The GovLab Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. In this edition, we explore the literature on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email biblio@thegovlab.org.

crowdsourcing

As technological advances give individuals greater ability to share their opinions and ideas with the world, citizens are increasingly expecting government to consult with them and factor their input into the policy-making process. Moving away from the representative democracy system created in a less connected time, e-petitions; participatory budgeting (PB), a collaborative, community-based system for budget allocation; open innovation initiatives; and Liquid Democracy, a hybrid of direct and indirect democracy, are allowing citizens to make their voices heard between trips to the ballot box.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Bergmann, Eirikur. “Reconstituting Iceland – Constitutional Reform Caught in a New Critical Order in the Wake of Crisis.” in Academia.edu, (presented at the Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation, Leiden University, 2013). http://bit.ly/1aaTVYP.

  •  This paper explores the tumultuous history of Iceland’s “Crowdsourced Constitution.” The since-abandoned document was built upon three principles: distribution of power, transparency and responsibility.
  •  Even prior to the draft being dismantled through political processes, Bergmann argues that an overenthusiastic public viewed the constitution as a stronger example of citizen participation than it really was: “Perhaps with the delusion of distance the international media was branding the production as the world’s first ‘crowdsourced’ constitution, drafted by the interested public in clear view for the world to follow…This was however never a realistic description of the drafting. Despite this extraordinary open access, the Council was not able to systematically plough through all the extensive input as [it] only had four months to complete the task.”
  • Bergmann’s paper illustrates the transition Iceland’s constitution has undertaken in recent years: moving form a paradigmatic example of crowdsourcing opinions to a demonstration of the challenges inherent in bringing more voices into a realm dominated by bureaucracy and political concerns.

Gassmann, Oliver, Ellen Enkel, and Henry Chesbrough. “The Future of Open Innovation.” R&D Management 40, no. 3 (2010): 213– 221. http://bit.ly/1bk4YeN.

  • In this paper – an introduction to a special issue on the topic – Gassmann, Enkel and Chesbrough discuss the evolving trends in open innovation. They define the concept, referencing previous work by Chesbrough et al., as “…the purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”
  • In addition to examining the existing literature for the field, the authors identify nine trends that they believe will define the future of open innovation for businesses, many of which can also be applied to governing insitutions:
    • Industry penetration: from pioneers to mainstream
    • R&D intensity: from high to low tech
    • Size: from large firms to SMEs
    • Processes: from stage gate to probe-and-learn
    • Structure: from standalone to alliances
    • Universities: from ivory towers to knowledge brokers  Processes: from amateurs to professionals
    • Content: from products to services
    • Intellectual property: from protection to a tradable good

Gilman, Hollie Russon. “The Participatory Turn: Participatory Budgeting Comes to America.” Harvard University, 2012. http://hvrd.me/HklqT0.

  •  In this dissertation, Gilman argues that participatory budgeting (PB) produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders.
  • The dissertation also highlights challenges to participation drawing from experience and lessons learned from PB’s inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989. While recognizing a diversity of challenges, Gilman ultimately argues that, “PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”

Kasdan, Alexa, and Cattell, Lindsay. “New Report on NYC Participatory Budgeting.” Practical Visionaries. Accessed October 21, 2013. http://bit.ly/17MTGNE.

  • This research and evaluation report is the result of surveys, in-depth interviews and observations collected at key points during the 2011 participatory budgeting (PB) process in New York City, in which “[o]ver 2,000 community members were the ones to propose capital project ideas in neighborhood assemblies and town hall meetings.”
  • The PBNYC project progressed through six main steps:
    •  First Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Delegate Orientations
    • Delegate Meetings
    • Second Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Voting
    • Evaluation, Implementation & Monitoring
  •  The authors also discuss the varied roles and responsibilities for the divers stakeholders involved in the process:
    • Community Stakeholders
    • Budget Delegates
    • District Committees
    • City-wide Steering Committee  Council Member Offices

Masser, Kai. “Participatory Budgeting as Its Critics See It.” Burgerhaushalt, April 30, 2013. http://bit.ly/1dppSxW.

  • This report is a critique of the participatory budgeting (PB) process, focusing on lessons learned from the outcomes of a pilot initiative in Germany.
  • The reports focuses on three main criticisms leveled against PB:
    • Participatory Budgeting can be a time consuming process that is barely comprehensive to the people it seeks to engage, as a result there is need for information about the budget, and a strong willingness to participate in preparing it.
    • Differences in the social structure of the participants inevitably affect the outcome – the process must be designed to avoid low participation or over-representation of one group.
    • PB cannot be sustained over a prolonged period and should therefore focus on one aspect of the budgeting process. The article points to outcomes that show that citizens may find it considerably more attractive to make proposals on how to spend money than on how to save it, which may not always result in the best outcomes.

OECD. “Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-making.” The IT Law Wiki. http://bit.ly/1aIGquc.

  • This OECD policy report features discussion on the concept of crowdsourcing as a new form or representation and public participation in OECD countries, with the understanding that it creates avenues for citizens to participate in public policy-making within the overall framework of representative democracy.
  • The report provides a wealth of comparative information on measures adopted in OECD countries to strengthen citizens’ access to information, to enhance consultation and encourage their active participation in policy-making.

Tchorbadjiiski, Angel. “Liquid Democracy.” Rheinisch-Westf alische Technische Hochschule Aachen Informatik 4 ComSy, 2012. http://bit.ly/1eOsbIH.

  • This thesis presents discusses how Liquid Democracy (LD) makes it for citizens participating in an election to “either take part directly or delegate [their] own voting rights to a representative/expert. This way the voters are not limited to taking one decision for legislative period as opposed to indirect (representative) democracy, but are able to actively and continuously take part in the decision-making process.”
  • Tchorbadjiiski argues that, “LD provides great flexibility. You do not have to decide yourself on the program of a political party, which only suits some aspects of your opinion.” Through LD, “all voters can choose between direct and indirect democracy creating a hybrid government form suiting their own views.”
  • In addition to describing the potential benefits of Liquid Democracy, Tchorbadjiiski focuses on the challenge of maintaining privacy and security in such a system. He proposes a platform that “allows for secure and anonymous voting in such a way that it is not possible, even for the system operator, to find out the identity of a voter or to prevent certain voters (for example minority groups) from casting a ballot.”

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Did we miss anything? Please submit reading recommendations to biblio@thegovlab.org or in the comments below.

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