Section: New Software and Platforms

AppCivist-PB: A Platform for Democratic Assembly Customized for Participatory Budgeting

Participants : Valérie Issarny [contact] , Cristhian Parra Trepowski, Rafael Angarita.

Participatory budgeting processes are among the most illustrative, real-life experiences of participatory democracy. Participatory Budgeting (PB) has its beginnings in the late 1980s, when some Brazilian cities started to experiment with processes of citizen participation in decisions about how to better allocate part of the city's budget. Although PB takes different forms, they can all be considered as refining the following base process: residents of a city propose spending ideas, volunteers or delegates develop those ideas into proposals, residents then vote on the proposals, and the government finally implements the winning projects. Since the 1980s, PB processes have spread around the world as a set of administrative reforms and, more recently, as a "best practice" in mainstream international development.

With AppCivist-PB, we want to enable city governments to configure the software assemblies that best match the requirements of the kind of PB campaign they want to support, while leveraging existing software services and components. However, from the overall perspective of participatory democracy, our goal is primarily to facilitate the elaboration of proposals by citizen assemblies that form according to the citizen interests. In other words, we want to support a process that emphasizes collaborative contribution making at all stages of the elaboration of proposals by diverse citizen assemblies, which are primarily created by and for citizens. The collaborative process must in particular facilitate the assembly of groups (or sub-assemblies) on the basis of commonalities among the proposals, which is essential if one wants to sustain city-scale participation and be inclusive of citizen contributions.

AppCivist-PB helps users assemble proposal making and selection workflows, using service-oriented architecture (SOA) principles. The composition principles of SOA allow for various implementations and instances of these workflows, including the possibility of integrating and linking different workflows for the same PB campaign. For example, a city might create and manage its own workflow to receive proposals and facilitate deliberation and voting by registered residents; at the same time, citizen groups (typically activists) can create their own, independent, workflows to co-create, develop, and promote proposals for the city, following their own collaboration practices. Compared to traditional SOA, AppCivist-PB distinguishes itself by enabling the assembly of software services dedicated to the support of online-facilitated participatory democracy by and for relevant citizen assemblies.

The AppCivist-PB platform is developed in collaboration with the Social Apps Labs at CITRIS at University of California Berkeley (USA) in the context of CityLab@Inria and Inria@SiliconValley, together with the support of the EIT Digital CivicBudget activity.