The GovLab Publishes Digital Compendium Showcasing Global Practices for Engaging the Public in Making Laws and Policies

The GovLab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering is pleased to announce the launch of the CrowdLaw Catalog, a compendium of real-world examples from 39 countries and six continents demonstrating how legislatures, parliaments, city councils, and public bodies around the world are leveraging technology to involve more people in the process of making policies and laws. By definition, crowdLaw is the process of using public participation to improve the quality, effectiveness and legitimacy of the lawmaking and policymaking process at every stage, and the CrowdLaw Catalog helps to support these efforts.

The new, online CrowdLaw Catalog features a growing repository of 100 cases of such participatory lawmaking at work, at various stages, from problem spotting to evaluation, including 41 samples at the regional and local level, 59 samples at the national level, 88 samples using the internet, and 12 samples using mobile technologies such as Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS), and SMS-based tools.

GovLab developed the Catalog to help those seeking to start new or improve existing crowdlaw projects, and to learn from one another. For example, Better Reykjavik is a platform for citizens to present their ideas on issues regarding city services and operations. vTaiwan is an on- and off-line portal bringing together citizens, scholars, government and elected officials, business leaders, civil society organizations and others to help lawmakers govern. Decide Madrid is an online portal for citizens to propose, deliberate and vote on municipal policies, and to ensure transparency of government proceedings.

The CrowdLaw Catalog is the first of its kind and the most comprehensive collection of available cases sourced from around the world. The new resource is part of the CrowdLaw research initiative GovLab launched in late 2017, which includes a digital platform for original research, reports, articles, and blog posts; case studies; frameworks and recommendations for designing initiatives; selected readings; and video content from several online conferences and a recent convening of crowdlaw experts at the famed Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy thanks to generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

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“For the public to care about civic engagement beyond the ballot box, they need meaningful, actionable ways to participate in how laws and policies are made that ultimately affect them,” said Professor Beth Simone Noveck, director of the GovLab. “CrowdLaw is a step in the right direction; it’s responsive to data, harnesses collective intelligence and uses technology to give the public a more meaningful role and pathway to managing how they’re governed.”

The new portal includes brief descriptions of each of the 100 crowdlaw cases currently included (with links to additional resources), and is searchable by four criteria:

  • Level – what level of government is involved?
    • Searchable by: national, regional and/or local government level
  • Stage – what stage of the law or policymaking process does participation take place?
    • Searchable by: problem identification, solution identification, drafting, decision making, implementation and/or assessment
  • Task – what materials are people being asked to contribute?
    • Searchable by: ideas and proposals, expertise, opinions, evidence and/or actions
  • Technology – what is the platform?
    • Searchable by: web, mobile and/or offline

“As a think and do tank, a great deal of our focus is on applied research to improve lives through more effective governance,” said Professor Victòria Alsina, senior fellow at the GovLab, research professor at New York University and faculty associate at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. “When we surveyed the landscape for tools to help people become more involved in lawmaking and policymaking in their area, we didn’t find what we needed and created the CrowdLaw Catalog to help fill the gap.”

By design, crowdlaw enables the public to become collaborators and co-creators in public decision-making. The CrowdLaw Catalog is a living repository that shows how widely crowdlaw is being implemented around the world. And current and prospective Catalog users are encouraged to share additional crowdlaw cases and any corrections or suggestions to the compendium.

The Catalog, available online at catalog.crowd.law, joins a growing roster of CrowdLaw research and resources developed by the GovLab. Later this year, the center will publish a compilation of in-depth case studies about the burgeoning discipline, and a detailed playbook with instructions on how to start, run, maintain and measure a crowdlaw project.

To learn more about the practice of crowdlaw, and GovLab’s CrowdLaw initiatives, please visit crowd.law or contact us at crowdlaw@thegovlab.org