Where to find and publish citizen engagement success stories?

What are the best online platforms hosting citizen engagement success stories? Let’s compare the four main ones:

  1. CitizENGAGE
  2. Participedia
  3. Innovation in politics
  4. Citizens Lab


Quick summary of the main conclusions

If a citizen or an organization wants to share their own success story, CitizENGAGE provides the easiest way to do so. The drawback: only some select cases are shown on the main page, and it is not likely that every submission gets published.

From the perspective of someone doing research in participatory democracy, Participedia – collecting information on 836 different cases – is the best resource for citizen engagement best practices, some of the older entries going back to 2011. Similarly, if the intention of a citizen or an organization goes beyond just sharing the story, Participedia is the best option – one can describe each case very thoroughly.  Nevertheless, the number of cases mages navigating the database difficult.



CitizENGAGE is a platform developed by the Open Government Partnership. It hosts best practice stories from OGP member countries, along with news feeds, videos and photo essays.

An average of 60 success stories are divided between the following regions: Africa, Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe. Main topics incorporated in the site are, besides citizen participation, anti-corruption, civic space, education, gender, health, marginalized communities, and natural resources.

Submitting an impact story appears to be fairly simple: via email, Facebook post, or Twitter. There is no information regarding what percentage of those submissions are published in the main site.

Clear selection options provide an easy navigation and exploration of the database. Precise selection criteria allow to search by region or topic. Most of cases only provide a brief contextualization of the situation or problem, and how open government or citizen engagement managed to deliver a solution. Some examples provide links to sites with concrete data about the project (methodology, statistics, number of people involved, duration, among others). This additional information can be offered by OGP, by the ones responsible of leading the project, or by a third party (media).



Participedia functions as a depository of examples of participatory democracy in different regions of the world. Mainly supported by international universities, it is also backed by research councils and NGOs.


This site includes 836 cases, dating back to 2011. Given the numerous amount of case examples available in Participedia, it is difficult to identify a single main topic. However, database is divided in two categories:

General Issues (Urban Planning, Community Development, Budgeting, Political Institutions,  Environment, Economic Development, Health, Education and Schools, Human Rights, Identity and Diversity, Poverty Reduction, etc.)

Specific Topics:  (Municipal Participatory Budget and Planning, Civic Education, Sustainable Development, Government Decentralization, Democratic Innovation, and Urban Redevelopment, etc.)

In order to submit a new case (or add or edit them), or to participate in post discussions, one needs to create and account and be a registered member of the site. While it can feel saturated, and scrolling through 836 cases might seem overwhelming, a keyword search allows for specific case identification. Similarly, searches can be defined by content language, country, geographical scope, completeness of the project, type of organization, source of funding, targeted audience, among others.

Participedia has a thorough template for each case submission, which includes: Summary, Problems and purpose, History (context), Originating Entities and Funding, Participant Recruitment and Selection, Methods and Tools Used, Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction, Influence, Outcomes, and Effects, Analysis and Criticism, Secondary Sources, External Links, and Notes. While some examples fill out every category, providing extensive information about the case, it is not compulsory to do so. Some examples only provide minimum information about their projects. An example of a thoroughly detailed case can be found here.


Innovation in politics 

Innovation in politics functions as a non-partisan consulting agency for politicians and political institutions. Apart from their services, they also provide a space for submission of projects and compete for the “Innovation in Politics” award (for “groundbreaking and innovative political projects”). The winners are selected by a jury of hundreds of volunteer jurors from Innovation in politics member countries.

While it is not its main objective, Innovation for Politics does have a catalogue of 80 past submissions, divided between 8 categories: Civilization, Democracy, Human rights, Community, Ecology, Prosperity, Jobs, and Quality of life. Topics are varied: digital literacy in schools, usage of a centralized, local currency (the “Bristol pound”), organization of Citizen Cafes (roundtables), refugee integration programs, “Towards zero waste” plans, and video sign-language translation, among others.

The submissions made to this site are not presented as a database, but they are eligible to the “Innovation in Politics.” Submissions are exclusive: the “project owner” must be an individual or political body with a position or political mandate. There is also a template for submissions: it must include a title, a short description, and must fall within one of the following categories:

  • Civilization (arts, education, science and European society)
  • Ecology (agriculture, environmental protection, energy)
  • Democracy (participation, transparency, self-determination)
  • Human rights (women’s affairs, equality, minority rights)
  • Prosperity (business environment, technology, finance)
  • Jobs (labor market)
  • Quality of Life (health care, social security, housing, mobility)
  • Community (empowerment, civic involvement)

Also, information about participation, trust-building, and sustainability must be included. Additional information about the project can be added. This year’s deadline was 15 July.

