On International Day of Democracy, International Leaders Call for More Open Public Institutions

Press Release: “As the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Democracy on September 15 with its theme of “Democracy Under Strain,” The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering will unveil its CrowdLaw Manifesto to strengthen public participation in lawmaking by encouraging citizens to help build, shape, and influence the laws and policies that affect their daily lives.

Among its 12 calls to action to individuals, legislatures, researchers and technology designers, the manifesto encourages the public to demand and institutions to create new mechanisms to harness collective intelligence to improve the quality of lawmaking as well as more research on what works to build a global movement for participatory democracy.

The CrowdLaw Manifesto emerged from a collaborative effort of 20 international experts and CrowdLaw community members. At a convening held earlier this year by The GovLab at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, government leaders, academics, NGOs, and technologists formulated the CrowdLaw Manifesto to detail the initiative’s foundational principles and to encourage greater implementation of CrowdLaw practices to improve governance through 21st century technology and tools….

“The successes of the CrowdLaw concept – and its remarkably rapid adoption across the world by citizens seeking to affect change – exemplify the powerful force that academia can exert when working in concert with government and citizens,” said NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević. “On behalf of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, I proudly sign the CrowdLaw Manifesto and congratulate The GovLab and its collaborators for creating these digital tools and momentum for good government.”…(More)”.

The CrowdLaw Catalog

The GovLab: “The CrowdLaw Catalog is a growing repository of 100 CrowdLaw cases from around the world. The goal of the catalog is to help those wishing to start new or improve existing CrowdLaw projects to learn from one another.

Examples are tagged and searchable by four criteria:

  1. Level – What level of government is involved? Search by National, Regional, and/or Local
  2. Stage – At what stage of the law or policymaking process the participation take place? Search by Problem Identification, Solution Identification, Drafting, Decision Making, Implementation and/or Assessment
  3. Task – What are people being asked to contribute? Search by: Ideas, Expertise, Opinions, Evidence and/or Actions.
  4. Technology – What is the platform? Search by: Web, Mobile and/or Offline

The catalog offers brief descriptions of each initiative and links to additional resources….(More)”.

CrowdLaw Manifesto

At the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center this spring, assembled participants  met to discuss CrowdLaw, namely how to use technology to improve the quality and effectiveness of law and policymaking through greater public engagement. We put together and signed 12 principles to promote the use of CrowdLaw by local legislatures and national parliaments, calling for legislatures, technologists and the public to participate in creating more open and participatory lawmaking practices. We invite you to sign the Manifesto using the form below.

Draft dated May 29, 2018

  1. To improve public trust in democratic institutions, we must improve how we govern in the 21st century.
  2. CrowdLaw is any law, policy-making or public decision-making that offers a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in one or multiples stages of decision-making, including but not limited to the processes of problem identification, solution identification, proposal drafting, ratification, implementation or evaluation.
  3. CrowdLaw draws on innovative processes and technologies and encompasses diverse forms of engagement among elected representatives, public officials, and those they represent.
  4. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help governing institutions obtain more relevant facts and knowledge as well as more diverse perspectives, opinions and ideas to inform governing at each stage and may help the public exercise political will.
  5. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help democratic institutions build trust and the public to play a more active role in their communities and strengthen both active citizenship and democratic culture.
  6. When designed well, CrowdLaw may enable engagement that is thoughtful, inclusive, informed but also efficient, manageable and sustainable.
  7. Therefore, governing institutions at every level should experiment and iterate with CrowdLaw initiatives in order to create formal processes for diverse members of society to participate in order to improve the legitimacy of decision-making, strengthen public trust and produce better outcomes.
  8. Governing institutions at every level should encourage research and learning about CrowdLaw and its impact on individuals, on institutions and on society.
  9. The public also has a responsibility to improve our democracy by demanding and creating opportunities to engage and then actively contributing expertise, experience, data and opinions.
  10. Technologists should work collaboratively across disciplines to develop, evaluate and iterate varied, ethical and secure CrowdLaw platforms and tools, keeping in mind that different participation mechanisms will achieve different goals.
  11. Governing institutions at every level should encourage collaboration across organizations and sectors to test what works and share good practices.
  12. Governing institutions at every level should create the legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to promote CrowdLaw and better forms of public engagement and usher in a new era of more open, participatory and effective governing.

The CrowdLaw Manifesto has been signed by the following individuals and organizations:


  • Victoria Alsina, Senior Fellow at The GovLab and Faculty Associate at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • Marta Poblet Balcell , Associate Professor, RMIT University
  • Robert Bjarnason — President & Co-founder, Citizens Foundation; Better Reykjavik
  • Pablo Collada — Former Executive Director, Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente
  • Mukelani Dimba — Co-chair, Open Government Partnership
  • Hélène Landemore, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University
  • Shu-Yang Lin, re:architect & co-founder, PDIS.tw
  • José Luis Martí , Vice-Rector for Innovation and Professor of Legal Philosophy, Pompeu Fabra University
  • Jessica Musila — Executive Director, Mzalendo
  • Sabine Romon — Chief Smart City Officer — General Secretariat, Paris City Council
  • Cristiano Ferri Faría — Director, Hacker Lab, Brazilian House of Representatives
  • Nicola Forster — President and Founder, Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy
  • Raffaele Lillo — Chief Data Officer, Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy
  • Tarik Nesh-Nash — CEO & Co-founder, GovRight; Ashoka Fellow
  • Beth Simone Noveck, Director, The GovLab and Professor at New York University Tandon School of Engineering
  • Ehud Shapiro , Professor of Computer Science and Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science


