Article by Josh Lerner and Rose Longhurst: “…First, the good news. Digital participation platforms can enable people to learn, debate, and decide together in more inclusive ways. They generally have several core functions that work well: collecting, reviewing, and revising ideas and proposals; voting on proposals; and reporting outcomes. Along the way, people can receive updates, give feedback, share information beyond the platforms, and integrate offline and online discussions. Advanced platform features are increasingly using artificial intelligence, algorithms, and randomization to connect people and ideas in new ways.
These platforms can make it easier to reach more informed decisions that have broader support. They make engagement easier by automating and distributing work— by collecting ideas, for example, and compiling votes. They make decision-making more transparent by documenting and sharing key information and discussions online, in usable formats. And they make participation more accessible by creating easier opportunities for people to engage at times and in places and languages that work for them.
At FundAction, a European community of activists has used one such platform to make decisions about funding priorities and grants. FundAction is a participatory fund that aims “to shift power to make decisions about funding from foundations to those closer to the issue, strengthen collaboration and mutual support among European activists, and build the capacity of activists and the social movements they work with.” The community is spread across many countries in different time zones, so people need to engage asynchronously at times most convenient for them.
The platform that FundAction uses has made it easier for activists to share their work with people outside their thematic or geographic community, which has helped build solidarity and buttressed political education. For example, disability justice activists shared links to their proposed social model of disability on the platform, making it easier for peers and reviewers to learn about the concept and ask questions. The questions and responses are shared transparently with all, saving the activists time as they do not have to repeatedly address the same points. This open format also serves as a reminder that all of us have questions, as well as solutions, to contribute.
People Powered has used a platform to allocate funds at a global level—and also to decide new organizational policies. People Powered is a global hub for participatory democracy that aims “to expand people’s power to make government decisions.” Its community of members from over 35 countries provides direct support for programs such as participatory budgeting and citizens’ assemblies. Members have used the platform to propose and debate funding allocations and policies and then vote to allocate funds to new projects (e.g., mentorship, trainings and a digital participation platform guide and ratings) and approve new policies (e.g., for membership, board elections, inclusion, and accessibility)….(More)”.