New methodology to improve participatory democracy
nächste Meldung 07.11.2008
Researchers from the Decision Analysis and Statistics Group within the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s School of Computing have developed a methodology for improving participatory democracy that could be ready for the Spain’s next local elections due to be held in 2011.
Over 240 Spanish municipalities had a go at participatory budgeting in 2004, and it is estimated that by 2010 citizens will be helping to decide how to allocate 10% of the municipal budget. Until now, though, these participatory budgeting experiences have been carried through without the software to gather citizens’ opinions in real time and then clearly display their preferences as charts on politicians’ computers.
Organizing opinion via the Internet
The School of Computing’s research group, composed of computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians, has developed this methodology using new technologies, particularly the Internet, as support for organizing and optimizing citizen participation. The methodology is now two-thirds complete and could be applied on the scale of either a municipality or a whole country.
The aim of this methodology is to add citizens’ preferences to political decision-making processes. This it does by establishing a number of questions that citizens answer over the Internet. Duly converted to statistical values, these responses indicate citizens’ opinions on the decision to be taken by politicians in the shape of a chart. A code system prevents people not on the electoral roll from participating.
The methodology represents participants’ beliefs and preferences, evaluating the different budget alternatives based on Dempster and Shafer’s evidential reasoning and ranking the alternatives using a notion of distance from maximum and minimum utility.
Participatory budgeting is shifting the idea of democracy from representation, where citizens’ preferences are taken into account at election time only, to direct participation and discussion. This is an attempt at giving citizens a say in the decision on how to spend part of their municipality’s budget.
The Decision Analysis and Statistics Research Group has collaborated and is now actively participating in several research projects focusing on the development of software tools targeting e-democracy and, especially, participatory budgeting.
They include TED: Towards Electronic Democracy, funded by the European Science Foundation (2003/06); eDemocracia: Apoyo a la Toma de Decisiones Complejas Basadas en Internet (e-Democracy: Internet-based Complex Decision-Making Support), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2004/07); Conceptos y Sistemas de Apoyo a la Democracia Electrónica (Electronic Democracy Concepts and Support Systems), funded through Madrid Regional Government’s IV PRICIT (2006/09); and Toma de Decisiones en Grupo con Imprecisión (Imprecise Group Decision Making), funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (2008/2011).
PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY vs REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY
Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.
This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.
Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.
In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.
In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
New methodology to improve participatory democracy