Crowdlaw in Action: Details & A Preview of Next Week’s Online Event

On June 2, GovLab Academy will host the first of two online “unconferences” to bring together leaders and practitioners of crowdlaw, including online legislative drafting and constitution writing organizers and platform creators.

We are organizing this opportunity to learn from one another about what works, what doesn’t and what to do better to promote the institutionalization of crowdlaw as a means of engaging citizens more proactively and directly in our legislative processes.

How Can You Join?

The event, spanning two sessions, will be broadcast using the Hangouts on Air platform, which allows for questions to be submitted from the public.

The first session will take place on Monday, June 2, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm EST. You can join the conversation online by clicking this link.

What To Expect?

In each of these peer-to-peer learning sessions, crowdlaw implementers from around the world will share their experiences and then join in a moderated conversation to talk about:

  • Design: What makes for successful crowdlaw projects: what works, what doesn’t?
  • Incentives: How to encourage people to participate?
  • Impediments: What are the legal, cultural, technological and other obstacles?
  • Metrics: How to measure what works and demonstrate both legitimacy and effectiveness?

The session will then devolve into unmoderated discussion among participants and an open Q&A with those from the wider viewing audience.

A Preview of Crowdlaw Projects:

In anticipation for the unconference sessions, we’ve had the privilege of speaking to some of the most innovative crowdlaw projects happening around the world with their creators and implementers. We wanted to share some of what we’ve learned so far as a preview for next week’s online event.

Pia ManciniDemocracy OS

Democracy OS is a “a user-friendly, open-source, vote and debate tool, crafted for parliaments, parties and decision-making institutions that will allow citizens to get informed, join the conversation and vote on topics, just how they want their representatives to vote.” It was created by NETDemocracy – an Argentinian foundation with the common vision that “we’re living in a crisis of representation.”

In our discussion, Mancini explained that so many of our political systems are based on “400-year old IT like the printing press,” which expect us to stop our lives to be able to participate. While representation made sense when people couldn’t participate in the physical space where decisions happened – this is no longer “the best design for the times,” Mancini said.

As such, Democracy OS was designed to leverage our increased access to technology and the new participation and engagement opportunities that exist today. Mancini highlighted that the system offers two key components. First, Democracy OS serves as an open source web application, which allows citizens to engage in informed debate and make it known how they want their representatives to vote on an ongoing basis. This expands citizen engagement beyond the existing practice of “once every two or four years.” The Democracy OS system also offers an off-line component to connect the application to established political institutions. The project is specifically a partnership with the Argentinean political party, the NET party, whose representatives commit to voting in line with citizen-input that comes out of Democracy OS.

Mancini noted that many different actors are currently helping to test the tool, including the congress of the city of Buenos Aires. This year, the congress is experimenting with how best to use Democracy OS in three legislative initiatives. She added that the lack of an established framework for participating in this new way has proved to be an obstacle as the city congress selects which substantive initiatives to pilot with the system. She explained that policymakers and advocates are cautious to avoid very polarized issues that could lessen the ability for citizens to participate civilly and responsibly in debate, and thus really demonstrate the utility of using a new system like Democracy OS to decision-make.

Mancini highlighted that civil society is also helping to test the tool and provide a link between it and our established political processes. IWatch, an NGO in Tunisia, for example, has recently used Democracy OS to help citizens contribute to their constitution-making process.

“We don’t want to just build technology, but the conditions that will allow and support for the use of that technology,” Mancini said, adding that the ultimate goal of this particular crowdlaw initiative is to “build a new, more open tool for democracy. We want it to understand and leverage the new conditions of society.”

Those interested can check out the English-version demo of Democracy OS here: and the most-up-to-date version here:

Pierre Tito Galla and Cecille Soria Democracy.Net.PH and a crowdsourced Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

In the first half of 2012, the Philippine legislature was about to pass a cybercrime prevention law, which many advocates – including Pierre Tito Galla and Cecille Soria – believed would have great potential to chill online speech. Consequently, an interested group of citizens and bloggers decided to get together online to draft, over a month and a half, a revised version of the cybercrime bill, which they then posted to a Google Document and shared via Facebook and Twitter for anyone to make comments to and edit. The drafters also joined online discussions where anti-cybercrime proved to be a hot topic, in order to encourage those thinking deeply about the issue to share their feedback on the crowdsourced version of the bill.

The initial drafters then shared the crowdsourced bill with legislators to gain support and find a sponsor, which they eventually did in Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. The bill has not yet been passed, but is currently being reviewed in committees within both the Philippine House and Senate.

In describing the efforts undertaken to draft and refine the crowdsourced anti-cybercrime bill, Soria made it clear that the process was not always easy. She noted that some felt challenged or unconfident in leaving their names or their comments on the crowdsourced text, as they were fearful they did not possess the requisite legal or technical backgrounds to do so. She noted, however, that the dedicated drafting team helped to synthesize input they received into comments and edits, and that once people saw the product of bills drafted in this much more participatory manner, “crowdsourcing legislation” emerged as a more validly accepted alternative avenue for drafting bills in her country.  She explained that the drafting group has since organized more formally to actively campaign for the bill’s passage and to promote increased adoption of this new avenue for participatory governance.

Those interested in the Magna Carter for Philippine Internet Freedom can learn more here and here.

Unconference Schedule & Participant List

Session 1 – June 2nd, 6pm – 8pm ESTHangout link


Session 2 – Date TBD

Possible Participants Include:

We very much hope you’ll join us!

The Tags .


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