  • Citizens Foundation, Iceland
  • Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, Chile
  • International School for Transparency, South Africa
  • Mzalendo, Kenya
  • Smart Cities, Paris City Council, Paris, France
  • Hacker Lab, Brazilian House of Representatives, Brazil
  • Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy, Switzerland
  • Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy, Italy
  • The Governance Lab, New York, United States
  • GovRight, Morocco
  • ICT4Dev, Morocco

Congress Is Broken. CrowdLaw Could Help Fix It.

Beth Noveck in Forbes: “The way Congress makes law is simply no longer viable. In David Schoenbrod’s recent book DC Confidential, he outlines “five tricks” politicians use to take credit in front of television cameras in order to further political party agendas while passing the blame and the buck to future generations for bad legislation. Although Congress makes the laws that govern all Americans, people also feel disenfranchised. One study concludes that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” But technology offers the promise of improving both the quality and accountability of lawmaking by opening up the process to more and more diverse expertise and input from the public at every stage of the legislative process. We call such open and participatory lawmaking: “CrowdLaw.”

Moving Beyond the Ballot Box

Around the world, there are already over two dozen examples of local legislatures and national parliaments turning to the internet to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of the laws they make; we need to do the same here if we are to begin to fix congressional dysfunction.

For example, Finland’s Citizen’s Initiative Act at the national level, like Madrid’s Decide initiative at the local level, allows any member of the public with the requisite signatures to propose new legislation, meaning that not only interest groups and politicians get to set the agenda for lawmaking.

In France, the Parlement & Citoyens platform allows the public to respond to a problem posed by a representative by contributing information about both causes and solutions. Relevant citizen input is then synthesized, debated, and incorporated into the resulting draft legislation. This brings greater empiricism into the legislative process through public contribution of expertise….(More)”.


New project by The GovLab: “With rates of trust in government at historic lows, the legitimacy of traditional representative models of lawmaking — often conducted by professional staff and politicians working behind closed doors and distorted by political party agendas–is called into question. New forms of public participation could help to improve both legitimacy and effectiveness by introducing more data and diverse viewpoints at each stage of the lawmaking process.

CrowdLaw is the practice of using technology to tap the intelligence and expertise of the public in order to improve the quality of lawmaking. Around the world, there are already over two dozen examples of local legislatures and national parliaments turning to the Internet to involve the public in legislative drafting and decision-making. These ambitious crowdlaw initiatives show that the public can, in many cases, go beyond contributing opinions and signing petitions online to playing a more substantive role, including: proposing legislation, drafting bills, monitoring implementation, and supplying missing data. Through such processes, the public becomes collaborators and co-creators in the legislative process to the end of improving the quality of legislative outcomes and the effectiveness of governing.

GovLab is supporting legislative bodies in investigating, designing, implementing, and testing crowdlaw initiatives. Our work includes:

  • Studying and sharing learnings about CrowdLaw practices in use around the world and convening practitioners to share learnings.
  • Synthesizing best practices for the design of CrowdLaw initiatives — including platforms, processes, and policies — through an on-going survey of over 25 public engagement initiatives.
  • Cultivating a thriving network of now more than 90 CrowdLaw and public engagement experts and practitioners.
  • Crafting a model legal framework to accelerate the integration of public input into the legislative process.
  • Advising on the implementation of CrowdLaw practices….(More)”

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 – decidim.barcelona, Spain. Voice or chatter? Case studies (Report, 54 pages, 2017)

  • Peña-López analyzes the origins and impact of the opensource decidim.barcelona 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 decidim.barcelona 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 “decidim.barcelona 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

Towards Crowd-Scale Deliberation

Paper by Mark Klein: “Let us define deliberation as the activity where groups of people (1) identify possible solutions for a problem, (2) evaluate these alternatives, and (3) select the solution(s) that best meet their needs. Deliberation processes have changed little in centuries. Typically, small groups of powerful players craft policies behind closed doors, and then battle to engage wider support for their preferred options. Most people affected by the decisions have at best limited input into defining the solution options. This approach has become increasingly inadequate as the scale and complexity of the problems we face has increased. Many important ideas and perspectives simply do not get incorporated, squandering the opportunity for far superior outcomes. We have the potential to do much better by radically widening the circle of people involved in complex deliberations, moving from “team” scales (tens of participants) to “crowd” scales (hundreds, thousands, or more).

