Dates Announced for 2015 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy


This just in via email:

Dear Friends of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy,

Thank you for your patience over these past two years as we have searched for a date and place for the next forum. And now comes the good news: we will be gathering in the capital of Tunisia in May next year.

You can put it down on the calendar right now: Tunis, May 14-17, 2015.

Why Tunisia? Why Tunis? Why May 2015? Because at this moment, there is simply no better choice. Tunisia and its people have emerged in the global spotlight as they struggle to democratize after decades of dictatorship. And what better time and location to consider the Arab Spring than in the country where it began — and in the middle of spring?

Tunis is the perfect venue for discussion and exchange over how democracy develops – and how people power can grow stronger roots around the world. Last weekend the Tunisian Election Commission closed the books for the registration of electors and candidates ahead of the forthcoming parliamentarian (Oct 26) and presidential elections (Nov 23) this autumn. By next spring, a new generation of politically active Tunisians will be in charge and society will get a new start to handle the many problems and challenges of democratization.


Looking forward to seeing you in Tunis next May – at the 5th World Conference on Active Citizenship and Participative Democracy!

The 2010 Global Forum in San Francisco, CA touched upon the need for “thorough deliberation” to make direct democracy efforts work more effectively.

Updated the calendar entry accordingly.


Latest Knight News Challenge to Focus on Libraries


The Knight Foundation is out with another News Challenge, this one focusing on public libraries in the United States.

From the website:

How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?

This is an open call for ideas. We view libraries as key for improving Americans’ ability to know about and to be involved with what takes place around them. The library has been a vital part of our communities for centuries—as keepers of public knowledge, spaces for human connection, educators for the next generations of learners. While habits are changing, those needs have not. We want to discover projects that help carry the values of libraries into the future.

The challenge is set to kick off on September 10, but the inspiration phase started today and lists six missions:

The inspiration phase is an opportunity for all of us to share things that inspire us or inform our thinking about the future of libraries. Check out the missions on the left as a starting point and post your inspirations

  • Share Success Stories: What’s working? How are libraries currently innovating?
  • Identify Needs: What do people in your community need or want?
  • Identify Opportunities: What are major areas or groups of opportunity? Are there resources that can be utilized to new ends?
  • Identify Potential Collaborators: What groups and organizations should be working with libraries?
  • Library Values Elsewhere: Where are the values of libraries found outside of library walls?
  • Everything Else: Anything that inspires you that doesn’t fit the above missions.

A total of $2.5 million will be awarded to the winning projects.

We are exploring a couple of potential proposals, both in the area of using technology to strengthen libraries’ capacity as community convener.


VirtualGovCamp Announced For February 2015

Europe, Events

GovCamp, an annual unconference on all things (local) government, has been going strong in the UK and elsewhere in the world for several years now.

Last week, Dave Briggs suggested to add a virtual edition. From the blog post:

I’d like to propose VirtualGovCamp.


It will be an online event, lasting a month – probably in February. The sessions will not be synchronous, that is, you don’t have to be online at the same time as a bunch of other people to get involved. So I’m not talking webinars.

Each session will have a page on the event website. The page’s content will be built by the person running that session – who’ll be called the facilitator. They can write some text, include some links, record and embed a video, or a slideshow, or Prezi, or whatever.

Sounds fun! Added to the list.


2015 Event and Conference Radar


Continuing this annual tradition (2012, 2013, 2014), here’s our list of 2015 conferences and events at the intersection of technology and civic engagement, public participation, planning, dialogue and deliberation, conflict resolution, open government and related fields.

Please leave a comment below or contact us if you have additional events to share. Thank you!

January 2015

January 24, 2015 (preliminary)
London (United Kingdom)

February 2015

Exact dates to be announced
Virtual event

March 2015

Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC)
March 4-6, 2015
Austin, TX

SXSW Interactive
March 13-17, 2015
Austin, TX

April 2015

2nd International Conference on eDemocracy & eGovernment (ICEDEG 2015)
April 8-10, 2015
Quito (Ecuador)

Personal Democracy Forum Poland-Central Eastern Europe
April 16-17, 2015
Warsaw (Poland)

APA 2015
April 18-22, 2015
Seattle, WA

IAIA 2015: Impact Assessment in the Digital Era
April 20-23, 2014
Florence (Italy)

Build Peace 2015
April 25-26, 2015
Nicosia (Cyprus)

May 2015

2015 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy
May 14-17, 2015
Tunis (Tunisia)

International Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government 2015 (CeDEM15)
May 20-22, 2015
Krems (Austria)
Web: Conference website

dg.o 2015
May 27-30, 2015
Phoenix, AZ

June 2015

No entries yet.

