuses on the challenge of maintaining privacy and security in such a system. He proposes a platform that “allows for secure and anonymous voting in such a way that it is not possible, even for the system operator, to find out the identity of a voter or to prevent certain voters (for example minority groups) from casting a ballot.”

Index: Participation and Civic Engagement

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on participation and civic engagement and was originally published in 2013.

  • Percent turnout of voting age population in 2012 U.S. Presidential election: 57.5
  • Percent turnout in 2008, 2004, 2000 elections: 62.3, 60.4, 54.2
  • Change in voting rate in U.S. from 1980 to most recent election: –29
  • Change in voting rate in Slovak Republic from 1980 to most recent election: –42, the lowest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Change in voting rate in Russian Federation from 1980 to most recent election: +14, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percent turnout in Australia as of 2011: 95, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in Australia as of 2011: 1
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in the U.S. as of 2011:  33
  • Number of Black and Hispanic U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 1.7 million and 1.4 million increase
  • Number of non-Hispanic White U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 2 million decrease, the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next
  • Percent of Americans that contact their elected officials between elections: 10
  • Margin of victory in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 54-46
  • Percent turnout among Los Angeles citizens in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 19
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used social networking sites in 2012: 60
  • How many of which participated in a political or civic activity online: 2/3
  • Percent of U.S. social media users in 2012 that used social tools to encourage other people to take action on an issue that is important to them: 31
  • Percent of U.S. adults that belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue in 2012: 12
  • Increase in the number of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008: four-fold
  • Number of U.S. adults that signed up to receive alerts about local issues via email or text messaging in 2010: 1 in 5
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used digital tools digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues in 2010: 20
  • Number of Americans that talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues in 2010: almost half
  • How many online adults that have used social tools as blogs, social networking sites, and online video as well as email and text alerts to keep informed about government activities: 1/3
  • Percent of U.S. adult internet users that have gone online for raw data about government spending and activities in 2010: 40
  • Of which how many look online to see how federal stimulus money is being spent: 1 in 5
  • Read or download the text of legislation: 22%
  • How many Americans volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012: 64.5 million
  • Median hours spent on volunteer activities during this time: 50
  • Change in volunteer rate compared to the year before: 0.3 decline