When more than 70 people from all over the world gather together for 15 days to think about democracy, civic engagement, and technology, only good can come out of it. And that is just what happened from 6 to 17 November in MediaLab Prado in the city of Madrid. The slogan of the event was as open as its name suggests: “Collective Intelligence Workshop for Democracy” (ICD, for its Spanish initials), and it took place within the framework of Democratic Cities, the festival of participation technologies. The second edition of the ICD workshop was organised by MediaLab Prado’s Collective Intelligence Laboratory for Participation.
In what was its second consecutive year, this workshop was based on the premises of Collective Intelligence: to develop a prototype by bringing together multidisciplinary teams of people from every corner of the world. This edition was attended by representatives from 5 continents: United States, India, Tunisia, Italy, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, Bolivia, Sweden, Denmark, Gabon, Mexico, Portugal, and Peru. They worked on projects and prototypes that seek to improve participatory democracy which is also referred to as “distributed democracy”. The experience was both challenging and intriguing. These total strangers from such different cultures had two weeks in which to concoct a project.
During his welcome speech to the Workshop, Yago Bermejo, the director of ParticipaLab, asked whether “citizens chosen at random would be able to take decisions and create policies. What are the limits of on-line deliberation? Can citizens work together and organise themselves to create public policy?” 15 days later, we had the answers. The projects, which were presented at their inception in a more or less beta version, were monitored by Dinorah Cantú, coordinator of the Gov Lab Academy in Mexico, Agustín Frizzera from Fundación Democracia en Red (Network Democracy Foundation) in Argentina and Cheikh Fall from Senegal, the representative of Afriactivistes. These projects, together with the collective work of the more than 70 participants, gradually began to unfold and take shape.
How was it done? Everyone in MediaLab Prado was dedicated in body and soul to debates, synergies, community, and passion, a lot of passion: anything and everything that is part and parcel of Collective Intelligence, everyone working together to create a community, and this wealth of knowledge makes it possible to extract value from the general public as a whole.
10 different projects, all with the common goal of improving democracy and promoting civic participation. Each one open and developed under free technologies.
Mappings of individuals and communities were drawn up; ideas and processes were displayed; urban spaces were designed; and deliberative processes unfurled. Using different dynamics and methodologies, talks, conferences, civic encounters, visits to self-managed spaces and different work sectors. The prototypes were explained and exemplified in meetings with local communities in the city of Madrid. That is how the projects were carried out and conceived. On Friday 17 November, the 10 projects were presented in society in the legendary Teatro Español in Madrid.
The ICD workshop has shown that it is possible to intervene the structures of power, sharing knowledge and participatory processes, and that these prototypes are much more than mere platforms, mobile applications or websites. Collective Intelligence is everyone thinking together, in community, and confident that, thanks to collaborative construction, we can manage to find the solution to a problem, resolve a conflict or create something new. These 10 projects have demonstrated that Collective Intelligence can move frontiers and bring cultures together; it can make a great contribution to transforming democracy and promoting a more participatory world in which citizens are the protagonists.
From Monterrey, Mexico, they turned up at MediaLab with a firm idea: let’s put an end to the private monopoly of public spaces. However, little by little this idea was enriched and expanded with the experience and knowledge of the entire work team. The goal that spurred them on was to design a platform to break with the classical urban development model, understood as traditional, hierarchical, and closed. In opposition to that model, they developed a collaborative, decentralised, and transparent map in which residents themselves can participate in the design of their city based on three actions: one, collective planning, two, data analysis and, finally, three, the ability to rank and prioritise resources.
During the presentation of the project, the Social Maps team and political officials from the municipality of San Pedro Garza García in Mexico, demonstrated that it is possible to make better decisions by starting from a collaboration between citizens and governments who work together. The platform they have developed promotes dialogue, communication, and mutual knowledge between the two parties, to recuperate the public space. And it makes possible the co-creation of the city.
The Social Maps team assures us that “a city planned by its citizens is now possible”.
Social Maps: http://www.usocialmaps.com/
Although the coordinator is Australian, she arrived here from New York, USA. Together with the entire group, she worked to create a map of green spaces. The motivation is quite clear: take a stand against climate change. This is advancing at a rapid pace and our increasingly contaminated cities need new green spaces. The on-line map that they developed in Villages Vaguard provides information on different categories: temperature, flooding areas, zoning, public transportation, bicycle lanes. But at the same time, this web tool and mobile application is a collaborative map that involves the general public in the planning of these green spaces. Based on an on-line survey, residents share and display their proposals, comments, and debates on the map.
The group’s conversations evolved as every day went by in Village Vaguard and, thanks to that, major achievements have been made. Although the map was only developed at the outset for two neighbourhoods in New York, it has now been put into practice in two more cities. Namely, in Madrid, Spain, the Manzanares River project, and in San Pablo, Brazil, the Augusta Park project.
