Discussions and decisions on Decidim: data analysis of Barcelona's participatory democracy

Pablo Aragón

26 Apr 2017, 12:15 p.m.
Room 9

Decidim Barcelona is a platform for participatory democracy, launched in 2016 by the City Council of Barcelona. It was designed to run participatory bottom-up processes such as strategic city planning, citizen initiatives, and participatory budgeting. Decidim Barcelona’s first project was the crowdsourcing of strategic city planning for the present legislature (2016-2019). The City Council put forward 10,860 proposals, which were assessed and discussed by civic associations, groups of citizens in offline meetings, and individual citizens via the online platform. Proposals were grouped in thematic axes (good living, plural economy, good government, global justice) and scope (full city and neighborhoods). In total, the proposals received 18,191 comments and 165,087 indications of support, which enabled the council to select which ones to implement.

This research used Decidim Barcelona's Open Data API to analyse the political process[1], first, examining the structure of the online community with social network analysis techniques. Results revealed that, although the City Council was the most central actor, the largest cluster was composed of self-organised citizens. The structure of online discussions was then analysed to assess the level of deliberation. In particular, the enriched interface was seen to induce argumentative network structures in the discussion threads. Finally, the distribution of proposals was compared to authorship. Results showed that proposals by the City Council, originated in a previous collaborative process during the election campaign, were more likely to be accepted. Furthermore, proposals by civic associations and groups of citizens in offline meetings, in which collaboration played a key role, also obtained greater ratios of acceptance than individual citizen proposals. In conclusion, this research will provide an easily replicable data-driven methodology to measure the impact of Civic Technologies.

References

[1]Aragón P., & Calleja-López A., & Gómez V., & Kaltenbrunner A., & Laniado D., & Manca M., & Monterde A., & Bria F. (2016). "D2.5 Networked Models of Democracy", a D-CENT project [PDF].