UK citizens' climate assembly to meet for first time


Sandra Laville in The Guardian: “Ordinary people from across the UK – potentially including climate deniers – will take part in the first ever citizens’ climate assembly this weekend.

Mirroring the model adopted in France by Emmanuel Macron, 110 people from all walks of life will begin deliberations on Saturday to come up with a plan to tackle global heating and meet the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The assembly was selected to be a representative sample of the population after a mailout to 30,000 people chosen at random. About 2,000 people responded saying they wanted to be considered for the assembly, and the 110 members were picked by computer.

They come from all age brackets and their selection reflects a 2019 Ipsos Mori poll of how concerned the general population is by climate change, where responses ranged from not at all to very concerned. Of the assembly members, three people are not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one did not know, organisers said.

The selection process meant those chosen could include climate deniers or sceptics, according to Sarah Allan, the head of engagement at Involve, which is running the assembly along with the Sortition Foundation and the e-democracy project mySociety.

“It is really important that it is representative of the UK population,” said Allen. “Those people, just because they’re sceptical of climate change, they’re going to be affected by the steps the government takes to get to net zero by 2050 too and they shouldn’t have their voice denied in that.”

The UK climate assembly differs from the French model in that it was commissioned by six select committees, rather than by the prime minister. Their views, which will be produced in a report in the spring, will be considered by the select committees but there is no guarantee any of the proposals will be taken up by government.

Allen said it was rare for members of a citizens’ assembly to get locked into dissent. She pointed to the success of the Irish citizens’ assembly in 2016, which helped break the deadlock in the abortion debate. “This climate assembly is going to come up with recommendations that are going to be really invaluable in highlighting public preferences,” she said….(More)”.

Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency


Paper by

Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency

Paper by Christian Boudreau: “Based on the history of open data in Quebec, this article discusses the reuse of these data by various actors within society, with the aim of securing desired economic, administrative and democratic benefits. Drawing on an analysis of government measures and community practices in the field of data reuse, the study shows that the benefits of open data appear to be inconclusive in terms of economic growth. On the other hand, their benefits seem promising from the point of view of government transparency in that it allows various civil society actors to monitor the integrity and performance of government activities. In the age of digital data and networks, the state must be seen not only as a platform conducive to innovation, but also as a rich field of study that is closely monitored by various actors driven by political and social goals….

Although the economic benefits of open data have been inconclusive so far, governments, at least in Quebec, must not stop investing in opening up their data. In terms of transparency, the results of the study suggest that the benefits of open data are sufficiently promising to continue releasing government data, if only to support the evaluation and planning activities of public programmes and services….(More)”.

Belgium’s experiment in permanent forms of deliberative democracy


Article by Min Reuchamps: In December 2019, the parliament of the Region of Brussels in Belgium amended its internal regulations to allow the formation of ‘deliberative committees’ composed of a mixture of members of the Regional Parliament and randomly selected citizens. This initiative follows innovative experiences in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, known as Ostbelgien, and the city of Madrid in establishing permanent forums of deliberative democracy earlier in 2019. Ostbelgien is now experiencing its first cycle of deliberations, whereas the Madrid forum has been short-lived after having been cancelled, after two meetings, by the new governing coalition of the city.

The experimentation in establishing permanent forums for direct citizen involvement constitutes an advance from hitherto deliberative processes which were one-off experiments, i.e. non-permanent procedures. The relatively large size of the Brussels Region, with over 1 200 000 inhabitants, means that the lessons will be key in understanding the opportunities and risks of ‘deliberative committees’ and their potential scalability….

Under the new rules, the Regional Parliament can setup a parliamentary committee composed of 15 (12 in the Cocof) parliamentarians and 45 (36 in the Cocof) citizens to draft recommendations on a given issue. Any inhabitant in Brussels who has attained 16 years of age has the chance to have a direct say in matters falling under the jurisdiction of the Brussels Regional Parliament and the Cocof. The citizen representatives will be drawn by lot in two steps:

  • A first draw among the whole population, so that every inhabitant has the same chance to be invited via a formal invitation letter from the Parliament;
  • A second draw among all the persons who have responded positively to the invitation by means of a sampling method following criteria to ensure a diverse and representative selection, at least in terms of gender, age, official languages of the Brussels-Capital Region, geographical distribution and level of education.

The participating parliamentarians will be the members of the standing parliamentary committee that covers the topic under deliberation. In the regional parliament, each standing committee is made up of 15 members (including both Dutch- and French-speakers), and in the Cocof Parliament, each standing committee is made of 12 members (only French-speakers)….(More)”.

