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Emerging Designs for Collective Governance: Part 2

Rise of new collective action methods in citizen engagement, sense-making, participatory research, and governance systems applicable to Web3 and Platform Cooperativism

Published onOct 21, 2020
Emerging Designs for Collective Governance: Part 2


This article highlights the rise of new collective action methods that are being developed in, or are applicable to, the Web 3.0 and Platform Cooperativism spaces.

This article is divided into three parts. Part 1 covered voting, reputation, and decision-making methods. Part 2 will cover citizen engagement, participatory research, sense-making, and governance systems. Part 3 will cover organization technology (OrgTech).

Note: Part 2 was originally supposed to cover organizing technology but has instead been pushed to part 3 of this series.

Citizen Engagement


Polis is an open source, participatory democracy (i.e., citizen engagement) platform based in Seattle, WA, USA for crowdsourcing thoughts from users in real-time (can also think of it as opinion polling or survey research) while maintaining minority group opinions, and leveraging data science to provide greater insights and foster mutual understanding.

The ambition for Polis is to be a “platform for enabling collective intelligence in human societies and fostering mutual understanding at scale in the tradition of nonviolent communication.”

On Polis, users submit comments (<140 characters), which are sent out semi-randomly to other participants who can vote (agree, disagree, pass) and leave a reply. Participants receive other comments “one at a time in a structured format — without replies and thus without trolling. This process happens in real-time. As soon as someone writes, others can vote.” Additionally, the data science methods are applied in real-time to “produce[] opinion groups and surfaces the comments that brought each group together. It also surfaces comments that found broad [[consensus]] among participants.”

Polis is not for comparing ideas but rather for having conversations among participants. Polis works toward promoting consensus rather than polarization. Through the use of the data science methods, opinion groups and surface differences can be found.

Polis also provides the conversation owner a data report in real-time on the conversation, which includes visualizations of the debate, and can be shared with participants.

To start on Polis, the conversation owner need to provide a prompt (e.g., a question) to give participants something to start with. Additionally, the conversation owner also needs to provide seed comments to “instruct [[participants]] on how to write [] good comment[s],” “[] ensure the first participants understand the exercise and begin producing data immediately.”

The conversation owner also has to deal with moderating comments on the conversation. Polis can be self-hosted or embedded in a user’s web property.

Polis can also be considered a wikisurvey because users create the dimensions (which are the comments (i.e., the more comments, the higher the number of dimensions)) of the survey.

Polis also embraces open source in their documentation concerning how alogrithms are used on the platform.


Decidim is a free, open source, participatory democracy software package or platform for cities, organizations, public institutions, and more.

As a self-hosted technology, web developers or users can mix-and-match the features of Dedicdim to fit their particular context.

Decidim was started in Barcelona, Spain, but has since grown to incorporate people from outside of Barcelona to collaborate online on Decidim via (“[t]o anybody who has good faith and a correct attitude towards democratic collaboration.”).

Decidim’s features allow for multiple modes of participation (or the creation of participatory spaces), e.g., “initiatives, assemblies, processes or consultations,” in combination with components.

The participatory spaces that can be created with Decidim are:

  • participatory processes: a space for creating, activating/deactivating, and managing participatory process in which the components can be incorporated

  • assemblies: a space for creating decision-making bodies

  • consultations: a space for coordinating users on referendums, discussions, debates, and “get voting results published”

  • Initiatives: a space for participants to create, discuss, endorse and disseminate initiatives and “ define meeting points where signatures can be collected from attendees or debates opened to other members of the organization.”

Components are where participants and spaces interact. The components that come with Decidim are:

  • proposals: this component allows a user to create (can also be done collaboratively), publish, compare, filter and interact with proposals

  • voting: this component allows users to use different voting or support systems for proposals

  • accountability: this component “offers the possibility of subdividing results into projects, defining and applying progress statuses around their implementation, as well as displaying the extent of the results’ implementation grouped by categories and scopes.”

  • results: this component gives the official outcome (acceptance or rejection) on proposals and “turn[s] proposals into results”

  • meetings: this component allows users to schedule (time, date, location, etc.) and structure meetings, and publish meeting minutes and any “resulting proposals”.

  • participatory texts: this component can “convert lengthy text documents into various proposals or results and, vice versa, to compose and display a unified text based on a collection of proposals or results”.

Since Decidim is a self-hosted software, anyone can host it for themselves. In that regard, Decidim also needs a user to be an administrator who will configure the participation spaces and components.

