Parliament & Citizens (Parlement et Citoyens) is a transparency and collaboration tool that allows representatives to involve citizens in drafting their bills. The platform proposes a new way for citizens to take part in the legislative process by co-designing laws.
- Holding organisation: Smartgov
- Status: French not for profit association (association loi 1901)
- Financing: Current platform developed with volunteers/ No first direct seek for financing (except for private donations made available on the website. A crowdfunding call has been launched for one current law proposal for Prison New law co-construction. Process: First have a quickstart on the social construction of the project then test the social utility to get funding.
- People involved in the project: 5 persons/ 1 founder & spokesperson/1 designer/ 2web developers/ 1 philosopher + 1 Scientific Committee (Political sciences researchers) https://www.parlement-et-citoyens.fr/equipe
- Public Partners: Public utility Foundations from Right and Left Wing political background (agreement to share the process with their own network); a support committee made of political personalities ; 6 Members of the French National Assembly (senators and MPs) participating in the BETA phase.
- Private partners: Presently no companies/ Not against Companies Foundations but need to abide with the charter to guarantee the maximum independence.
- Creation Date: 13th february 2013
- Contact Persons: Armel LE COZ armel à smartgov.fr
- Main project links: https://www.parlement-et-citoyens.fr
A webplatform to co-design laws: thanks to new technologies and internet, there are new ways for citizens to directly get involve in the legislative process and shorten the usual distance to their representatives. This is what Parliament & Citizens proposes: a platform well designed and open source developed to enable collective intelligence and make more efficient and responsible laws.
The local context
Many European States experience a continuing rise in the abstention rate at their general elections. For instance in France, 39% of voters didn’t go to the polls for the second round of the 2012 legislative elections. This phenomenon is even more striking in eastern ex-communist States; the participation rates never exceed 60% and go below 50% at local elections. In Romania, only 39,2% of voters participated in the 2008 elections. SOURCE In response to the Anglo-Saxon movement around Open government (OpenGov) or Open Knowledge, some initiatives have emerged in Francophone countries to better associate citizens on the policy making. Open government aims at promoting:
- Transparency: which guarantees trust between the citizen and politics. For instance, different States have started sharing their data online.
- Citizen partnership: governments are consulting citizens for decisions by offering new communication channels for online participation.
- Collaboration: with the different civil society movements
The starting point
After experiencing the different biases and opacity in the law making process, Cyril Lage a consultant for public policy for nearly 10 years then French parliamentary collaborator started developing in 2009 a methodology to enhance dialogue between MPs and citizens. His idea was to open-up the legislative process currently dominated by organized influent lobbies. In 2011, he met Armel, a service designer who has been creating different participatory tools for local authorities in France to make public policy more efficient. They finally met Bastien and Simon 2 young passionate about Open Source Development who created the functional prototype of the platform. In the frame of different meetings organized by the FING (Fondation Internet nouvelle generation/ Foundation for the New Internet Generation) followed with online discussions with citizens involved in new democratic systems in France, Quebec, Belgium or Tunisia, they all together decided to launch a new collective “Démocratie ouverte (Open Democracy) to promote Open Government in French-speaking countries and better connect its active stakeholders. 2 decisive steps in the project 1/ The first GovCamp organized in April 2012 at the National Assembly was an in situ informal debate to explain the project among citizens and elected persons from 8 francophone countries. The rich interactions and following online discussions had a specific resonance as they occurred at a period of democratic instability in different participating countries (i.e Tunisia and the Arab Spring). 2/ This meeting resulted in the creation of a support committee combining different political public figures. Their public videos had a viral impact on the web and contributed to the project larger spread and the motivation of different representatives to join the BETA project. Claire, a pragmatic philosopher finally joined the team to provide the project with a theoretical frame. She created a Scientific Committee of more than 40 researchers and teachers who will use the platform’s quantitative and qualitative material to present organized proposals to the representatives (cartography of arguments/ trends and illustrations). In February 2013, the new “Parlement et Citoyens platform was publicly launched. ALL INFO: https://www.parlement-et-citoyens.fr/lhistoire
How does it work today?
The project follows a seven steps methodology.
