On International Day of Democracy, International Leaders Call for More Open Public Institutions

The GovLab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Publishes the CrowdLaw Manifesto, Collects Signatures in Support of Principles to Spread Democracy through Digital Collaboration

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One year after thought leaders gathered at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy to lay the foundation for CrowdLaw, more than 100 government and citizen groups have already implemented its practices to improve governance through 21st-century technology and tools.

BROOKLYN, New York, Thursday, September 13, 2018 – As the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Democracy on September 15 with its theme of “Democracy Under Strain,” The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering will unveil its CrowdLaw Manifesto to strengthen public participation in lawmaking by encouraging citizens to help build, shape, and influence the laws and policies that affect their daily lives. 

Among its 12 calls to action to individuals, legislatures, researchers and technology designers, the manifesto encourages the public to demand and institutions to create new mechanisms to harness collective intelligence to improve the quality of lawmaking as well as more research on what works to build a global movement for participatory democracy.

The CrowdLaw Manifesto emerged from a collaborative effort of 20 international experts and CrowdLaw community members. At a convening held earlier this year by The GovLab at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, government leaders, academics, NGOs, and technologists formulated the CrowdLaw Manifesto to detail the initiative’s foundational principles and to encourage greater implementation of CrowdLaw practices to improve governance through 21st century technology and tools.

Beth Simone Noveck, professor in the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU Tandon and director of The GovLab, explained the timely significance of the CrowdLaw Manifesto as governments around the globe face greater public distrust and threats to democracy. 

“This manifesto shares what we see as the future of governing, which moves beyond viewing public opinion and petitions as the main form of civic engagement,” Noveck said. “Technology enables us to collectively ask and answer how we should redesign our governing practices to solve the complex policy challenges of the 21st century at local, national, and global levels. We ask citizens throughout the world to join us as signatories to this manifesto and thereby encourage democracy to put down strong roots in communities everywhere.”

The global embrace of CrowdLaw principles is demonstrated by international launches planned for the Crowd Law Manifesto: at Reworks Agora in Agora, Greece — the birthplace of democracy — on September 16,  and at Nesta’s Designing Collective Intelligence event in London on September 17. 

More than 30 organizations and 80 individuals working on citizen engagement and democracy worldwide have already signed the manifesto. Signatories include

  • Madrid City Council
  • Sabine Romon, chief smart city officer, General Secretariat, Paris City Council
  • Ben Kallos, New York City Council member, District 5 (Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, East Midtown, East Harlem), New York City Council
  • Audrey Tang, digital minister of Taiwan
  • Raffaele Lillo, chief data officer, Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy
  • Mukelani Dimba, civil society co-chair, Open Government Partnership

“The successes of the CrowdLaw concept — and its remarkably rapid adoption across the world by citizens seeking to affect change — exemplify the powerful force that academia can exert when working in concert with government and citizens,” said NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević. “On behalf of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, I proudly sign the CrowdLaw Manfesto and congratulate The GovLab and its collaborators for  creating these digital tools and momentum for good government.”

“One of the most urgent debates of our time is about the exact role that these new technologies can and should play in our societies and particularly in our public decision-making processes,” said Victoria Alsina, research professor in the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU Tandon and coordinator of the CrowdLaw Initiative at The GovLab. “By exploiting technology to engage a broader and more diverse constituency in the lawmaking process, CrowdLaw has the potential to enhance the quality of lawmaking practices and to transform fundamentally the source of authority undergirding the legislative process.”

In July 2018, the GovLab debuted the CrowdLaw Catalog as an online platform to bring together real-world examples of CrowdLaw projects from 39 countries. With over 100 cases of public participatory lawmaking listed, the online portal aims to help civic leaders create new projects or bolster existing ones, and encourages users to continue adding more CrowdLaw cases to increase research and evaluation of these practices. 

To complement its work on CrowdLaw, The GovLab at NYU Tandon together with NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge is launching a lecture series, “The Future of Democracy.”

Drafters and signatories of the CrowdLaw Manifesto explained its importance in spreading democracy:

 “CrowdLaw is an exciting new concept that seeks to encourage deep citizen engagement throughout each phase of law and policy-making processes. Instead of passive participation in public governance through democratic rituals such as voting every four or five years. CrowdLaw innovations enable active citizenship continuously. I believe this can be an essential part of the arsenal for pushing back against the retreat of democracy that seems to have become a defining feature of politics globally.” – Mukelani Dimba, co-chair, Open Government Partnership

“Democratic governance institutions need to experiment and adapt if they are to harness rapid technological change rather than be overwhelmed by it. CrowdLaw provides just that sort of innovation by delivering with a wide range of tools that elected officials can use to engage citizens in policy-making processes. The Design4Democracy.org coalition — a growing group of democracy and human rights organizations, which NDI supports — is committed to ensuring the technology industry embraces democracy as a core design principle. CrowdLaw is a shining example, the embodiment of this philosophy.” – Scott Hubli, director of governance programs, NDI

"In a time of major threats to democracy, such as populism, technological manipulation, and greater complexity, CrowdLaw is the most interesting and inspiring idea I've ever heard on how we can improve the quality of our laws and public decisions, and save democracy." – Josep Lluis Marti, vice-rector and associate professor, Pompeu Fabra University

"I have signed it. You have all my good wishes and support. I think this is a good idea and needs to be expanded.” – Sam Pitroda, chairman, Pitroda Group, and former advisor to the prime minister of India on public information, infrastructure and innovation

To download map, visit http://dam.engineering.nyu.edu/?c=2116&k=b0aa11f384

About The Governance Lab

The Governance Lab’s mission is to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal at The GovLab is to strengthen the ability of institutions — including but not limited to governments — and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit thegovlab.org.

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.