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Project of the Day: Wasa2il, a participatory democracy software project to make it easy for groups on any scale

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
8th July 2013


We usually do not cover projects under construction in the p2p foundation blog, but we make an exception for this project by Smari McCarthy, available on Github!

He explains that Wasa2il is a participatory democracy software project to make it easy for groups on any scale – from the local whiskey club to the largest nation – to self-organize.

“Wasa2il is a participatory democracy software project. It is based around the core idea of polities – political entities – which users of the system can join or leave, make proposals in, alter existing proposals, and adopt laws to self-govern.

The goal of this is to make it easy for groups on any scale – from the local whiskey club to the largest nation – to self-organize and manage their intents, goals and mutual understandings.”

Here are some details on the project:

* On Polities:

“A polity is a political entity which consists of a group of people and a set of laws the group has decided to adhere to. In an abstract sense, membership in a polity grants a person certain rights and priviledges. For instance, membership in a school’s student body may grant you the right to attend their annual prom, and membership in a country (i.e. residency or citizenship) grants you a right to live there and do certain things there, such as start companies. stand in elections, and so on.

Each polity has different rules – these are also called statutes, bylaws or laws – which affect the polity on two different levels.

Firstly, there are meta-rules, which describe how rules are formed, how decisions are made, how meetings happen, and how governance in general happens. Wasa2il has to be flexible enough to accomodate the varying meta-rules of a given polity, otherwise the polity may decide that Wasa2il isn’t useful to them. Sometimes these rules are referred to as “rules of procedure” or “constitution”, depending on the type of polity which is using them.

Secondly there are external rules, which are the decisions the polity makes which don’t affect its internal decisionmaking process.

Wasa2il needs to have the capacity to manage both types of rules and present both in a coherent and comprehensive way. In particular, there needs to be an available list of the laws which the polity has adopted, and changes to those laws which have meta-effects must alter the way Wasa2il works for that polity.”

* Topics, Issues, Documents and Votes

“Within any polity, there can be any number of different topics that need to be discussed. The members of a polity decide which topics are relevant to them. The way in which this is decided depends on the meta-rules of the polity.

Topics are used to manage and display a list of issues. Issues are conversations which have been brought to discussion within a polity, and can belong to numerous topics. The purpose of an issue and its associated conversation is to arrive at a decision. The decision is represented by a document which can be adopted or rejected.

Documents which have been adopted represent the law of the polity. Sometimes laws need to change, so it needs to be possible to propose changes to a law even after it has been adopted. Doing so would cause a new issue to be raised and deliberated on.

The decision making process is normally concluded by a vote. Votes can take many forms. There are multiple methods of voting and multiple ways of calculating the results. While in most cases the correct approach for the creation of new laws would be to decide on one unique result.”

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One Response to “Project of the Day: Wasa2il, a participatory democracy software project to make it easy for groups on any scale”

  1. Matthew Slater Says:

    I really hope that this is being developed in partnership with one or more real polities.
    And PLEASE don’t create yet another platform!
    What we need is Drupal modules which we can integrate with existing platforms.

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