A growing community of global #CrowdLaw practitioners

Co-authored by Julia Root

On September 24th, The GovLab held its third online global conference on #CrowdLaw. Practitioners from 16 countries discussed the challenges and lessons learned when crowdsourcing legislation and constitutions. The session including lightning talks by practitioners with projects from Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, United States, Morocco, Libya and Spain and then a broader group discussion on three themes:

  • Outreach strategies
  • Designing to overcome barriers; and
  • Measuring impact.

The goal of the conference was to deepen our collective understanding of what works, what doesn’t, how to assess impact, and accelerate the implementation of more effective and legitimate participatory lawmaking practices. 

The full video is available here.


Featured speakers and projects included:

  • PODEMOS, SPAIN – Victoria Alsina, visiting researcher at Harvard, is working with 5 leading politicians of the Spanish political party Podemos to research how they are using technology to increase citizen participation in politics from voting every four years to a more day to day basis. She discussed two tools: the Plaza Podemos, that is based on Reddit and is a place of contact and debate for their followers, organized by thematic and territorial circles. It is used regularly by 15,000 people. They also use Appgree for massive brainstorm sessions and doing quick surveys and for approving proposals. They have had up to 60,000 participants voting on Appgree.
  • NEOS, AUSTRIA – Josef Lentsch, Managing Director of Neos Lab and Karl-Arthur Arlamovsky from Austrian political party NEOS discussed the tools they are using to implement their vision of making politics more open and participatory. Thematic groups at a local, regional and national level composed by thousand of volunteer policy advisors draft policy proposals on “Policy Forge”, a customized collaborative drafting platform. Neos has a cockpit composed of tools such as a calendar, customer relation management system, wiki, meeting software, among others.
  • FINLAND OPEN MINISTRY – Joonas Pekkanen, Founder of Avoin Ministeriö – presented the Finnish civil society organization Open Ministry. Since 2012 it is a constitutional right for citizens to propose legislation and the Open Ministry project provides assistance to citizens or civil society organizations that want to crowdsource these proposals. They have been testing out different ad-hoc tools for crowdsourcing the law proposals. 13 proposals have reached the 50,000 threshold of support to merit a process in parliament and Open Ministry has been involved in six of them. Only one initiative has been approved by congress.
  • LEGISLATION LAB – Tarik Nesh-Nash, co-founder of GovRight, discussed LegislationLab, a platform for citizen participation in the legislative process that was initially used in Morocco in 2011 to crowdsource the draft constitution. They received 10,000 comments and 40% of them are reflected in the new constitution. The platform now supports 9 languages and is being used in Chile and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
  • LIBYAN CONSTITUTIONAL CROWDSOURCING – Sean Deely, Senior Planning Advisor for the Syria Crisis Response with the UN in Amman – and formerly a Senior Recovery Advisor for the United Nations in Libya –  presented a series of civic engagement initiatives and an e-participation platform (Icon Libya) used during Libya’s constitutional reform and leading up to the 2014 election constitutional reform. Icon Libya was designed in consultation with GovRight’s Legislation Lab.
  • CHILEAN CONSTITUTIONAL CROWDSOURCING – Daniela Hirsch, lawyer from Chile presented La Constitución de Todos (Everyone’s Constitution), a volunteer run project that through the Legislation Lab Platform is enabling the crowd to participate in a public debate about reforming Chile’s constitution. The organization’s goals for the three-month-old project are to generate a space for the public to participate in reforming the constitution; and to offer civic education through the platform to strengthen citizens’ understanding of the political process.
  • NYC PARTICIPATORY LAWMAKING – Ben Kallos, 5th District Councilmember for the City of New York, is leading the way in New York City on government 2.0: interacting with citizens using tech and social media and employing tools such as Drupal, Madison, LegislationLab, calendar and scheduling apps to enable constituents to contribute, comment and engage with him in addition to traditional government 1.0 events, such as in-person meetings, town halls and open houses.
  • E-DEMOCRACIA, BRAZIL – Cristiano Ferri Faria, head of the Labhacker of the Brazilian House of Representatives which functions as a hybrid body that engages primarily with public officials but also CSOs, discussed the e-Democracia Project. The platform and mobile phone app offer collaboration, crowdsourcing and video tools for members of congress to lead and listen to online conversations. The platform also uses live chat during hearings to crowdsource opinions and facts during a legislative hearing process. A wiki tool for crowdsourcing legislation was successfully used for an internet regulations law where specific contributions from the crowd were written into the final bill.
  • PLATAFORMA BRASIL – Ronaldo Lemos, Director of the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro discussed Plataforma Brasil, a platform for multistakeholder policymaking. It was first put to use over 7 years ago for the “Marco Civil” or Constitution for the Internet. Now with a refined set of tools and methodology, the Institute deployed a pilot to discuss political reform in Brazil with the goal of breaking down a complex subject into piecemeal parts. With the crowd’s input and over 35,000 votes on the topic of polical reform in Brazil, 5 topics were then framed for deeper exploration. The platform then transformed these 5 topics into questions for further engagement with citizens. A second pilot on Public Safety will commence in October 2015.

Next week, we will share summaries of the take-aways and learnings of the conference.

Relive the twitter discussion during the conference on Storify.

More resources on CrowdLaw:

  • The GovLab’s videos and summaries of the two prior meetings held on June 2 and June 16, 2014, with representatives from 11 countries.
  • The GovLab’s publicly accessible crowdlaw Zotero folder, featuring research resources on the subject.
  • @TheGovLab’s #Crowdlaw Twitter List to follow and learn about CrowdLaw developments from practitioners and leaders online.

The Tags . . .


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