Pilots in Iceland: Boosting bottom-up municipal democracy

The piloting in Iceland focuses on improving and upgrading the online democracy software Your Priorities and utilizing it for D-CENT. The idea is to bring in new functionalities pointed out by users of the Better Reykjavík and Better Iceland websites.

Since its launch in 2008, Your Priorities has had over 500.000 users. One of its success cases is Better Reykjavik. It is a website enabling citizens to voice, debate and prioritize ideas to improve their city, creating open discourse between community members and City Council and also giving the voters a direct influence on decision making. The website was launched in 2010 and it has attracted over 12,000 registered users with over 50.000 unique visitors the past 12 months in a city of 120.000 people.

In D-CENT, we plan to upgrade Your Priorities with new features. These features are collected bottom-up, from the interviews conducted among Your Priorities users at the beginning of 2014. To make our findings accessible and deployable, we plan to offer Your Priorities as a Docker application that can be installed in a D-CENT node for other governments, groups or citizens across Europe.

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New features: Social rating, visuality, idea clustering

Top 12-15 proposals from the Better Reykjavik site are taken in and processed by the Town Hall at the end of each month. When discussing with user communities, one often repeated frustration was the inadequate argumentation received for why a given proposal was rejected. D-CENT has planned to include a social rating system for people to rate Town Hall’s responses. The hope is that these ratings will improve the quality of feedback from the Town Hall, increasing the communication and feedback to the citizens.

The users have also pointed out the need to include images into their posts to Better Reykjavik and Better Iceland. To further develop the idea, we plan to have Better Reykjavik to automatically suggest images when people are typing in their ideas. To improve the quality of ideas, we plan to fetch data from city databases while people are typing in their ideas, offering links to up-to-date information. Another planned new feature is to show people other similar proposals when they are entering their ideas. The hope is that this would reduce the number of very similar proposals – and produce more new ones.

Launching Your Priorities in 3D

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.37.22Your Priorities 3D was launched in November 2014. It brings people together in real time virtual environments offering 3D universes of ideas and a new way for people to participate and connect with other people with similar civic interest.

The first test of Your Priorities 3D involved all neighbourhoods of Reykjavik, over 300 citizens, with the Mayor of Reykjavik and another member of the capital’s City Council meeting together in a realtime 3D environment to discuss city related issues.

Currently the Citizens Foundation is working to re-design Better Reykjavik in cooperation with the city council and other users of Your Priorities. The new version will be launched in spring 2015. There is also a plan set to integrate it within the D-CENT platform.

Real-life testing: Participatory budgeting

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.44.13Since 2012, Better Reykjavik has held Better Neighbourhoods, a participatory budgeting event in Reykjavik. Each year, 1.9 million EUR is allocated for ideas from citizens on how to improve the city. Citizens submit their ideas, officials evaluate the costs and then finally citizens do a secure binding budget vote to decide how to spend the money.

Better Neighborhoods uses Your Priorities for ideas collection and another D-CENT application, Open Active Voting, for the secure budget vote.

The next budget vote is scheduled for February 2-7 2015. Over ten thousand citizens around Reykjavik have already been participating in submitting, debating and prioritizing their ideas. In October and November this year with a record of 690 ideas submitted.

Supporting People’s Assembly in Estonia

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.48.20After political scandals in Estonia in 2012, president Toomas Hendrik Ilves asked grassroots organisations to come up with ideas to improve the democratic framework in the country. As a consequence, the online platform People’s Assembly (Rahvakogu) was launched for crowd-sourcing ideas and proposals to amend Estonia’s electoral laws, political party law, and other issues related to the future of democracy in Estonia.

The platform is built on Your Priorities.

During the 14 weeks of the campaign, over 3000 people participated. Already the first 3 weeks of January 2013 brought in over 2000 proposals. By now, seven of the ideas have been adopted as Estonian laws.

Discussing the National Health Services in England

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is using Your Priorities to engage with citizens and to help people to identify and discuss the issues that the NHS should be talking about. Ideas that generate the most discussion / support or which have the biggest national significance, will be further discussed and elaborated within the NHS.

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The first test was done this year. Ideas about subjects were collected, subjects refined with specific ideas, then an citizen assembly met to discuss ideas further and finally those ideas were presented to the NHS England board. More experiments with the NHS are planned in 2015. These pilots will be focusing on finding the most optimal way for representative participation giving citizens a direct voice at NHS board level.

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