The site mostly focuses on presenting the organization and describing the services they provide. The database is not accessible as a whole, and only after finding past project submissions, they can be identified by categories.

Some cases include an introduction, a short video with an introduction, official web site link, pictures, and a downloadable PDF information leaflet in the project’s language. While some cases only provide a summary, it is worth noticing that Innovation in Politics stipulates that votes for choosing winning projects will be made based on available information.


Citizens Lab

This organization is a European network that links multidisciplinary professionals and activists that created workshops and projects that emphasize citizen engagement and “new approaches on decision-making.” Those workshops, or labs, are “experimental spaces” where prototype approaches are tested on a local level, and if successful, will be extended via Citizens Lab’s network.[1]

Citizens Lab has 23 success stories and initiatives, along with detailed results of member’s network meetings. Principal topics are Urban transformation, Network creation, Community engagement, Democracy, Education, Inclusion, Culture and Arts. Some concrete examples include: transformation of derelict areas into shared public spaces, conferences and meetups to promote similarities between the UK and Hungary (aimed at reducing prejudice), translocal promotion of participatory budgeting, and effective dialogue workshops that seek to “harness collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups.”[2]

Citizens Lab allocates a section of the site to share success stories. But the link appears to be broken (September 2018). No further information is provided about sharing stories via email or social media. Visually, this website is very well done. Navigation-wise, the actual cases are easy to find, and can be filtered by the main topics described above.

Each case description contains a very detailed, experience-based narrative. Some of the methodologies are mentioned but casually, as part of the whole description. There is not a unified template for initiative description. While the free-form description is refreshing, it also complicates finding precise information (method, funding, intended audience, objectives, outcomes, etc.), about the case being shared.


[1] Retrieved from: https://www.citizenslab.eu/labs/

[2] Retrieved from: http://www.artofhosting.org/what-is-aoh/


Written by Luis Roberto Vera,

intern at the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS

First example of participatory budgeting on the national level

[Written by Luis Roberto Vera, trainee in the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS]

After a decade of regional level participatory budgeting event that started in 2008, Portugal is currently developing its first participatory budgeting (hereafter PB) project on a national scale. The initiative is called Participatory Budgeting Portugal (PBP).

PBP differs from other forms of PB not just on the level of applicability. Its budget was formally approved by Portugal’s National Senate, followed by creation of the Charter of Quality of Participatory Budgeting Portugal. This charter focuses on principles such as public regulation, continuity, transparency, deliberative and binding character, education for citizenship, equal access, among others[1]. Similarly, PBP aims at integration that motivates “participation, engagement, trust and loyalty through law.” (Meira, 2018: 280).


Procedure and resources

The deadline for submission of PBP projects was 24 April 2018, and voting will take place from 11 June to 30 September 2018.

The budget for 2018 will be € 5’000,000. It will be divided between 8 allocations: 7 allocations for regions, and one for the national level. 16 projects will be selected – around two projects per allocation. Winning projects could be started during 2018, but must not exceed 24 months for completion.

Citizens over the age of 18 have two votes available: one for their region, and another for the national project. Foreigners legally residing in Portugal can also participate in the procedure. Votes can be cast in person in registered polls, online, or via SMS. A national identification card and number are required to participate in the voting process.

After the submission period ended, the proposed ideas were analysed, and rejected if  “technically unenforceable”, deemed overly vague, or exceeded the amount of € 300,000[2]. For PBP 2018, a total of 692 projects are up for a vote; 419 on a regional level, and 273 on the national level. The main areas of the participatory budgeting: culture, science, education and adult training (in mainland Portugal), while the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores focuses more on justice and internal affairs (ibid: 284). Other areas include health, sports education, environment, agriculture, national defence, social welfare, and tourism [3].

The following are four project examples taken from the pool of 273 PBP ideas, applicable on the national scale and published at opp.gov.pt:


School of Trades — A Study to Relaunch Trades To tackle the shortage of technical professions and crafts in Portugal with courses, support of craftsmen and promotion of their professions Science, Technology and Higher Education


€ 28,428.00 18 months
National Reforestation Plan Rehabilitation of areas damaged (Pinhal de Leiria, Pedrogão, Urso, Dunas de Quiaios, Margaraça, and Covilhã National Forests) by the forest fires of 2017 Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development € 300,000.00 24 months
EBOOK Where You Want — National Digital Reading Platform Creation of a national, online-accessible e-book lending platform. Lending services of e-readers and tablets Culture € 300,000.00 24 months
Ocean Donut – Marine Waste Collection Station Construction of marine waste collection stations. They will be made with 100 % recycled plastic. Start a communication platform on the causes and consequences of ocean pollution Oceans € 300,000.00 24 months

An Excel spreadsheet with 20 examples selected randomly is available here (PBP 2018 National Projects).


