About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Two people with software on a tablet

Who was behind this experiment?

What was the experiment?

The experiment tested whether using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques could help to connect similar proposals and like-minded users on the Consul digital democracy platform. The goal was to make it easier for citizens on the platform with shared interests to find each other and work together. This should help people use digital democracy platforms to greater effect.

NLP allows computers to understand, interpret and extract key information from human language.

What did they find?

The experiment found that NLP-enabled features, such as proposal tags, significantly reduced the time it took for users to find similar proposals and other citizens advocating for similar ideas. Next it will need to be tested if this helps people avoid duplication of efforts and increases the impact of participation on digital platforms.

Why is it relevant?

Around the world digital democracy platforms are engaging new groups of people and empowering citizens to contribute to policy making. Consul is one of the most successful open-source digital participation platforms used by over 100 cities and organisations all over the world. While engagement rates are high, very few citizen proposals reach the public support necessary to be considered by the local government. This is due to the large volume of content on the platform, with ideas often spread over dozens of different proposals from citizens.

Follow the Alan Turing Institute and the Consul platform on Twitter: @turinginst and @consul_dev