Before using Decidim, users must agree and comply with the Decidim Social Contract. The Decidim Social Contract is a a commitment each user makes to “fulfill the principles established here when using, developing and participating in the community of Decidim.”

Decidim is democratically governed by the Free Decidim Software Association (Decidim Association), formed in 2019, which can be found at Metadecidim also hosts the Decidim community (Association members and beyond) who collaboratively work on the design and construction of Decidim.


Parti is a platform cooperative that runs and manages an open source, participatory democracy platform where stakeholders can communicate and cooperate with the goal of creating a democratic platform for the public good.

Parti provides the following services:

  • Public forum and citizen participation platform: Creation of a public forum for stakeholders to participate or a citizen participation platform for organizations to utilize, and public spheres for virtual and physical interaction

  • Training and workshop: inform others on how to use the public sphere toolkit and platform

  • Consulting and advisory: advise organizations on how to operate their public forums or citizen participation platforms.

  • network: connect community activists through the public field activist network

The Parti digital platform includes Parti Groups, Demos X, Parti Townhal, Parti Campaigns, and Data Public.

Patti Groups is for creating forums for teams and communities to collaboratively work and communicate together on writing documents, polls, and acrhiving. Anyone can create a group centered around shared interests.

Parti Groups has five specific functions:

  1. “Create a group -You can create a space for communication between organizations and communities.

  2. Talking -You can share your thoughts and discuss various issues.

  3. Gathering Materials-Share and accumulate materials so that anyone participating can see them.

  4. Proposal, Discussion, and Decision -You can discuss and decide on an issue through pros and cons and surveys.

  5. Create a joint document-You can create announcements, discussions, decisions, etc. with the wiki function.”

Demos X is an open source citizen participation platform developed by Parti and Seoul Metropolitan Government for citizens and institutions to share opinions with each other. Users have the option of posting messages, voting for or against matters, and join conversations. Parti has also developed an operations guide for Demos X.

Parti Townhall is a real-time discussion platform for organizing events or meetings for citizens to attend and communicate with institutions or public officials (i.e., a townhall). Parti Townhall provides visualizations and progress board so participants can see the flow or how the opinion of attendees is shifting throughout the meeting. Parti Townhall has five types of decision-making and discussion methods to push progress in meetings:

  1. debate: “participants hear different opinions on one issue and choose which one is better”

  2. suggestion: “Receive questions or suggestions from participants in real time.”

  3. cheering: Participants cheers “express[ing] applause, courage, support and encouragement [are visualized in real time] to the presenter”

  4. voting: participants can vote on one or more arguments and leave comments on the arguments

  5. score voting: “Participants vote for their preferences by score. You can decide priorities for execution together.”

Parti Campaigns is a platform where people can start campaigns (similar to with Parti to encourage feedback and discussion on a particular issue.

Data Public is a citizen-curated data repository for data on social issues.

To learn more about Patti’s vision for a democratic future and making a democratic platform for the public good, please refer to Internet, democracy, public goods and patti. To learn more about Demos X, please refer to this article.

Parti has also developed a set of toolkits to guide others in developing collaborative communities, campaign guides, creating a community as a project, public forums, and a guide to Parti’s platforms.

Participatory Research

Allourideas is an open source research project for social data collection by combining qualitative and quantitative methods and a website where people can create and manage wikisurveys. Allourideas can also be embedded into websites or users can self-host an instance of Allourideas (via the pairwise API).

Wikisurveys are a new way of collecting social data (i.e., social data collection) by combining traditional survey research with crowdsourcing. Wikisurveys wikify traditional surveys by allowing for respondents to also suggest their own ideas or questions to be part of the survey in addition to the researcher’s or issuer’s questions, rather than the traditional survey where the researcher or issuer creates a list of questions and the respondent can only repsond to the set list of questions. Wikisurveys are primarily pairwise comparisons of ideas (i.e., how one idea compares against another idea), such that users compare ideas against each other, rather than having people state their opinion on an idea independent of other ideas.

On Allourideas, a user can create a wikisurvey with a question and some seed ideas. Feature-wise, a creator can have data visualizations of the ongoing survey, download the raw data for offline, an expected score of whether one idea will beat another idea, and integrating a wikisurvey with Google Analytics. Users can vote as many times as they want on the ideas presented or suggest their own idea. Users can also see the voting results in real-time.


