Building a Democracy Machine: Toward an Integrated and Empowered Form of Civic Engagement

December 07, 2016 by John Gastil

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Dozens—and possibly hundreds—of online platforms have been built in the past decade to facilitate speci c 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, in uencing government decision making, and creating a feedback loop that helps of cials and citizens track progress together as they continuously turn the pol- icymaking crank. This online system could help to harmonize civic leaders, vocal and marginalized citizens, and government. Democracy’s need for ongoing public consul- tation would fuel the Machine, which would, in turn, generate the empowered delib- eration and public legitimacy that government needs to make tough policy decisions.