Crowdsourcing constitutions: Iceland takes the wisdom of crowds to a whole new levelPosted 20 June 2011 by Sandy Cosser
Aside from the occasionally erupting volcano, Iceland tends to remain under the average person’s attention radar. But, if you’re into digital media, or follow the world’s changing democratic regimes, Iceland may have popped into your sphere of awareness as it embarks on an ambitious political strategy. You see, Iceland is drafting a new constitution and it’s using social media to do so.
Iceland’s old constitution is old indeed (although not as old as the US’s constitution). It was adopted, almost unchanged, from the Danish constitution in 1944. Its values reflected the Danish values of that time, which had been imposed on the Icelandic people who were under Danish rule.
After the economic meltdown in 2008, the government recognised that some key factors had to change if the country was to bounce back more resilient than ever. The constitution is, arguably, the single most important factor to be reconsidered.
To kick-start the crowdsourcing campaign, approximately 1000 citizens where chosen at random to attend the National Conference on the Constitution where they could participate in discussions regarding what needs to be changed and how the changes should be made. A committee was elected to manage the online crowdsourcing campaign and ensure the process remained transparent and above board.
The county’s official website was used to post new clauses for open discussion – inspiring a wealth of comments and opinions. A Facebook page was created for further discussion and debate, as well as to keep citizens up to date with developments in real time. Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have also been put to good use.
Thorvaldur Gylfason, who is a member of Iceland’s constitutional council, says that the council is happy with the level of participation, which has been high. In an interview with the Guardian, Gylfason said, “The public have added much to our debate. Their comments have been quite helpful and they have had a positive effect on the outcome.”
Nepal’s political social networking uprising
Nepal is also using social media to promote political aims. Young Nepalese have created Facebook pages and groups intended to put pressure on political parties to draw up a constitution, which is a year overdue.
It’s not exactly an uprising, not like we’ve seen in Egypt and Libya, but it’s still a concentrated effort to make the government act in the interests of the people.
Interestingly, the social networkers claim to be apolitical. They have no party affiliation; they aren’t trying to be revolutionary. All they want is a working constitution that guarantees them their rights.
Iceland sets a brave example
In a time when businesses are still nervous about using crowdsourcing to develop products or improve services, the fact that Iceland is using it to draft something as important as its constitution takes enormous courage. Not to mention trust in the people.
With a country placing its future into the crowd’s hands, what’s stopping businesses from following suit?