San Pablo: http://augusta.mapseed.org/
“The data acquisition process in Brazil is a challenge as is creating new tools for that goal”, confessed Fausto Isola, the promoter of the project. Between cups of coffee and “chimarrão” (Brazilian mate), with a camera filming its every move, this group, sponsored by Porto Alegre, was busy drawing maps. On computers, on paper, and even on the window panes. In the end they did it, they finally managed to put an end to the typical static and vertical on-line maps that users are so accustomed to seeing.
They developed a map that seeks to take advantage of the wide possibilities that mapping offers, to recover the perception of members of the public and enhance data analysis. They base themselves on three premises: zoning and representation, the export of data and thematic flexibility. Based on an on-line survey tool, GaupSurvey explores features of graphical representation and it allows you to draw and make comments on the map, not to mention adding data to it.
The project is still underway, and they are working on it right now to turn it into a tool that is accessible to one and all.
GaupSurvey in GitHub: https://github.com/GAUP/GAUPsurvey
Lambda was the great inspiration of the group. A (fictitious) friend who accompanied them throughout the entire process and whose assistance and inquisitiveness helped them to develop an activist kit for electoral campaigns. Lambda is a candidate for a small party that has no financial backing. She will be able to use this kit which was developed by activists from Brazil, and the entire team. BotActivista is part of a larger project that encompasses the Democratic Tool kit for campaigns. In MediaLab Prado, the group developed a set of tools for election campaigns that have no financing. Its ultimate goal is the democratisation of electoral processes.
Liane is the name of the tool that hacks Facebook. Based on the collection of data from the social network it is possible to identify target audiences, locate them in the territory and segment the message. The work of the algorithm makes it possible to run more effective actions during election campaigns. Within the kit they have also built a people management tool with which to carry out call-to-action campaigns. Anyone of us could be Lambda, a candidate with good ideas and scant resources and this kit is just for us.
Liane in GitHub: https://github.com/lianetoolkit
Flowing between English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish, the native languages of the collaborators, the project went from being called Taxi Citoyen to MBolo Citoyen, a Gabonese expression which in English means “Hello, Citizens”. This project came from the African country of Gabon. In the light of their social and political context and reality, they developed a platform for citizens to give their opinions, make denouncements, and express themselves. The entire team, made up by people from Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and the United States, have managed to blend with the society and culture of Gabon, understand their logic, behaviour, idiosyncrasies, and language.
Many young people in Gabon society use technologies and are very active in social media, particularly Facebook. Which is why they have developed a website, a mobile application and a chatbot on Facebook. The project they developed wants to change Gabon through technologies and videos with citizens’ opinions on public issues. It is a civic platform where people share videos of their complaints or proposals for solutions. They share these videos (their identities are protected) on the web or the mobile application or on Facebook. These opinions can be broken down into four categories: education, health, the environment, and democracy.
MBoloCitoyen, as is the case with all the ICD projects, is open-source and can be replicated and adapted for everyone.
“What happens when we’re in a group and we can’t agree? We split up. We have no representation and democracy suffers”, warns a member of the working group. To put an end to this situation and to unite the citizens and create an identity, this team suggests Stake.
Based on an understanding of playing as a methodology, they arrived from the United States to develop this prototype. In their initial plan, what they had in mind was a multi-player role play designed to generate empathy, creative solutions, and deliberation. They tested the game on different people, participants in ICD, mentors, and representatives of Madrid’s network of facilitators during the civic meetings.
After these tests and by introducing collective intelligence, the game has evolved and its functions have been strengthened. Stake is available via web, as a mobile application and as a card game. It’s played face-to-face and now its content can be adapted to each community so that each organisation can use methodologies suited to their participatory and conflict-resolution processes.
The Stake group has undergone its own empathy process.
“Knowledge exists in documentation and in bodies”. That was the slogan put forward by this team from La Coruña, Spain, on which the entire group worked over the two weeks. How can we document a prototyping process so that it can be reproduced? The team drew up a process road map over and over again, while documenting and recording every moment. The more emotional and affective members talked about bodies, sentiments, and caring. They interviewed the other groups, they photographed every moment and they celebrated when they found their “breakthrough”. The core idea is that knowledge does not exist only in objective facts, “macro facts”, rather that there is also an emotional component. Based on and inspired by Git, on account of its collaborative development and free software, the docART prototype seeks to make visible the processes of collective creation and construction of prototyping from two types of notes: one with practical details, and the other with the breakthroughs that reflect the environmental and affective aspects.
They also created a manual of good practices for documenting and visualising these processes so they can be replicated, modified and evaluated. A ready-to-use prototype. DocART invited civic laboratories to use it and to make the knowledge of the labs democratic.
DocArt in GitHub: https://github.com/docART
The promoter came from São Paulo, Brazil and the project was coordinated in conjunction with the Digidem Lab in Sweden. One of the most international groups in the ICD, Consul Going Worldwide worked to enhance Consul, the free software platform for civic participation developed by Madrid City Council. They detected social, political, and technical problems and barriers to installing Consul. In the light of these issues, they developed possible solutions. As far as the installation was concerned, they came up with two answers: the use of Docker software so it can be installed automatically and very quickly, and so it can be downloaded and installed from the cloud.