Communicating PBP

PBP has a main web page (opp.gov.pt). General information about PB in Portugal is available on that website, along with the 692 projects. They are listed randomly, but can be filtered by scope (regional or national) or by area. There is an informative video that explains the step-by-step process of the voting.

Information about PBP has been circulating in various media since 2017;  while some attention has also been given by internationally, priority has been given to national promotion. Apart from traditional media coverage and publicity, PBP also has relatively active Facebook and Instagram accounts, with a small following (Facebook: 8858; Instagram: 319). Similarly, the main platform of opp.gov.pt provides all the necessary information that could make an average citizen familiar with the process.


Meira Costa, Jorge (2018). “Participatory Budgeting (Portugal) as a marshalling legal process to formally and democratically defining European Monetary System and Policy” in Economic Alternatives, issue 2, 279-295[7].


[1]Retrieved from: https://pbscotland.scot/blog/2017/9/26/charter-of-quality-for-participatory-budgeting-in-portugal

[2] The exact criteria can be found in opp.gov.pt’s FAQ section (in Portuguese only).

[3]Retrieved from: http://www.wri.org/wri-citiesforall/publication/porto-alegre-participatory-budgeting-and-challenge-sustaining

Information on recent participatory budgeting events in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries

[Information collected  by Luis Roberto Vera, trainee in the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS]

The text is available in the PDF format here (PBSpanishPortuguese)


Which Spanish/Portuguese speaking countries are running participatory budgeting events?

  2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Mexico no data no data no data no data
El Salvador no data no data no data no data no data no data no data no data no data
Honduras no data no data no data no data no data no data no data
Nicaragua no data no data no data no data no data no data
Costa Rica no data no data no data no data
Panamá no data no data no data no data no data no data
Cuba no data no data no data no data no data no data
Dominican Republic no data no data no data no data no data
Colombia no data no data
Venezuela no data no data no data
Bolivia no data no data no data no data no data no data no data no data no data
Chile no data
Argentina no data no data no data
Paraguay no data no data no data no data no data no data no data
Uruguay no data no data no data no data no data


Of all the listed countries, El Salvador applied PB in the early 90s as a series of “post-conflict initiatives seeking to repair societal divisions and build linkages to the state,” utilizing donations from USAID, not local funding[7].


Data on what resources (the amount) allocated by citizens in such events




Other regions


Around 100 million euros

no data

Portugal 5 million euros

Porto Allegre





No data

No data

No data

300,000 euros




Mexico City


220 million MXN [about 11.6 million USD]

To be determined

Guatemala 7 million GTQ[8] [about 935, 165 USD]
Costa Rica no data
Argentina no data
Dominican Republic no data
Colombia 209,000 million COP [about 7’185,211 USD]
Venezuela* 32’600,000 VEF [around 271 USD]
Ecuador no data
Peru 151’288,245 PEN [around 46’162,582 USD]
Chile 50 million CLP [around 77800 USD]
Uruguay No data


How many participatory budgeting events have been held in Spanish/Portuguese speaking countries during recent years? 

  2018 2017 2016



Other regions (mainly Andalucía, Murcia and Catalunya


1, municipal level


At least 2 (Zaragoza, Valladolid) insufficient data


1, municipal level


19, (approximately)[2]


1, municipal level


No data


(all regions)

80, municipal level

1, national level

50, regional level[3] At least 1 (Braga), insufficient data[4]

Porto Allegre




Other regions



1, municipal level

1, municipal level

1, municipal level

At least 5


Suspension of PB[5]

1, municipal level

1, municipal level

1, municipal level

At least 5


1, municipal level

1, municipal level

1, municipal level

1, municipal level

At least 5




Mexico City


1, municipal level


1, city-level (approved). To be implemented in 2019


1, municipal level


No data


1, municipal level


[Test period 2015-16]


Guatemala At least 3, municipal level At least 1, municipal level At least 3, municipal level
Costa Rica At least 1, municipal level At least 1, regional level (7 towns) At least 1, regional level (7 towns)
Panama No data At least 1, municipal level At least 1, municipal level
Venezuela 4, regional level At least 2, regional level At least 2, regional level
Ecuador At least 2, municipal level At least 1, regional level At least 2, regional level
Peru At least 1, regional level At least 1, regional level At least 3, regional level
Chile 17, municipal level At least 5, municipal level At least 5, municipal level

Buenos Aires




No data

1, municipal level

1, municipal level


1, municipal level

1, municipal level

No data


1, municipal level

1, municipal level

No data



At least 1, municipal level No data At least 1, municipal level
Paraguay No data No data No data


It is worth mentioning that while data is scarce, countries like Costa Rica, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru have implemented PB policies aimed at indigenous peoples, with the intention of including them in decision-making practices, and to revitalize their trust in political institutions.






