The web has shown that it has a huge disruptive potential to coordinate input and ideas from large numbers of people. ‘Crowdsourcing’ is a general term that describes the wider trend of curating a large number of inputs from the crowd to generate valuable insights.
Wikipedia with its 30 million articles in 287 languages is the most prominent example of how a huge community of users can make small contributions to create a shared common resource, an encyclopaedia that is constantly updated and is available for anyone to use for free.
However, we’re particularly interested in the potential of crowdsourcing to go further than collecting data and curating information, and to take a look at the ways people are tapping its potential to feed directly into decision-making processes at a local, national and international level.
Your Priorities is a web platform developed by the Icelandic Citizens Foundation, which enables groups of people to develop and prioritize ideas and together discover which of these ideas are the most important to implement.
Since 2008, the Citizens Foundation has used Your Priorities to promote online democratic debate in Iceland and worldwide; in Reykjavik, the best ideas sourced through the platform are adopted by the city council.
Integrating similar tools into decision making and formal democratic processes is something that Nesta is working to explore through the DCENT project which is building decentralised tools that can link into formal decision making more effectively, taking inspiration from innovations such as LiquidFeedback - a decision making tool that came to prominence when used by the Pirate Party in Germany to make collective decisions.
Activists in New Zealand have also recently created a buzz around their user-friendly collective decision making platform Loomio, which is being used by community groups to organise more effectively around issues that matter to them.
It is clear that we’re just at the beginning of exploring how far these tools can integrate or disrupt top-down decision making processes, but they could offer revitalisation to democratic processes experiencing poor levels of participation.
Photo: Betri Reykjavik