Authors: John W. Gastil
June 2016
Publication:
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School
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Dozens—and possibly hundreds—of online platforms have been built in the past decade to facilitate specific forms of civic engagement. Unconnected to each other, let alone an integrated system easy for citizens to use, these platforms cannot begin to realize their full potential. The author proposes a massive collaborative project to build an integrated platform called, tongue squarely in cheek, “The Democracy Machine.” The Machine draws on public energy and ideas, mixing those into concrete policy advice, influencing government decision making, and creating a feedback loop that helps officials and citizens track progress together as they continuously turn the policymaking crank. This online system could help to harmonize civic leaders, vocal and marginalized citizens, and government. Democracy’s need for ongoing public consultation would fuel the Machine, which would, in turn, generate the empowered deliberation and public legitimacy that government needs to make tough policy decisions.

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