Improving public policy and administration: exploring the potential of design


Paper by Arwin van Buuren et al: “In recent years, design approaches to policymaking have gained popularity among policymakers. However, a critical reflection on their added value and on how contemporary ‘design-thinking’ approaches relates to the classical idea of public administration as a design science, is still lacking. This introductory paper reflects upon the use of design approaches in public administration. We delve into the more traditional ideas of design as launched by Simon and policy design, but also into the present-day design wave, stemming from traditional design sciences. Based upon this we distinguish between three ideal-type approaches of design currently characterising the discipline: design as optimisation, design as exploration and design as co-creation. More rigorous empirical analyses of applications of these approaches is necessary to further develop public administration as a design science. We reflect upon the question of how a more designerly way of thinking can help to improve public administration and public policy….(More)”.

Rejuvenating Democracy Promotion


Essay by Thomas Carothers: “Adverse political developments in both established and newer democracies, especially the abdication by the United States of its traditional leadership role, have cast international democracy support into doubt. Yet international action on behalf of democracy globally remains necessary and possible. Moreover, some important elements of continuity remain, including overall Western spending on democracy assistance. Democracy support must adapt to its changed circumstances by doing more to take new geopolitical realities into account; effacing the boundary between support for democracy in new and in established democracies; strengthening the economic dimension of democracy assistance; and moving technological issues to the forefront…(More)”.

The Wild Wild West of Data Hoarding in the Federal Government


ActiveNavigation: “There is a strong belief, both in the public and private sector, that the worst thing you can do with a piece of data is to delete it. The government stores all sorts of data, from traffic logs to home ownership statistics. Data is obviously incredibly important to the Federal Government – but storing large amounts of it poses significant compliance and security risks – especially with the rise of Nation State hackers. As the risk of being breached continues to rise, why is the government not tackling their data storage problem head on?

The Myth of “Free” Storage

Storage is cheap, especially compared to 10-15 years ago. Cloud storage has made it easier than ever to store swaths of information, creating what some call “digital landfills.” However, the true cost of storage isn’t in the ones and zeros sitting on the server somewhere. It’s the business cost.

As information stores continue to grow, the Federal Government’s ability to execute moving information to the correct place gets harder and harder, not to mention more expensive. The U.S. Government has a duty to provide accurate, up-to-date information to its taxpayers – meaning that sharing “bad data” is not an option.

The Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) reports that half of an organization’s retained data has no value. So far, in 2019, through our work with Federal Agencies, we have discovered that this number, is in fact, low. Over 66% of data we’ve indexed, by the client’s definition, has fallen into that “junk” category. Eliminating junk data paves the way for greater accessibility, transparency and major financial savings. But what is “junk” data?

Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) Data

Data is important – but if you can’t assign a value to it, it can become impossible to manage. Simply put, ROT data is digital information that an organization retains, that has no business or legal value. To be efficient from both a cyber hygiene and business perspective, the government needs to get better at purging their ROT data.

Again, purging data doesn’t just help with the hard cost of storage and backups, etc. For example, think about what needs to be done to answer a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. You have a petabyte of data. You have at least a billion documents you need to funnel through to be able to respond to that FOIA request. By eliminating 50% of your ROT data, you probably have also reduced your FOIA response time by 50%.

Records and information governance, taken at face value, might seem fairly esoteric. It may not be as fun or as sexy as the new Space Force, but the reality is, the only way to know if the government is doing what it says it’s through records and information. You can’t answer an FOIA request if there’s no material. You can’t answer Congress if the material isn’t accurate. Being able to access timely, accurate information is critical. That’s why NARA is advocating a move to electronic records.…(More)”.

Data Democracy


Book by Feras Batarseh and Ruixin Yang: “Data Democracy: At the Nexus of Artificial Intelligence, Software Development, and Knowledge Engineering provides a manifesto to data democracy. After reading the chapters of this book, you are informed and suitably warned! You are already part of the data republic, and you (and all of us) need to ensure that our data fall in the right hands. Everything you click, buy, swipe, try, sell, drive, or fly is a data point. But who owns the data? At this point, not you! You do not even have access to most of it. The next best empire of our planet is one who owns and controls the world’s best dataset. If you consume or create data, if you are a citizen of the data republic (willingly or grudgingly), and if you are interested in making a decision or finding the truth through data-driven analysis, this book is for you. A group of experts, academics, data science researchers, and industry practitioners gathered to write this manifesto about data democracy.