Rapid Sensemaking Framework

The Rapid Sensemaking Framework (RSF) is an open source set of tools (components and contactables) for sense-making among and between people at scale.

The RSF can be used by facilitators or process designers to crowdsource or conduct “processes for ideation, discussion, evaluation, and decision making.”

The RSF is deigned to be a platform-agnostic set of tools that can be integrated with any platform so that participants do not need to join multiple platforms.

The basic tenets of the RSF are:

  • “ideation[,]

  • evaluation and ranking, sorting[, and]

  • selection, voting, consenting.”

The principles of the RSF are that processes should:

  • be transparent to the participants (including results)

  • benefit everyone

  • be “non-value extractive in its approach to working with data.”

The components are small modules of code that can perform either short or long actions with little to on human input, or “can involve lots of human input.”

The components that are currently available include:

  • CollectResponses

    • for a prompt, collect statements numbering up to a given maximum (or unlimited) from a list of participants

  • ResponseForEach

    • for a list/array of statements, collect a response or vote (from a limited number of valid options, or unlimited) for each from a list of participants

  • PairwiseComparison

    • input: a list of statements, process: have all participants choose preferences between pairs of statements, return the list of compared/ranked results.

  • PairwiseComparisonQual

    • like PairwiseComparison, but allows for freeform response to the relationship between the two compared elements

  • PairwiseComparisonQuant

    • like PairwiseComparison, but allows for numerical quantified response to the relationship between the two compared elements

  • ParticipantRegister

    • input: nothing, process: spin up a form on a webserver and collect peoples contact info that opt in to participate, output: a list of Contactable participantConfigs

  • FormatReactionsList

    • input: reactions list (from ResponseForEach), output: a string containing a nice, simple, human-readable version of the results

  • FormatStatementList

    • input: statement list, output: a string containing a nice, simple, human-readable version of the results

  • SendMessageToAll

    • Send a given string to a list of given people (by contactableConfigs). Useful in a wide array of circumstances.

  • SortPairwiseResults

    • Take a list of statements and a list of votes from PairwiseComparison and sort the list by the votes.”

Then there are the RSF contactables. The contactables are modules for bi-directional conversations between bots and humans, represented with text. This way, components can talk with people and people can talk with components. “Components that use Contactables include PairwiseComparisonCollectResponses and ResponseForEach.” is an open source forum software (or issue debate system) for creating online dialogue which provides visualizations of conversations so that participants of the conversation can make sense of the conversation.

Similar to, anyone can create a forum for their community and seed the forum with some initial ideas and questions for participants to consider.

Once the forum is created and participants start to join, participants can see areas of agreement and disagreement and the rationale for each position. When a participant is giving their opinion, they can state “what they believe (on a sliding scale) and why (their most critical pros and cons).”1

Then the creator (i.e., forum administrator) of the forum can dive into the reasons for disagreement or agreement by examining opinion analytics. The forum administrator is also responsible for moderating. also comes with the following features:

  • comment moderation,

  • custom design,

  • custom user info (Getting users to provide additional information when they sign up),

  • opinion analytics (filtering opinions based on user characteristics),

  • disability accessible,

  • data export (default in CSV),

  • language translation (can offer the forum in multiple languages), and

  • private forums (by default, forums are public, but can be made private and only accessible to certain stakeholders) offers a free plan for anyone to host their own forum on Alternatively, anyone host an instance of on their own server or have provide a custom version of for their own needs.

Governance Systems


CommunityRule is an open source governance toolkit for online communities.

CommunityRule provides templates for popular governance models including:

  • Benevolent Dictator,

  • Petition,

  • Do-ocracy,

  • Elected Board,

  • Jury,

  • Self-appointed Board,

  • Trias Politica,

  • Circles, and

  • Consensus.

Community Rule is for helping communities escape the overly basic administrator (or moderator)-user paradigm of governing online communities so that community members can better express their norms concerning stewardship, culture, and decision-making.

Anyone can create a Rule and add it to the Library by using the Create form.

The Create Form requires the following information:

  • a community name,

  • summary of the structure,

  • the addition of modules, and:

    • culture

    • decision

    • process

    • structure

    • custom module

  • the creator’s name and a link to the creator.

Once the information is provided, a user can publish the rule and have it become part of the Community Rule library. The user can always edit or delete the Rule in the future.

Supplementary Readings

  1. PolicyKit: Building Governance in Online Communities

  2. Tales of a DisCO, Straight from the Dancefloor


  1. Emphasis removed.





















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