Adhocracy is an open source software, implemented on various online-platforms thereby enabling citizen participation and collaborative working on texts, strategies and urban planning projects. The free and open source online-tool was launched by the Liquid Democracy Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 2009 in Berlin. The Liquid Democracy Association sees participation as one of the most basic elements of and challenges to contemporary democratic societies. To successfully master this challenge of participation and to achieve the best outcome from it, the Liquid Democracy Association has developed and provided Adhocracy, a tool combining the potential of technical innovation and a broad background knowledge on democracy. Adhocracy has been developed in order to make political and public discourses and decision-making processes more open, more transparent, commonly accessible and as a result all the more effective. Believing that participation is multifaceted and commonly needed, Adhocracy is constructed as a modular software, allowing its application to various contexts and user groups such as civil associations, regional projects and of course politics and administration. Adhocracy is a flexible instrument, which stands in the context of technical innovation, social change and the more and more complex decisions societies are facing today.
To guarantee the continuous further development of the concepts, projects and participation software Adhocracy, the Liquid Democracy Association works in reiterative cycles: Adhocracy (development of the open source software, testing it and developing new ideas for its application); Adhocracy.de, Ypart and OffeneKommune (application of the software on the three participation platforms); FoLD (research network of various institutions that evaluate online participation processes based on Adhocracy).
Online tools and e-participation
Under the influence of the Internet, diverse and constantly expanding forms of public communication are more and more understood as an opportunity for a stronger integration of direct-democratic elements into (political) decision-making and public governance. This hope, put on the use of the Internet and digital media technologies, is based on the idea, that democratic participation can become more effective by using new and different ways of formal organisation through online-tools, which supplement offline processes.
Another thought, illustrating the potential of online-based tools is the idea that with the help of online-tools and e-participation, it becomes possible to involve more people and broader publics in political decision-making. Recently, it has often been referred to the notable gap between the level of civil information on the one hand, and the comparably low level of civil participation on the other hand: while more and more people have interest and background knowledge in politics, real political participation still has to be supported and fostered. Through involving broader publics in the communication and decision-making process form the very start, decision-making becomes more effective and more credible since the resulting decisions are born by the broader public. There is reason to believe that a higher level of participation and integration will help to improve the acceptance of political actions, countering a documented „loss of legitimacy“ on the side of public decision makers in politics and in administrations. Here, online-tools can provide a low-threshold and cost-effective solution for participation and a modern idea of democracy.
The Adhocracy platform (adhocracy.de)
Adhocracy enables users to commonly discuss political matters or interests and to critically engage with them by using the tool’s different functions, such as commenting, discussing and ranking. Adhocracy thus allows the production of accessible discourses and their evaluation with a dynamic feed-back-culture that can take place during the discussion. At the same time, discussions on Adhocracy can be monitored by users or administrators, so that the process of communication and decision-making is transparent and visible to every user and comprehensible for the public. This helps to follow and retrace the decision-making and public discourses from the very incipient discussion to the resulting outcomes. On online platforms implementing Adhocracy, political issues and matters of public interest can be discussed openly and collaboratively with everyone who wishes to engage. The outcome of Adhocracy supported collaborative participation processes reach from collaborative text-work, drafting of charters to concrete and comprehensible decisions.
As Adhocracy offers the possibility to assign various roles to the different stakeholders involved in a participation process, the tool offers an effective solution for moderation and organisation of the whole communicating process. Consequently, interested citizens can actively contribute to the matters and discussions that interest them, time and place independently. After a basic registration with a username and a password, every member of a launched Adhocracy-platform can produce, read, comment, evaluate and follow the discussions online.
Features in Adhocracy
Adhocracy has so far been used in different contexts united by the principle aim to facilitate low-threshold and accessible participation. Its modular structure allows for the Adhocracy software to be applied to different situations and matters of discussion – for example regional urban-planning groups, youth organisations, political parties, students’ lobbies, associations and more. In the following we want to list the main features of Adhocracy that contribute to the process of effective decision-making and transparent discussions.
To begin with, Adhocracy works independently of the place and time from where or in which participants chose to engage with the discussions that are held on the platform. Users can follow discussions and engage, no matter from where they are. This helps to avoid barriers that arise in classical offline-participation. Secondly, Adhocracy is collaborative and thus enables transparent interaction. Decisions thus become credible and comprehensible. At the same time, the online-participation process enables each individual stating personal opinions, share knowledge to a community and to be informed and involved into the process of decision-making. As Adhocracy works with feedback functions and comments, it is a low-threshold and dynamic feature that meets innovation and participation. Adhocracy therefor can act as a joint between politics, administration and citizens.
Adhocracy and Policy Compass
The Policy Compass wants to effectively evaluate European policies and open the discourse on these. In this context it is an important research question, how various methods and tools can effectively be integrated in this process in order to increase the power of collaborative tools for policy making and evaluation, without sacrificing usability and inclusiveness. The efficiency of collaborative work and the achievement of high-quality participation are thus important matters in the context of the Policy Compass. To this effect, Adhocracy functions as a tool for both, the internal discussion on the Policy Compass and as an initial participation platform, as the software offers discursive and participative structures at the same time. The choice for Adhocracy in the context of the Policy Compass is based on specific features such as it being an open source software and a generic purpose platform enabling text editing, discourse, delegation and voting. These features guarantee a qualified process of discussion or decision making with a large number of users. Adhocracy has already been used by a wide range of user communities and within a wide range of contexts with different stakeholders in projects in Europe and Africa.Thus, within the Policy Compass project the Adhocracy service is implemented to facilitate discussions on various levels. On the one hand, users will be able to communicate with each other more generally about topics and policies of their interest – perhaps also to start off the collaborative work and research they are planning to conduct on the platform. On the other hand, Adhocracy services will be implemented in such a way that users can discuss individual elements that have been produced on the Policy Compass platform itself, such as metrics and visualisations thereof. The aim is to integrate the discussion and proposal functions of Adhocracy in such a way that all metrics, Fuzzy Cognitive Maps, historical events and metrics visualisations that are created by the Policy Compass community can be discussed. Ideally this way the Policy Compass community can help each other in researching and testing the policies that interest them. Another goal for a later stage of the platform is to closely integrate Adhocracy with the argumentation service Carneades to find a way to visualise discussions and debates.
Current and past projects (excerpt)
Adhocracy is deployed in various exciting projects:
Urban living was initiated by the city of Berlin to discuss an architectural competition in which different architects presented their proposals for various (empty) spaces and properties in Berlin. This was used as an opportunity to discuss pressing issues and topics about social housing, housing prices, etc.
In a huge referendum in 2014 the citizens of Berlin decided to keep the Tempelhofer Feld as a park for recreational activities. What should happen to the former airport in the heart of Berlin is discussed and decided online with Adhocracy.
publixphere.net & noc.publixphere.net
Publixphere is a German platform for debates about European politics, which also organises the Network of Internet and Society Research Centers in collaboration with partners such as the Alexander von Humbodt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
The charitable servers of the Liquid Democracy Association include:
Anyone can start their own participation or collaborative work processes on adhocracy.de for free. Go to the website to check out one of the over 500 participation projects.
Ypart is designed for international Youth participation projects.
On OffeneKommune.de all German municipalities have the chance to involve their citizens.