People-Driven Governance: Spain’s Podemos Party

In June 2014, The GovLab hosted two online sessions focused on “crowdlaw” (i.e. collaboratively developed and drafted legislation, regulation, and constitutions). The sessions were designed to create a dialogue among global practitioners from Iceland, Argentina, and elsewhere around establishing best practices for crowdlaw. (In case you missed the sessions, you can watch the full videos here, read about the sessions here, or continue the dialog #crowdlaw.) What we learned from the discussions is that crowdlaw — crowdsourcing the law — is still a nascent field practiced occasionally but not yet institutionalized in any one country.

One of the most successful practitioners of the art is the grassroots Spanish political organization, Podemos, which won 15 seats in Spain’s parliament in March 2015. Podemos, which means “we can” gained media attention beginning in 2011 as a left-wing, grassroots political organization. The party was formally founded in January 2014 by Pablo Iglesias Turrión, who currently serves as its General Secretary. On May 24th in Barcelona, the party seized control of the city hall. Crowdlaw, among other forms of crowdsourcing, was a key component of Podemos’s campaign success.


Podemos holds rally “Mass for Change” in Madrid, Spain on February 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Now Podemos faces the challenge of how to transition from campaigning to governing? How to engage people in drafting actionable laws and policies not only party platforms? How to take a set of platforms designed for opposition and adapt them for use in governing. Those platforms include:

  • “Plaza Podemos (Podemos Square), a debating site that provides a space for political deliberation and participation for Podemos’s followers. Plaza Podemos attracts between 10,000 and 20,000 followers per day. Will the electronic town square continue to be as vibrant when Podemos is in power instead of in opposition?
  • “Portal de Participatción” (Portal/Platform of Participation), an online voting registration and authentication system and a crowdfunding platform to engage people to support Podemos and the initiatives it supports. Once Podemos controls the purse strings of government, how can it continue to mobilize support for the party?
  • “Iniciativas Ciudadanas”  (Citizen Initiatives), an online tool hosted within the “Portal de Participación” website where citizens can post proposals for reforms within Podemos and other citizens can support the proposals or post their own. With the ability now to implement proposals, how might it begin to frame challenges differently and invite citizens to collaborate with government to tackle problems?
  • “Impulsa” (Boost/Impulse), an online political participation space for building projects, probing and brainstorming. Podemos rules in a coalition, not on its own, so how can it bring participants across the political spectrum along for the co-creation process?
  • “Banco de Talentos (Talent Bank), a new tool that Podemos will use to identify and leverage the talent within its group of followers. It’s one thing to mine the human capital of a network to identify talented campaign activists, but how can it translate expert network into a network of citizen solvers?

Several of Podemos’s leaders participated in The GovLab Academy’s recent program convened by GovLab’s co-founder and director Beth Simone Noveck and Harvard Business School professor Karim Lakhani on “Leveraging Crowds in the Public Sector,” where they joined other teams from the public sector to explore the challenges of using crowdsourcing inside, not only outside, government to produce implementable policies and deliver effective services that improve people’s lives.

Matteo Renzi, as Mayor of Florence, was a supporter of Wikitalia, the tech-fueled open government movement in Italy, but once he assumed the role of Prime Minister, his tech savviness receded into the background. For fans of participatory democracy and civic tech, it will be exciting to watch how Internet-savvy political parties like Podemos or Ciudadanos in Spain end up using #crowdlaw platforms to go beyond campaigning in the new realm of governing.

Podemos rally madrid

Podemos holds rally “Mass for Change” in Madrid, Spain on February 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of Andres Kudacki/Associated Press


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