This is because crowd-scale interactions have been shown to produce, in appropriate circumstances, such powerful emergent phenomena as:

  • The long tail: crowd-scale participation enables access to a much greater diversity of ideas than would otherwise be practical: potentially superior solutions “small voices” (the tail of the frequency distribution) have a chance to be heard .
  • Idea synergy: the ability for users to share their creations in a common forum can enable a synergistic explosion of creativity, since people often develop new ideas by forming novel combinations and extensions of ideas that have been put out by others.
  • Many eyes: crowds can produce remarkably high-quality results (e.g. in open source software) by virtue of the fact that there are multiple independent verifications – many eyes continuously checking the shared content for errors and correcting them .
  • Wisdom of the crowds: large groups of (appropriately independent, motivated and informed) contributors can collectively make better judgments than those produced by the individuals that make them up, often exceeding the performance of experts,because their collective judgment cancels out the biases and gaps of the individual members…

Our team has been developing crowd-scale deliberation support technologies that address these three fundamental challenges by enabling:

  • better ideation: helping crowds develop better solution ideas
  • better evaluation: helping crowds evaluate potential solutions more accurately
  • better decision-making: helping crowds select pareto-optimal solutions…(More)”.

Crowdlaw and open data policy: A perfect match?

 at Sunlight: “The open government community has long envisioned a future where all public policy is collaboratively drafted online and in the open — a future in which we (the people) don’t just have a say in who writes and votes on the rules that govern our society, but are empowered in a substantive way to participate, annotating or even crafting those rules ourselves. If that future seems far away, it’s because we’ve seen few successful instances of this approach in the United States. But an increasing amount of open and collaborative online approaches to drafting legislation — a set of practices the NYU GovLab and others have called “crowdlaw” — seem to have found their niche in open data policy.

This trend has taken hold at the local level, where multiple cities have employed crowdlaw techniques to draft or revise the regulations which establish and govern open data initiatives. But what explains this trend and the apparent connection between crowdlaw and the proactive release of government information online? Is it simply that both are “open government” practices? Or is there something more fundamental at play here?…

Since 2012, several high-profile U.S. cities have utilized collaborative tools such as Google Docs,GitHub, and Madison to open up the process of open data policymaking. The below chronology of notable instances of open data policy drafted using crowdlaw techniques gives the distinct impression of a good idea spreading in American cities:….

While many cities may not be ready to take their hands off of the wheel and trust the public to help engage in meaningful decisions about public policy, it’s encouraging to see some giving it a try when it comes to open data policy. Even for cities still feeling skeptical, this approach can be applied internally; it allows other departments impacted by changes that come about through an open data policy to weigh in, too. Cities can open up varying degrees of the process, retaining as much autonomy as they feel comfortable with. In the end, utilizing the crowdlaw process with open data legislation can increase its effectiveness and accountability by engaging the public directly — a win-win for governments and their citizens alike….(More)”

Designing a toolkit for policy makers

 at UK’s Open Policy Making Blog: “At the end of the last parliament, the Cabinet Office Open Policy Making team launched the Open Policy Making toolkit. This was about giving policy makers the actual tools that will enable them to develop policy that is well informed, creative, tested, and works. The starting point was addressing their needs and giving them what they had told us they needed to develop policy in an ever changing, fast paced and digital world. In a way, it was the culmination of the open policy journey we have been on with departments for the past 2 years. In the first couple of months we saw thousands of unique visits….

Our first version toolkit has been used by 20,000 policy makers. This gave us a huge audience to talk to to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of policy makers and keep the toolkit relevant and useful. Although people have really enjoyed using the toolkit, user testing quickly showed us a few problems…

We knew what we needed to do. Help people understand what Open Policy Making was, how it impacted their policy making, and then to make it as simple as possible for them to know exactly what to do next.

So we came up with some quick ideas on pen and paper and tested them with people. We quickly discovered what not to do. People didn’t want a philosophy— they wanted to know exactly what to do, practical answers, and when to do it. They wanted a sort of design manual for policy….

How do we make user-centered design and open policy making as understood as agile?

We decided to organise the tools around the journey of a policy maker. What might a policy maker need to understand their users? How could they co-design ideas? How could they test policy? We looked at what tools and techniques they could use at the beginning, middle and end of a project, and organised tools accordingly.

We also added sections to remove confusion and hesitation. Our opening section ‘Getting started with Open Policy Making’ provides people with a clear understanding of what open policy making might mean to them, but also some practical considerations. Sections for limited timeframes and budgets help people realise that open policy can be done in almost any situation.

And finally we’ve created a much cleaner and simpler design that lets people show as much or little of the information as they need….

So go and check out the new toolkit and make more open policy yourselves….(More)”

Delhi trials participatory budget initiative

Medha Basu in FutureGov: “The Delhi government is running a participatory budget exercise to involve citizens in deciding priorities for the 2015 Budget.

The city government, which came into office in February, has set aside INR 5 million (US$78,598) for each neighbourhood and residents will decide what this money gets spent on.

The initiative, Janta Ka Budget (meaning ‘People’s Budget’), will be tested in 400 communities across the city, with the first one launched by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal last month.


Officials met with residents of the neighbourhood to hear what they would like to see improved in their area. Residents then voted in public meetings to decide the most popular ones.

Officials are expected to come up with cost estimates for the shortlisted projects within a week of the meeting and allocate money from the fund.

In the first session, the shortlisted projects were a library, dispensary, road repairs and CCTV cameras….(More)”