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Democratic Regeneration Through Technology: Learning From Podemos in Spain

Turning Grassroots Activism into Participatory, Accountable Governance

Background

Since 2008, Europe has faced its deepest economic and political crisis since Second World War. In this context, new social movements and political parties are emerging, particularly in Southern European democracies. Podemos, a new Spanish political party born from grassroots activism and protests (Indignados Movement), is trying to reinvigorate public institutions that have lost the trust of the public introducing massive online direct democracy participation mechanisms where Spanish citizens can deliberate, make and vote proposals, ask questions of Podemos leaders, and even propose and built projects for which to use party money. The citizen’s response to this political initiative is being overwhelming.

Description

This project seeks to analyze how digital tools can be used to implement a more direct and participatory democracy. We will be thinking about what makes a digital participation process fair and effective, when can digital participation be used to make binding decisions, when is it better used to seek input, and how can its use be improved. To accomplish that, we will discuss the structure and functioning of Podemos' participation tools to promote crowdsourcing, crowdvoting and crowdfunding initiatives, the thinking behind each of them, and the strengths and weaknesses of each platform. We will then present 'best practices' based on these observations.

Impact

Using Podemos as a case study, this project is theoretically and socially relevant because it aims to analyze how new technologies can better serve to democratic regeneration and propose recommendations to help other political parties around the world, and across the spectrum, that want to experiment using technology to become more democratic. In other words, our hope is that learning from this unique contemporary experience of direct democracy, we can help other political parties build on what Podemos has done. It is important to highlight that these lessons can be also useful for other public and private institutions (profit and non-profit) interacting with citizens to provide services of general interest.

Location: Madrid, Spain

Project Website: https://technologicalalgora.wordpress.com

Team

Victòria Alsina

Jake Silberg

Luis Alegre

Miguel Ardanuy

Carolina Bescansa

Pablo Iglesias

Eric Labuske

Pablo Soto

Partners

The Challenge to Design a Technological Agora, Harvard Study Group