[1] Retrieved from: https://www.eldiario.es/madrid/madrilenos-pueden-proyectos-presupuestos-participativos_0_644285695.html

[2] Retrieved from: https://presupuestosparticipativos.com/2017/01/02/los-presupuestos-participativos-en-el-estado-espanol/

[3] Retrieved from: https://opp.gov.pt/winners2017

[4] The site http://www.encuentroiberico.com/ argues that in 2016, Portugal was the European country with most PB events. However, there is no hard data to back the claim.

[5] Retrieved from: https://gauchazh.clicrbs.com.br/porto-alegre/noticia/2017/04/suspensao-das-assembleias-coloca-em-xeque-orcamento-participativo-de-porto-alegre-9762659.html

[6] Retrieved from: https://cerigua.org/article/complace-formulacion-de-presupuesto-participativo/

[7] Blair, Harry (2013). “Participatory budgeting and local governance” in The Imperative of Good Local Governance: Challenges for the Next Decade of Decentralization (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2013), 145-178.

[8] Retrieved from https://www.pressreader.com/guatemala/prensa-libre/20180413/281865824054508

* Developed by donations from the Banesco bank, not public funds.

Toguna – idea crowdsourcing app

A short review of an app that was used to brainstorm ideas during OGP Summit in Paris

Links: Toguna for Android;  Toguna for Iphone


  1. If your audience has smartphones and access to quality wifi, then installing + learning to use Toguna would take around 1 minute. Toguna is easy to install and its usability is quite intuitive.
  2. Toguna it useful if you need to receive some general feedback from your audience over  certain idea/issue/problem – it is very easy for everyone to share their feedback and vote (like/dislike) on the ideas of others. You would also get a general sense on what might be potential solutions to some problem.
  3. It’s a good way to engage your audience if your event does not allow for much time for audience to ask questions/participate in discussion


  1. As an idea crowdsourcing too it is simplistic – the design of the app provileges shorter ideas over those that require more text;
  2. Even though theoretically people can comment on each idea, in reality this option is not being used (again: because of design of the app which privileges sharing ever-new ideas and voting of ideas on others);
  3. In none of the three Toguna discussions( that took place during OGP Summit) the idea that was voted to be the most popular had been particularly innovative or enlightening.

Overall, Toguna a decent app but it encounters the same issues as other crowd brainstorming platforms that I’m aware of: 1) form dominates over considerations of quality content (simplicity for the sake of simplicity); 2) assumption that crowd-voting (rather than epertise) is a good way of discerning between good and bad ideas.

Social media are changing the world

Social networks are changing democracy! In 2016 we have witnessed how the “unthinkable” became reality – how UK decided to part ways with European Union and how against almost all predictions Donald Trump, a property tycoon and reality television star, was elected US commander-in-chief. In 2016 the “war for votes” was raging on not only in the conventional battle ground, but also in the digital environment – especially in social networks and social media. Although many digital tools have significantly contributed to strengthening democratic values by empowering individuals and likeminded groups, some aspects of these technologies may be bringing more harm than good. We are only starting to understand the effect that social networks and other new forms of media can have on democracy and politics, but even now it is clear that we don’t have time to waste.

It has been a common knowledge already for a while that social networks can have a significant impact – they can give voice and power for people who have neither. For example, according to Deen Freelon of the American University in Washington, DC, social networks played a crucial role in getting the Black Lives Matter – a movement fighting police violence against African-Americans, off the ground.[1] Maybe even more important was the role social media and networks played in shaping political debates in Arab Spring.[2] It wouldn’t be that difficult to find countless other positive examples of how social media and social networks have empowered change and social progress, for example, social media facilitated political mobilization in civil unrest in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, the Maidan protests in Ukraine and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, all in 2013 or 2014.[3] But looking only at the positive examples can leave an overly positive and quite possibly misleading impression about the impact of social networks. Unfortunately, there are some reasons to be if not skeptical, then at least to realistically assess the impact social media has on democracy.