Key Features

  • The future of the data republic, life within a data democracy, and our digital freedoms
  • An in-depth analysis of open science, open data, open source software, and their future challenges
  • A comprehensive review of data democracy’s implications within domains such as: healthcare, space exploration, earth sciences, business, and psychology
  • The democratization of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and data issues such as: Bias, imbalance, context, and knowledge extraction
  • A systematic review of AI methods applied to software engineering problems…(More)”.

How people decide what they want to know


Tali Sharot & Cass R. Sunstein in Nature: “Immense amounts of information are now accessible to people, including information that bears on their past, present and future. An important research challenge is to determine how people decide to seek or avoid information. Here we propose a framework of information-seeking that aims to integrate the diverse motives that drive information-seeking and its avoidance. Our framework rests on the idea that information can alter people’s action, affect and cognition in both positive and negative ways. The suggestion is that people assess these influences and integrate them into a calculation of the value of information that leads to information-seeking or avoidance. The theory offers a framework for characterizing and quantifying individual differences in information-seeking, which we hypothesize may also be diagnostic of mental health. We consider biases that can lead to both insufficient and excessive information-seeking. We also discuss how the framework can help government agencies to assess the welfare effects of mandatory information disclosure….(More)”.

Open Democracy and Digital Technologies


Paper by Hélène Landemore: “…looks at the connection between democratic theory and technological constraints, and argues for renovating our paradigm of democracy to make the most of the technological opportunities offered by the digital revolution. The most attractive normative theory of democracy currently available—Habermas’ model of a two-track deliberative sphere—is, for all its merits, a self-avowed rationalization of representative democracy, a system born in the 18th century under different epistemological, conceptual, and technological constraints. In this
paper I show the limits of this model and defend instead an alternative paradigm of democracy I call “open democracy,” in which digital technologies are assumed to make it possible to transcend a number of dichotomies, including that between ordinary citizens and democratic representatives.

Rather than just imagining a digitized version or extension of existing institutions and practices—representative democracy as we know it—I thus take the opportunities offered by the digital revolution (its technological “affordances,” in the jargon) to envision new democratic institutions and means of democratic empowerment, some of which are illustrated in the vignette with which this paper started. In other words, rather that start from what is— our electoral democracies, I start from what democracy could mean, if we reinvented it more or less from scratch today with the help of digital technologies.

The first section lays out the problems with and limits of our current practice and theory of democracy.


The second section traces these problems to conceptual design flaws partially induced by 18th century conceptual, epistemological, and technological constraints.


Section three lays out an alternative theory of democracy I call “open democracy,” which avoids some of these design flaws, and introduces the institutional features of this new paradigm that are specifically enabled by digital technologies: deliberation and democratic representation….(More)”.

Meaningful Inefficiencies: Civic Design in an Age of Digital Expediency


Book by Eric Gordon and Gabriel Mugar: “Public trust in the institutions that mediate civic life-from governing bodies to newsrooms-is low. In facing this challenge, many organizations assume that ensuring greater efficiency will build trust. As a result, these organizations are quick to adopt new technologies to enhance what they do, whether it’s a new app or dashboard. However, efficiency, or charting a path to a goal with the least amount of friction, is not itself always built on a foundation of trust.

Meaningful Inefficiencies is about the practices undertaken by civic designers that challenge the normative applications of “smart technologies” in order to build or repair trust with publics. Based on over sixty interviews with change makers in public serving organizations throughout the United States, as well as detailed case studies, this book provides a practical and deeply philosophical picture of civic life in transition. The designers in this book are not professional designers, but practitioners embedded within organizations who have adopted an approach to public engagement Eric Gordon and Gabriel Mugar call “meaningful inefficiencies,” or the deliberate design of less efficient over more efficient means of achieving some ends. This book illustrates how civic designers are creating meaningful inefficiencies within public serving organizations. It also encourages a rethinking of how innovation within these organizations is understood, applied, and sought after. Different than market innovation, civic innovation is not just about invention and novelty; it is concerned with building communities around novelty, and cultivating deep and persistent trust.

At its core, Meaningful Inefficiencies underlines that good civic innovation will never just involve one single public good, but must instead negotiate a plurality of publics. In doing so, it creates the conditions for those publics to play, resulting in people truly caring for the world. Meaningful Inefficiencies thus presents an emergent and vitally needed approach to creating civic life at a moment when smart and efficient are the dominant forces in social and organizational change….(More)”.