OP@LL Conference (VII): Case Studies 3

Notes from the OP@LL Conference: Online participation on the local level – a comparative perspective, organized by Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy and held in Dússeldorf, Germany, on 13-15 December 2017. More notes on this event: opll.

Case Studies 3

Anna Przybylska | University of Warsaw (Poland)
ICT solutions for public consultations: Methodology and design of inDialogue

Abstract: The aim of the presentation is to reflect on the design of the inDialogue software that has been developed to intervene in the organization of public consultation processes in local governments. The design has been informed by the results of empirical studies. In those studies, we evaluated the practice of public consultations in Poland refereeing to the norms constitutive for the model of deliberative consultations. The inDialogue software is expected to respond to the problems revealed during the evaluation. It helps to convey the knowledge about the methodology of public consultations and supports the teamwork for their better organization in the city hall. It facilitates planning of public consultations which can be conducted through face-to-face meetings and paper questionnaires as well as through online text or voice meetings and electronic questionnaires. The presentation starts with the overview of some theoretical assumptions and associated research findings relevant to the institutionalization of deliberation in public consultations. Following part analyses empirical data collected from the Polish local governments. In this background I will discuss tools and procedures of inDialogue software.

Three areas of tension:

  • When the institutions of representative and participatory democracy are being integrated.
  • Between the ideal of deliberation and the results of its implementation.
  • When attempting to create a consolidated venue for public dialogue in a world of dispersed communication channels.

How are we going to attract people to use these tools? Efficacy of participation is the most powerful incentive.

inDialogue is a participation software that has many functions. Not only does it deal with participation, but also planning, open government, etc. The software also features different roles/approaches, like the clerk’s interface with several actions that the leader of a participation initiative can undertake. Same for citizens, that have their own interface and the tasks that they can perform.

Factors for the absorbtion of innovation:

  • Establishing partnerships: quadruple-helix model where several institutions have a different complementary role.
  • Research and action.
  • Evaluation and software amendments
  • An umbrella or a network?
  • Public sphere and scaling-up.
  • Distribution roles.

José L Martí | Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona (Spain)
Crowdlaw and the internal/external dimension of online local participation

Abstract: One of the new paradigms that has been advocated to understand the new possibilities of local participation enhanced by the new technologies is the so-called crowdlaw, as a particular subtype of Open Government. Under this approach, ordinary citizens can be deeply involved in different stages of the legal cycle and through a variety of forms of participation. They can participate in information pooling, in deliberation, or in decision-making properly. And they can contribute in such a variety of forms to stages like public diagnostic, law and policy-making, law and policy enforcement, law and policy adjudication, law and policy control, and law and policy revision. This is seen by some as one of the most important innovations to come in the next years to improve government at different levels, and also at the local one. But one of the effects of adopting this new approach is that the boundaries between internal and external participation (the participation of local citizens or the participation of citizens from other towns, regions or states, is importantly blurred. In other words, crowdlaw is very good in enhancing both the internal and the external dimensions of local participation (i.e., citizens from other places, including other states may be involved in different ways in the local participation of our city and contribute largely to it. This may have crucial effects to the way we conceive local politics. This paper explores all these effects and implications, focusing particularly in the way in which public local participation should be conceived in this new scenario, and advances a new vision of how local politics, and particularly public local deliberation may scale up to extralocal (potentially global) politics.

The demos problem: the traditional response to the question on whether one should be able to participate in a participatory process or a decision-making process in one’s own city/region/state is that yes, one should be able to participate. What if one is not formally recognized as a citizen in a given city? What if I have interests (relatives, friends, etc.) in other cities? Are they “my” city too?

e-Democracy is transforming the traditional ways to approach such demos problem in a way that brings us necessarily to connect local democracy with global democracy. e-Democracy is deterritorializing politics, which were, almost by definition, always bound to a territory.

Why participatory democracy?

  • It empowers people.
  • It strengthens full inclusion.
  • It improves the quality of decision-making.

But we must have an idea of who should be empowered, whose voices should be heard, what options should be put on the table.

  • Territorially-defined demos: which refers to a formal status, which in turn is based on residence.
  • Functionally-defined demos: depending on the substantive issue.

And there even is yet another principle: the all-affected principle: all those who are potentially affected by the decision should be.

The digital revolution is making the territory less and less important which, combined with globalization, makes the demos problem one of the most important now in participation. But this is where deliberation —not voting— gains a lot of meaning.