Echo chambers and fake news

One of the problematic aspects of social media and social networks in relation to healthy democracy might be the echo chambers they are creating. And it is not a problem affecting only social media and social networks, but a problem affecting internet in general. As elegantly formulated by Mostafa M. El-Bermawy from WIRED: “the internet that was used during Arab spring in 2011 is different from the internet that led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump”.[4]  An echo chamber describes a situation when ideas, information and/or beliefs are amplified by repetition inside an enclosed system. For some of us that perfectly sums up our digital existence in social networks – the algorithm shows us only the content we are likely to like, in other words, the content similar to the one we have consumed before. This in turn leads to another connected problem – the confirmation bias – the psychological tendency for people to embrace new information as affirming their pre-existing beliefs and to ignore evidence that doesn’t.[5]

These problems are exacerbated by the ease of which fake media content can be created and distributed in digital environment. According to the BuzzFeed News, in the final three months of US presidential campaign, the top performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement then the top news stories from major news outlets.[6] The 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook, while the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites lagged behind with only 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments.[7] The most popular of the false news stories were a story claiming Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and a hoax claiming the pope endorsed Trump.[8] But the fake news were not popular only among the Trump supporters, e.g., the viral Trump quote calling Republicans ‘the dumbest group of voters’ was definitely fake as well[9] and Ireland was not and still isn’t planning to accept ‘Trump immigrants’.[10]

Tech or media company

Democrats did not hesitate with blaming Facebook and their fake news problem for their defeat in presidential election.[11] Initially Zuckerberg was quick in dismissing any effect fake news could have on election results, stating that overwhelming majority (~99 %) of content is authentic and the fake content was not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics.[12] After couple of days Facebook did finally recognize the importance of fighting misinformation in their social network and informed about ongoing measures employed to mitigate the problem.[13] Despite these efforts several sources have accused Facebook of doing far too little when it comes to combatting the spread of fake news stories, considering that a majority of US adults – 62 %  – get news on social media.[14] But what Facebook should be doing is partially conditional upon their status. A pressing question is whether Facebook and other social networks should be regarded only as tech companies or as something much more than just that.

In the last few months Facebook has been called in many different names — “a website,” “an internet company,” “a major player in the media universe,” “a strange new class of media outlet,” a “tech behemoth,” and even a “cesspool of nonsense”. Facebook itself has not been too eager in accepting their role as a media outlet and thus taking at least some responsibility that comes with it and persistently continues labelling themselves as only a tech company escaping any additional burden.[15] This reluctance is quite understandable as the status of a media company and a place in the Fourth Estate comes with certain responsibilities when it comes to the content it disseminates. In a democratic society media as a cornerstone of the Fourth Estate is expected to act like watchdog, civic forum, and agenda-setter, holding elected officials to account and bound by longstanding liability laws.[16] Fear of legal hurdles apparently is not the only reason for the reluctance to recognize oneself as a media company, it is also a matter of brand management, talent and revenue.[17]

Moving forward

If everything is so bad with social media and social networks – they are riddled with fake news articles, we are all living in artificial echo chambers and no one has any power or willingness to do something about it – what is the way forward? Firstly, neither the echo chamber problem, fake news, nor the lack of regulatory oversight is a reason enough to dismiss social networks and social media as unfit for healthy democracy. It probably is not a very good idea to label all social networks as media companies and apply the same rules as for traditional journalism, but at the same time Facebook should accept the fact that it is already making billions of editorial decisions every day and should work on how to improve them.[18] Facebook and other social media as a new source of journalism[19], should consider improving the algorithms they use to choose the content users see by reducing the importance of the “engagement” criteria.  Secondly, users of social media and social networks should be more aware of the echo chambers they are living in and approach the available content with slightly more skepticism at the same time urging the networks to embrace their role in the Fourth Estate. Finally, social networks, social media and other influential tech companies should recognize these problems as something serious and deal with them accordingly before many of us have lost any faith in their ability to do so.

[Dainis Pudelis]