July 2015

No entries yet.

August 2015

No entries yet.

September 2015

IAP2 2015 North America Conference
September 10-11, 2015
Portland, OR

October 2015

No entries yet.

November 2015

No entries yet.

December 2015

No entries yet.


NDI Launches DemTools Democracy Toolkit

E-participation, Radar

Demtools screenshot

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) today launched a new set of web-based applications.

From the NDItech DemocracyWorks blog: Meet DemTools: Closing the Geek Gap

Human rights and democracy advocates in the developing world have been left stranded in this leap to more effective tools. There’s a new form of digital divide that’s emerged: call it the geek gap. There are a lot of sophisticated open source software systems out there, but free software is a bit like a free puppy: the problem ain’t the initial price, it’s the care and feeding over years. In low-infrastructure societies, there just aren’t a lot of people with the sophisticated systems administration skills to set up a Linux server, configure Apache, set up MySQL, and install a web application like Drupal. While there are great commercial options, struggling human rights organizations often can’t write the checks to keep those services running.

NDItech has been working on technology for development for over fifteen years, and we’ve seen the same problems manifest repeatedly. Sustainability in development is hard, and when it comes to tech it’s harder. Keeping the lights on – and web sites running – years after a project ends just doesn’t happen very often.

We’re attempting to cut that Gordian knot with DemTools: the Democracy Toolkit. We’re launching with a set of four web apps that solve some of the most common problems our global network of partners have experienced. DemTools development was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

  • CONSTITUENT OFFICES MOVE ONLINE with CiviMP, a customized version of the popular open-source contact management system CiviCRM. Members of parliament (MPs) can keep in touch with constituents, listen to their concerns, and help solve their problems.
  • ORGANIZE SUPPORTERS with CiviParty. Also based on CiviCRM, CiviParty allows civic organizations to organize events, contact or survey supporters via SMS, reach large audiences via blast email or printed mail merge, and track engagement.
  • LEARN WHERE CANDIDATES STAND with The Issues, which presents candidates’ positions on the hot topics of the day via recorded YouTube videos and allows citizens to ask them questions directly. Citizens can engage in dialogue and share statements via social media, connecting voters directly to their political leaders and opening new avenues of communication.
  • ANALYZE ELECTION INFORMATION with the NDItech Elections system, which can convincingly demonstrate the veracity of official results. NDI’s election data management system aggregates and manages reports submitted by text or telephone from trained observers at polling stations across a country. By analyzing the data instantaneously, election experts can spot trends, flag potential problems, and maintain easy, direct communication with observers in the field.

More about The Issues tool, which during the launch event earlier today was introduced as “a 21st-century debate platform” (emphasis mine):

LEARN WHERE CANDIDATES STAND with the NDItech Issues webapp, which presents candidates’ positions on key issues via recorded YouTube videos and allows citizens to ask them questions directly. Politicians’ video messages hone media presentation and communication skills. Citizens can “vote” with a thumbs up or down or engage in dialogue with comments. The candidates’ statements can also be shared via social media, enabling civic groups to connect voters directly to their political leaders and open new avenues of communication.

An online demo is available on their site. Like all components of the toolkit, the source code is open source and available on Github.

You can learn more about the toolkit on the NDItech DemocracyWorks website.


Top Posts July 2014


Some goodies on our list of top posts last month (for the period May through July 2014):

And our three top performing posts overall:

Thanks for reading!


Friday Findings


A few items that caught our interest this past week:

Have a great weekend!


Crowdsourcing Text Analysis of FCC Open Internet Rulemaking Data

Radar, Research, Rulemaking

Yesterday, the FCC released a large portion of the more than one million public comments it has received regarding its ongoing Open Internet rulemaking effort: FCC Makes Open Internet Comments More Accessible to Public

Because of the sheer number of comments and the great public interest in what they say, Chairman Wheeler has asked the FCC IT team to make the comments available to the public today in a series of six XML files, totaling over 1.4 GB of data – approximately two and half times the amount of plain-text data embodied in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The release of the comments as Open Data in this machine-readable format will allow researchers, journalists and others to analyze and create visualizations of the data so that the public and the FCC can discuss and learn from the comments we’ve received. Our hope is that these analyses will contribute to an even more informed and useful reply comment period, which ends on September 10. We will make available additional XML files covering reply comments after that date.

