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)”