[1] Deen Freelon, Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the online struggle for offline justice, Available at: http://cmsimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/beyond_the_hashtags_2016.pdf, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[2] Howard, Philip N. and Duffy, Aiden and Freelon, Deen and Hussain, Muzammil M. and Mari, Will and Maziad, Marwa, Opening Closed Regimes: What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring? (2011). Available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2595096, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[3] The Economist, The signal and the noise, Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21695198-ever-easier-communications-and-ever-growing-data-mountains-are-transforming-politics, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[4] Mostafa M. El-Bermawy , Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy, Available at: https://www.wired.com/2016/11/filter-bubble-destroying-democracy/, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[5] Scott Bixby, theguardian, ‘The end of Trump’: how Facebook deepens millennials’ confirmation bias, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/01/millennials-facebook-politics-bias-social-media, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[6] Craig Silverman, The BuzzFeed News, This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook, Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.luWPbgqrYQ#.pcGYOqeEBx, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Tatianna Amatruda, CNN, That Trump quote calling Republicans ‘the dumbest group of voters’? Fake!, Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/10/politics/trump-quote-facebook-trnd/, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[10] Dan MacGuill, thejournal.ie, FactCheck: No, Ireland is NOT “officially accepting Trump refugees”, Available at: http://www.thejournal.ie/ireland-officially-accepting-trump-refugees-inishturk-facts-3074777-Nov2016/, Accessed:  23.11.2016; Craig Silverman, The BuzzFeed News, This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook, Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.luWPbgqrYQ#.pcGYOqeEBx, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[11] Nancy Scola, Politico, Clinton digital chief: Democrats to target Facebook’s fake news, Available:  http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/clinton-facebook-fake-news-231365, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[12] Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Available at: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103253901916271, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[13] Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Available at: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103269806149061, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[14] Jeffrey Gottfried and Elisa Shearer, Pew Research Centre, News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016, Available at: http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[15] Catherine Buni, The Verge, Facebook won’t call itself a media company. Is it time to reimagine journalism for the digital age?, Available at: http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/16/13655102/facebook-journalism-ethics-media-company-algorithm-tax, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid

[18] Timothy B. Lee, VOX, Mark Zuckerberg is in denial about how Facebook is harming our politics, Available at: http://www.vox.com/new-money/2016/11/6/13509854/facebook-politics-news-bad, Accessed:  23.11.2016

[19] Danny Crichton, Journalism in the Digital Age, Available at: http://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs201/projects/2010-11/Journalism/index8192.html?page_id=30, Accessed:  23.11.2016

Unorthodox ideas on openness, trust, governmental accountability and citizen engagement

Transparency Word Magnifying Glass Sincerity Openness Clarity

Some of the most unorthodox, soul searching ideas heard during the second day of the OGP summit in Paris:

1) Some approaches to public sector accountability might be incompatible with trust in government. For this reason, Sweden is currently trying to move away from its previous governmental philosophy that was based on the principles of the New Public Management (treating State as a result-oriented company that needs to please its clients) in order to experiment with approaches that are less based on the need to control (or to hold someone accountable) and to encourage more trust both within public service and between citizens and the public service.

2) We are used to treating openness as if it were a value in itself, but … is it? Is there anything of value that would be lost if openness were to be perceived only as a means to some more tangible social goal (such as quality education, quality healthcare, quality government, etc?)

3) Concept of open-washing or openness as a double-edged sword. Openness and transparency might be and sometimes are used as tools on behalf of some state entity for dubious purposes – for example, in order to justify some bad policy decisions (say, at least they were taken in an open process!) or to denigrate political competition. Should one encourage openness in such cases as well (in order to strengthen the later plea for consistency – to ‘practice what one preaches’)? This refers back to the previous point: should openness be promoted for the sake of openness or only as a means to some social good?

4) Is there a way to prevent transparency being used as a political tool in hands of populists who gladly use public information for anti-establishment rhetoric but do not apply the same transparency standards to their own actions (remember Trump’s tax returns and dismal performance on Fact Check)?

5) Is there any good evidence that openness does more good than harm? Trust in EU has not visibly improved since the Union became more open a few years ago. Improved openness was not an argument in recent US election as well. It’s also unclear how much of an impact various openness promoting instruments (for example, lobbying regulations) have and how trustworthy are claims of various open-government champions in specific communities on having achieved a huge impact: has there been some neutral evaluations on whether specific claims have/have not been exaggerated in order to ‘sell’ their achievements?

6) Is the term ‘open government’ too abstract, distant and vague to mobilise people (especially in some cultures, such as in Francophone world)? Is there a need for a language change? What about ‘responsive government’?

Those are all open questions without clear answers. And yet I’d probably be less inclined (than before comming to this event) to believe that openness without quality public engagement and citizen education is necessarily a good in intself.


Three cleavages at the heart of OGP

[Part of a series of blogposts from Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris]

Liberal Versus Conservative Two Way Signs 2 Party System

A green two-way street sign pointing to Liberal and Conservative, representing the two dominant political parties and ideologies in national and global politics

Yesterday I’ve noticed that there are three important issues where OGP activists/organizers tend to have differing ‘ideologies’:

Cleavage No 1. Is it benefitial to have as many as possible countries joining OGP even if it might be clear that some of them would not meet the basic standards of openness, citizen engagement, governmental accountability? On one hand, access to OGP process and best practice sharing could motivate transformations; on other hand – this might result in loss of credibility for OGP as a process.  Defining question: is Hungary withdrawing from OGP (link) a good or a bad sign for OGP? What about Morocco making an attempt to join?