DiscoverText is a “cloud-based, collaborative text analytics solution” originally developed by Texifter, a “spin-out company based on text analysis research by Dr. Stuart Shulman, the founder of QDAP-Pitt and current Director of QDAP-UMass”. Among other things, Texifter works in the area of improving “research and federal rulemaking efficiency by streamlining the process of sorting large amounts of unstructured text.”

The team there just invited the public to join a “collaborative, web-based effort to find substantive comments and visualize what the public said about Net Neutrality”: Open Data on Net Neutrality: Help Crowd Source Analysis of Comments to the FCC

Texifter has the right tools to allow anyone not versed in raw XML data extraction to search and code this data, then export the results as a CSV file including the relevant metadata. We have loaded the data and started a project using DiscoverText, which was built specifically for crowd source public comment review by US federal agencies.

I’ve been loosely following the genesis of DiscoverText for many years. This is a great opportunity to play with this tool and learn about this family of tools in general. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to get started.


Financial Platform Stellar to Apply Participatory Budgeting Concepts

Participatory Budgeting, Radar

Stellar user wallet

The Stellar Development Foundation, a not-for-profit organization launched publicly this past week, is developing a new financial platform based on Stellar, their decentralized protocol for sending and receiving money in any pair of currencies.

To learn more about the concept, check out their inaugural blog post.

Their website contains this interesting tidbit (emphasis mine):

Stellar creation

To account for both economic growth and lost stellars, there is a fixed 1% annual rate of new stellar creation. These new stellars will be generated on a weekly basis and distributed via a direct voting method similar to “participatory budgeting.” Our hope is that account holders will use the inflation-generated stellars to enable novel business models or to fund causes they support.

Here’s how new stellars created via this mechanism will work:

Every account is able to select another account as its nominee for new currency. Voting will be weighted according to how many stellars the voter has in his or her account. For instance, if you have 120 stellars and you vote for Jane as the recipient, that will be counted as 120 votes for Jane.

Each week, the network will identify the winners. The winners are the 50 top voted for accounts that also received at least 1.5% of the vote. If no account has over 1.5% of the vote, then the top 50 accounts voted for are considered the winners. That week’s new stellars are then distributed pro-rata to the winners.

If the Foundation is the beneficiary of new stellars, the stellars can be used to support our operations or to extend the direct signup and increased access programs.

According to the website, 100 billion stellars were created “at genesis”. Payment startup Stripe received two percent of this initial issuance in return for providing $3 million in funding to help get the project off the ground. Based on this transaction, the initial “exchange rate” was $1.50 per 1,000 stellars. While it’s likely that this value will fluctuate considerably at first, the rate seems to have already gone up slightly according to one exchange rate tracker ($2.46 per 1,000 stellar as of this writing).

Based on these early numbers, the amount of money up for distribution via some kind of participatory method could well exceed several million US dollars per year.


CivicPatterns: A Common Language for Creating Citizen Engagement Apps

Radar homepage

Via the Knight Foundation blog, I just found out about CivicPatterns, a new pattern language effort that was announced by the International Journalists’ Network (IJNet) in late June. From the website:

CivicPatterns is a catalogue of design patterns and tools for civic technology projects. Anyone who builds public tools needs to make sure that their approach is going to have real effects, and that they avoid common pitfalls. This site tries to establish a pattern language to support a discussion about what works, what fails and why.

According to the announcement, CivicPatterns “focuses on four themes: Community, Engagement, Delivery and Government.” More:

Civic Patterns is the beginnings of a language for those working to design civic technology. More than that, however, it could be a common vocabulary for all those who want to make apps for the public good – a group that certainly includes journalists and news technologists. Of course, this work is by no means finished. Instead – like any language – it is itself a collaborative project, where anyone is invited to suggest changes and additions.

Once we have a common language, we might realize that we’ve been working on the same problem all along.

Most of the patterns listed to date are still stubs (and may or may not stand the test of time), but anyone interested can join in the fun and get involved on Github and .