At the same time, as far as the social and understanding problems were concerned, they developed the Consul Manual and created a community to work in collaboration and share experiences with the more than 50 governments and institutions that use the platform. The group did a lot of research and carried out interviews of Consul users. And they worked side by side with the Government’s Civic Engagement, Transparency and Open Government Department and with developers of Consul.
The project is still underway and evolving. There is now a Consul community and all members or future users of Consul can register.
Consul Going Worldwide: http://consulproject.org
“How can we read all the comments that are made in an on-line debate?”. That was the question that motivated the group, which was coordinated from the United States and involved people from Tunisia, Mexico, India, and Barcelona, to develop a tool that summarises on-line discussions so that none of the data generated is lost. With such a synthesis, both users and promoters of a participatory platform can understand and know everything that people said in a debate. Wikum summarises the process by reversing what happens in an on-line discussion and it applies to civic participation platforms. This synopsis is collaborative and everyone can summarise whatever section they want: just a comment or the full debate. The tool has been tested and worked on specifically in Decide Madrid, Madrid City Council’s civic participation space.
Located in a corner of Lab 1 in MediaLab, Wikum received more visits than any other group. To get to know the users of Decide Madrid who are interested in Wikum, they carried out a Twitter campaign inviting people to test the platform. On the one hand, they managed to define the profiles of these users and on the other, they made a map of those who already use Decide Madrid and are potential users of Wikum. After analysing this information, they applied it in situ.They are still analysing their research into the users, their profiles and uses in order to improve on-line debates and to ensure that civic participation platforms are more accessible.
“74% of Spanish citizens are not satisfied with how the country’s democracy works. And 41% of the European population does not participate in the democratic processes”. The group used these numbers to kick off their presentation of the project. They travelled to MediaLab Prado from Bilbao in search of a new model of municipal democracy. Following weeks of passionate debates and meetings with civil servants from Madrid City Hall to measure to what extent it might be possible or not to implement the proposed process… they did it! Concerned about the low level of participation in democratic processes, the team has put forward one of the most innovative projects as far as the mechanisms of democratic participation is concerned.
The working group designed a process based on two complementary tools in order to improve the decision-making process: digital platforms and citizen’s juries chosen by lot. Focusing on municipalities, yet applicable to other political institutions, they raise the possibility of less complex processes and of the realisation of the demands and requests of the citizens. This process is applicable to the definition of problems on the part of the government, based on the initiatives and proposals of members of the public and on automatic activation measures. The process manual is open so it can be implemented, and it is available for use by any institution.
In the midst of this crisis in democratic quality, the Hybrid Democracy project and their energy and passion for civic engagement transmitted hope to the entire ICD.
Democracia Híbrida project: https://sorteopolitico.org/
Arantxa Mendiharat, Sanna Ghotibi, Eduardo Weinhardt, Cristian Leon, Rebeca Díez, Stefano Stortone, Erika Whillas, Sonia Delgado Berrocal, Trevor Croxson, Jacob Caggiano, Carles Boils Gisbert, Luke Swart, Malu Oliveira, Fausto Isola, Augusto Bott, Himanshu Zade, Marylly Silva, Berta Díaz, Iván Terceros, Artur Vasconcelos Cordeiro, Bouiti Boursier Tchibinda, Marianna Soares Chaves Lopes, Dana Olguín, Anika Gupta, Christopher Dugan, Claudia Oliveira, Gary Gianzarlo Risco Reyes, Pedro Markun, Atenas Abilein Vargas Saavedra, Orlando Martínez Ramírez, Raquel Gálvez, Guillermo Martín Croppi Yommi, David Leonardo Núñez Amórtegui, Yuri Alexsander Tavares Pereira, Miguel Peixe, Jesús Cepeda, Alberto Escamilla Gamarra, Alberto Abellán, Graciela Reyes, Edgar Martínez, Daniel Alvarez García, Amy Zhang, Julio Reyes Montesinos, Berenice Zambrano Nemegyei, Pablo Aragón, Alejandra Monroy Tellez, Ramla Ayadi, Abhishek Srivastava, David Alfonsín Lareo, Henrique Zoqui M.Parra, Mariel Rosauro Zasso, Carla Tortul, Stepjan Freudenberg, Anne Clinio, Juan David Arias, Sean Van Deuren, Daniel Rosero Caicedo, Tuanny Ruiz, Jose Lidier Artavia Méndez, Daniel Piote, Santiago Rueda, Vanessa Tonini, Ele Munjeli, Petter Joelson, Jon Skjerning Rasmussen, Adriana Alvarado García, Bruno Chies, Carlos Daniel Torres, Dinorah Cantú, Agustín Frizzera, Cheikh Fall, ParticipaLab, MediaLabPrado.