Cleavage No 2 (probably inspired by post-Brexit referendum, post-US election worries). Should OGP strive to include as many civil society groups as possible or should it, instead, focus on strengthening and deepening engagement on part of those civil society groups that are directly interested in governance and citizen engagement issues so that they are able to sustain their engagement with the government beyond development of the national action plan? Even if one might wish to do both simultaneously, it is rarely feasible. Defining question:  if given a choice, should OGP activists attempt to extend their network to organisations that have not been interested in OGP agenda or should they try to deepen their existing engagement? In other words, should one go broader or should one go deeper?

Cleavage No 3 (related to No 2). How far OGP should stretch its original mission in order to accomodate the demands of those civic activists and governmental representatives who advocate for having a clear and tangible impact on people’s lives (which is not always easily visible in cases of  increased transparency)? Defining question – would you feel some discomfort if a governmental representative would name an improved digital service (for example, a new heathcare or education electronic system) as a national OGP achievement? On one hand, digital services have little to do with opennness, but, on the other hand, that’s where majority of people are likely to see clear impact on their lives.


OGP and subnational level

This morning I participated in a really good chat on extending OGP to sub-national level. Regional/municipal level governments do some interesting stuff on open government and citizen engagement, yet their work is not so well known due to traditional focus on national level institutions.  I’ve received some excellent tips on where to search for some international benchmarks standarts of urban good governance that will benefit my research (the key tip was helping me to locate research conducted by LSE Urban governance program). 

One problem that would be quite challenging to solve in order to come up with some universal standarts: unlike national level parliaments or governments in democracies, subnational level is extremelly diverse – ranging from huge regions that each has tens of millions of inhabitants and ending with local communes of less than 1000 people. Even more importantly, sub-national units’  competencies and institutional set-ups vary just as much. 

Yes, there might be a way around this by benchmarking open data, citizen engagement, new technology achievements (that would be assumed beneficial irrespective of differences in institutional set-ups), but would that not prohibit all meaningful attempts of best-practice sharing which, after all, rely very much on nuances and in-depth understanding of local specificities? Could there be a better alternative in not separating national/subnational level at all, but instead trying to especially promote those OGP commitmments whose implementation require collaboration between different levels of governance?


OGP Summit – blogging from Paris

Today the opening session of Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit will be livstreamed online.  According to information shared on the event’ s website ‘The OGP summit will involve 3000 representatives from 70 countries: Heads of State and governments, ministers, public servants, members of parliament, local authorities, civil society representatives, start-ups and digital innovators, civic techs, developers, researchers, journalists will gather in Paris to share their experiences and push forward the open government agenda in light of the global challenges.’

We’ll publish the most interestig findings during the three days of the Summit on this website, but I’d like to share some very short preliminary observations on he main benefits and challenges of the OGP process.


  1. the share scale of the initiative – it has been introduced in 70 countries; which allows for unprecedented best practice sharing regarding best methods to open  up government, combat corruption or engage people in decision-making.
  2. it serves as a good opportunity for civil society activists to cooperate and form networks both among themselves and with the government to press for change.


  1. Uncertainty about the relevance of OGP as a process -are there any good initiative that wouldn’t have been implemented had the OGP process not existed? Most countries tend to commit to activities that they would have engaged in anyway, whether OGP process existed or not.
  2. Low level of ambition in commitmments from governments in context of OGP and lack of capacity for civic society organiations to offer a long-term (not ad hoc) collaboration and/or monitoring of OGP commitmment implementation. OGP in some countries is just one transparency-promoting process among many; and may at times even divert attention from exploring other options/processes to push for more rapid change.



Cooperatives in the 21st century



Image: sludgegulper

Kofi Annan has said: “Founded on the principles of private initiative, entrepreneurship and self-employment, underpinned by the values of democracy, equality and solidarity, the co-operative movement can help pave the way to a more just and inclusive economic order.” This quote outlines the opportunities for the co-operative movement as a source of empowerment for people as well as its underlying principles. The history of the cooperative dates back to 19th century Europe, mainly Britain and France. It is not new, and it has a rich history as well as a variety of examples, with differing levels of participation. Cooperatives are attractive, because they are appealing – they bring the idea of participatory democracy to the workplace. They are a strong example of how a mainly economic enterprise can be tightly linked to a democratic practice. This article addresses the role and opportunities for the cooperative in the 21st century.

