In his latest blog post at Nesta, Geoff Mulgan – recently appointed Senior Visiting Scholar at Harvard Kennedy School – looks at the “practical question of how parliaments, assemblies and governments should choose the right methods for greater public engagement in decisions.” He includes a number of requirements for successful digital democracy, including clarity of purpose, clarity on requisite scale, and clarity on identity and anonymity.
“Crowds can help with many tasks. But they are particularly badly suited to the job of designing new institutions, or crafting radical strategies, or combining discrete policies into coherent programmes. This still tends to be the preserve of quite small groups, in intense face to face conversation.
As a result my guess is that the most successful models in the next few years will fuse representative and direct elements. They will be honest that the buck still stops with elected representatives – and that the online tools are inputs and supplements rather than replacements. They will present conversation and deliberation as preferable to relying on occasional elections, and the odd binary petition. But they will also be clear that the 21st century parliament or city council has to be a hybrid too – physical and digital.”