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.

IDP2015 (IV). Internet, Politics and Society

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Internet, Politics and Society
Chairs: Rosa Borge

New democratic movements, political culture and models of democracy
José Luis Martí, Laura Roth

We are beginning to contest the assumption that not voting is not participating in politics. And it is increasingly clear that it is not so: participation in extra-representative politics is becoming more important and will most likely be. Under this new train of though, what should be the profile of the “good citizen” in terms of political participation and engagement?

There is a first factor that needs being reframed. Most literature on social capital, participation in organizations, etc. seems not to be fitting what current ways of participation are to be found in new social and political movements. It looks like citizens begin to have new approaches, new attitudes, new cultures of participation that are just not compatible with old school participation models.

Four models:

  • The traditional model: citizens are like readers that read the “book of ideas” of their representatives. But little more.
  • The accountability model: addedd to “reading the book”, they can comment on it, they can compare what they see with their own position, etc.
  • The participative model: citizens are also authors of the “book” while representatives are like “editors” who put the ideas or proposals into practice. New values like toerance, equity. Also new skills.
  • Networked democracy: citizens are authors, editors and readers of the “books” created by the collective. This model is a total rupture with the preceding models.

Open politics and participation. The case of Podemos
Vicenta Tasa Fuster, Anselm Bodoque Arribas

There is a confrontation between what some call old politics and new politics, the latter being characterized by an intensive use of technology and highly valuing participation.

Participation: in a democratic sense, participation only has sense if it is permanent, open, free and deliberative (Joan Subirats).

Podemos has fostered participation, but it has decreased over time, and never reached 50% of the members of the party. They use a combination of platforms and tools (Appgree, Loomio, Reddit, Impulsa, the Talent Bank, Doodle, TitanPad, Google Groups and Google Drive, etc.).

When it comes to internal organization, it is difficult to tell new from old politics. But in matters of participation, there may be a difference.

After several participation processes, the average in Spain is that only 27% of the members of the party participated in voting for their representatives to be secretary general in their respective regions. For the primary elections (March 2015) participation was even lower (circa 23%).

Why this low participation when the party self-defines itself as participatory? ESpecially relevant, as the newcomers should be, in theory, highly motivated. And the barriers to vote were very low, as they only required and ID and a connection to the Internet. Different reasons:

  • Different degree of organization and definition of the own interests: there are many ways in which people participate.
    • People that always participate.
    • People that only participate in some specific issues of their interest.
    • Partisans that are not very organized.
    • Partisans that never participate.
  • Gender divide. Women usually have less time to participate, due to domestic burdens, sheer discrimination, etc.
  • Digital divide. Relevant if the main (if not the only) means to participate is digital and requiring high digital skills. In addition, we know that there is a gender divide within the digital divide.
  • Different reasons of the partisans. Most leaders in Podemos are men, and many topics raised in the participation platforms are genuinely masculine.

Digital divide and gender
María José Senent Vidal

We see that the digital divide has an important gender component, especially when it comes to usage and advanced uses (second and third digital divides).

  • Ability to access.
  • Ability and control of use.
  • Advanced uses, participation in processes of decision and creation.


  • Right to digital inclusion.
  • Overcoming of stereotypes.
  • Technological empowerment.


Albert Batlle: is Podemos faking participation but its design is aimed at making participation difficult? Bodoque: It is not clear. There seems to be an opposition of factors and values. On the one hand, Podemos was born thanks to participation, on the other hand, the more the party grows, the more difficult to manage participation. It is also true that the decrease in participation may also be due to the fading of the newness factor and tiredness of several participation processes.

David Martínez: how sustainable are these new forms of political participation? Can we put into practice such a model of democracy? José Luís Martí: the 15M was not about decision-making, was about deliberation. This is a difference with Podemos, which is a party and wants to make decisions, but it also gives some ideas on the nature of Podemos and what they think about participation: it’s about deliberation, and about doing it outside of the institutions, on one’s everyday life. On the other hand, it is not only internal participation that matters, but also general participation of the citizen.

José Luís Martí: it has been said that participation in Podemos was low. But, how do we tell low from high? How do we compare? Vicenta Tasa: there are two clear concentric circles in Podemos, one that leads and participates the whole time, another one in the periphery and with much less engagement. Anselm Bodoque: it’s true, that in general terms people in Podemos participate, deliberate and vote much more than in other political parties. But still, one would expect like more excitation in the ranks of Podemos.

Anselm Bodoque: it is important to highlight the motivation factor and the false sense of equality in participation. It is just not true that everyone participates in equal conditions in participatory processes: some people organize and some don’t. And the ones that organize are more effective and efficient that the lone wolves.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

New democratic movements (V). Taking stock: workshop concluding remarks

Notes from the Workshop on New democratic movements, civic culture and the transformations of democracy, organized by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, Spain, on June 18th and 19th, 2015. More notes on this event: new_democratic_movements.

Taking stock: workshop concluding remarks
Introduced by José Luís Martí

A common trend of these social movements is the way democracy works, coming after a deep discontent of the quality of democracy in general and its institutions in particular.

Another common trend, now in the how movements work, is horizontality. An idea that resonates with the movements back in the 1960s in the US. These movements are highly deliberative.

Deliberative and not aiming at representing anyone: it is precisely this deliberative nature that is highly inclusive not only in the sense of not leaving anyone out, but also in the sense that everyone should be invited to represent themselves, on their own.

The role of consensus — highly opposed to violence, being non-violence another key of the movement — is key, and is closely related with their view regarding to leadership.

These are movements that seamlessly combine the occupation of physical public spaces and the creation and use of virtual digital spaces. In many cases — though is not that common as with other issues — this comes accompanied by a defence of the common good and the commons, sometimes relabelled or reinterpreted or enhanced as the digital commons (and related to digital culture, including software).

There is an interesting point to be made: the movements not only aim at transforming the democratic institutions, but also want to perform a deep transformation in citizens. They expect that citizens are transformed by the movement and rethink their attitudes towards democracy and its institutions, and the way they feel about participation.


Marianne Maeckelbergh: it is crucial to acknowledge the non-violent nature of the movements. But not (only) from an ethic point of view, but also from a strategic point of view, as a very well though modus operandi.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky: maybe it is not totally accurate to call these movements totally horizontal. They were born in cases of huge inequality, and thus they were also accessed or participated unevenly. Maybe multiplicity and modularity are better ways to define them.

Jane Mansbridge: There was a huge effort to get more people to think about new ways to put pressure on the State. The focus of the deliberation was often to rethink one’s own role as a citizen, what is one’s relationship with the institutions, and how to take action after that awareness of who one is and what the relationship is with public decision-making.

Ismael Peña-López: These are movements that are not “against the system” but totally in favour of it, fighting to reinforce it, to strengthen it, to heal it. They are nor (or not all of them) unconditionally for direct democracy. Instead, they aim at taking the best of Ancient Greek democracy and the best of modern democracy: will it be liquid or hybrid democracy or another thing, we do not know. But we may expect that extra-representative democracy will have a strong role in it. Thus, we need new tools to measure how extra-representative participation works, what are their outputs and outcomes, and how does it relate with democratic institutions. And a last thought goes to the movement for the independence of Catalonia, which had some similarities with the 15M (indeed, the topic was debate during the Barcelona camps) in the ways that it is working and some similarities in some (not always shared, though) of the principles, especially about regaining sovereignty upon the governance of the system.

New democratic movements (2015)