An interesting research in this area was published in 2010 by The Community Inventors Lab, which is a part of MIT’s Department for Urban Studies and Planning, the name of it “Sustainable Economic Democracy: Worker Cooperatives for the 21st Century”. The paper examines two examples of cooperative practices – Mondragon in Spain and Evergreen in the US. The central idea of the paper is the importance of economic democracy, meaning that “local economic institutions are democratically controlled”.[1] Economic institutions include such sectors as businesses, finance, research and development, as well as education.

The road to economic democracy can be achieved through cooperative ownership of the local economy by those who participate, which in turn helps to root the wealth in local communities and prevents resources from going somewhere else.[2]

There are different types of cooperatives and this article focuses on the idea of the worker cooperative. Workers’ cooperatives still operate for business interests and capital investment is still relevant, however workers’ are involved to a much higher degree and the focus is on cooperation among them. Even though the profit making motive does not leave the enterprise, the involvement of the workers allows for a balance, workers’ interests get taken into consideration. However the report does point out that the successes of cooperatives have been varied, but that does not mean we should not at least discuss their potential.[3] Also it is pointed out that worker cooperatives can operate in a larger network, rather than as separate entities that most probably will suffer in the competitive global market.

The two examples examined in the research provide valuable lessons for the future of the role of cooperatives in a 21st century democracy. For example, Mondragon in Spain developed into a cooperative group, where different cooperatives were working closely together, it allowed for a sharing of a governance structure, pooling of profits and losses and allowed for the movement of worker-owners among different member firms of the group.[4]  The approach of Mondragon includes 4 elements to creating a cooperative group.

The elements are primary cooperatives, secondary cooperatives, spin off cooperatives and lastly the cooperative group. The primary cooperatives are created in the most important sectors, such as industry and retail. The secondary cooperatives along with the spin off ones are created to support the primary ones and expand the network. Lastly the creation of a cooperative group allows for risk and resource pooling, as well as increased mobility. In addition, it is important not to forget that these cooperatives were established in different sectors, such as industry, retail, finance and education.

This strategy of diversification allowed for Mondragon to remain competitive. The ability to move between different cooperatives allowed for flexibility and in a growingly competitive market, this is of importance – the ability to adjust and learn quickly. The amount of different cooperatives allowed for one to produce what the other ones could not and exchanging amongst themselves and thus eliminating the need for importing things. Of course, there are those, who argue that each case is unique and successes cannot be replicated one to one, but certain lessons do appear. For example, the necessity for an interconnected network and a diversified approach. One must also remember that the model of Mondragon was developed over decades and this kind of a strategy requires long term planning.

The Evergreen enterprise took the example of Mondragon, but adjusted it to their own specific circumstances, focusing on one central local institution and branched out from there. Different cooperatives are responsible for different aspects, the same as in Mondragon – one for finance, one for leading, another for funding and lastly one that is responsible for governing.  So it adjusts the model of cooperative networks for its own internal needs.

The report points out the main things that are useful for the future of cooperatives in the 21st century[5]:

  • A defined geographic area
  • A local network known as the ecosystem
  • Internally driven economic development, where imports are replaced by the cooperative network’s participants supporting each other

Lastly the research outlines the values that should guide this kind of an approach – a strong, but democratic leadership, values of local ownership and solidarity, education as a tool for expanding networks and lastly cooperatives as organizing entities that help to organize people according to common interest, transcending, for example, racial or ethnic divides.

There are millions of people working in cooperatives in the 21st century, however, it is sometimes forgotten that they in effect are democratic entities. Maybe something can indeed be learned from these two examples. Because democracy is about people getting involved and where is it more appropriate than in the workplace, where many of us spend our daily hours? It is about having a stake and thus an interest into what happens to you in the workplace, as well as to your colleagues.

[1] Nicholas Iuviene, Amy Stitely, Lorlene Hoyt, „Sustainable Economic Democracy :  Worker Cooperatives for the 21st Century,”The Community Inventors Lab, October 2010, p 5.

[2] Ibid, p 5.

[3] Ibid, p 7.

[4] Ibid, p 8.

[5] Nicholas Iuviene, Amy Stitely, Lorlene Hoyt, „Sustainable Economic Democracy :  Worker Cooperatives for the 21st Century,”The Community Inventors Lab, October 2010, p 26.


The publication was performed in the framework of the project “PROVIDUS – a partner of state in policy planning and policy making process“.

Project is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in framework of NGO Activity Support Measure.

NGO Activity Support Measure is financed with financial support from EEA Financial Mechanism and Republic of Latvia.