The Crowdsourced Constitution

Everyone’s buzzing about Iceland’s crowdsourced constitution. Iceland’s democratic legacy is long – going all the way back to c. 930 making it the world’s oldest practicing legislative assembly. The island was under various states of rule through the years until it formally became its own independent republic in the 40s when it developed its most recent constitution. Now, more than sixty years later, Iceland is testing the waters of democracy again as it asks its 320,000 citizens for ideas, revisions, and suggestions for its new draft of the constitution… on Facebook (among other channels).

Some people are skeptical, but the crowdsourcing world is certainly paying close attention to this latest experiment. The most recent draft of the constitution is maintained on a government website while ongoing feedback conversation threads are managed on the Stjornlagard Facebook and Twitter pages (with Twitter prompting the conversations and Facebook logging away all of the comments). Anyone can sit in on public meetings of the Constitutional Council through online video feeds and send their feedback through a variety of channels.

This method of sourcing the public for help in addressing issues that affect them is something that is happening here in the U.S. right now as well. The FCC, for example, worked with Ideascale in sourcing feedback for the National Broadband Plan that could have a significant long-term impact on the public. The FCC wanted to lower the barriers to participation in the feedback process and so solicited the public’s opinion using the Ideascale platform. As a result, the FCC received more than 60,000 responses from the public (an unprecedented number) and the highest number of Public Notices ever published. And, of course, those conversations strongly influenced what is currently the most recent draft of the National Broadband plan. You can read more about Ideascale and the FCC here.

As Iceland’s process draws to a close at the end of June, Iceland will have given new meaning to the resounding impact of the phrase “We the people…” It will be interesting to see the final draft and the public’s response to it.

What do you think about Iceland’s constitutional experiment? What role does the crowdsourcing platform play in the public’s response? How can we continue to engage the community in democracy here in America?

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