- Each representative can use the platform by publishing a "subject" dedicated to become a bill (law proposition). The first step is to present this subject with a video and a detailed online description.
- Once the subject is published, every citizen is invited to participate. Comments and color vote allows participants to give a feedback to the representative. Everyone can also make new proposals and give ideas to build a better bill.
- A crowdsourcing step enables data and sources to be collected to document the subject.
- Our team analyzes all contributions and publish a detailed overview.
- A filmed debate is organized with the representative and a selection of participants: those whose contributions were most liked on the platform and drawn participants.
- After all this collaborative process, the representative writes the bill and publish it on the platform with an instructive video to explain their choices.
- The last step enables citizens to support the co-designed bill on social networks and to their own representatives.
Participation and Governance
Target People The platform aims at providing the space for anyone to transparently share his or her position on societal issues raised by the representatives. Anyone can register on the platform from individuals to organizations. It is free with very basic information; people can choose to remain anonymous; only is displayed the user name (i.e duty of discretion in the administration). People can also choose the kind of display for their contributions (anonymous or not). An important ergonomic work has be made to secure and ensure the quality of the contributions. It is not a forum platform rather a place where you can validate or not the representative’s ideas through online voting (agree/ don’t agree/uncertain) and additional proposals for each category:
- the societal problem (i.e lack of trust of French citizens towards their representatives),
- the causes of the societal problem ( i.e. MP’s are not representative enough of the society),
- the issues raised by the problem (i.e. make the French democratic system work better),
You can also vote for the other contributors’ additional proposals but you cannot comment on them.
Partners The representatives from the French National Assembly and the Senate were receptive to the project. Thanks to the partnership with different political think tanks, 6 representatives from different political parties accepted to be part of the 1year BETA project. They indeed find the need for more public pedagogy in their daily work and break misconceptions on their tasks. The 6 first representatives will raise 6 societal issues. For instance, one representative has launched a debate on imprisonment issues: “How to make Prison useful”. A crowdfunding call is linked to this project to enlarge the contributions from the ground: http://www.kisskissbankbank.com/prisons-faites-la-loi Aims: Organise writing sessions with prisoners to help them build an opinion on the subject, participate in the platform and suggest solutions.
Added value of the project and making resources available
- Pedagogy and knowledge on the legislative process and societal issues
- Openness and transparency on the law-making steps
- Direct participation of citizens in societal issues through user-based accessible tools
- Research and analysis on participatory features through the platform and ways to better associate citizens and get their contributions
Political challenge They invited all the political Foundations to participate in the project (even extreme wing parties). The fact one extreme right-wing representative was part of the project has had a repelling effect for the extreme left-wing representative who hesitated in carrying on the project. The team didn’t want to interfere in political mediation and was extremely watchful on its independence. The problem resolved itself. The team conducted a thorough pedagogic work with the representatives to make them feel secure: not questioning their status but their tools, introducing them to the different possibilities of open democracy, demultiplying the means for deeper citizens’ contribution
Administrative challenge This platform should be a public service; this recalls the problem of financing (What source? How to ensure independence? ). Some links could be developed with the presidency of the National Assembly and the Senate; no specific parliamentary budget is however presently available for this kind of project.
- Strengthen and enlarge the contribution tools: new modes for collaborative opinion setting, organizing physical meetings that could be published on the platform, game cards and writing workshops to help build opinions and adapt to non literary profiles.
- Adapt the tool to other legislative contexts:
- Emerging ideas to adapt it at the local and European levels.
- Ongoing contacts for replication in Quebec, Morocco, Sénégal, Tunisia, Belgium, Switzerland or Spain.
- Develop new partnerships:
- With existing lobbies and NGOs to incite them to register and participate in the platform and debates.
- With schools and universities: to use the platform as a pedagogic interactive tool for citizenship.
- With opendata and opengovernment collectives to constantly improve the platform.
- Ensure the platform financial stability.
Proposals for change
- Start from the micro to the macro level
- Build on animation methods for smaller groups
- Make Neighborouhood Councils work on more diverse issues than solely “dogs’ excrement and the color of benches”.
- Ensure more co-construction in all the consultative organizations.