Civic Agora Project: Developing an online platform for deliberation and problem-solving

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Civic Agora is an open online platform, in the early stages of development, where people will be able to gather to discuss, deliberate upon and present solutions to issues that they consider important. The inspiration for the platform is the 'agora' or marketplace in ancient Greece where citizens would gather to debate a broad range of subjects, such as politics, science or ethics.

 

We live in a society that prides itself on its democratic ideals and the active participation of citizens in the advancement of public well-being. However, as the challenges that we collectively face have become more complex, serious policy decisions are increasingly made by a concentrated group of experts. Meanwhile, the theatre of politics has become superficial and trite and the general public more disillusioned and less engaged

 

There has been a growing interest in developing a platform that harnesses the wisdom of the crowds to contribute towards the public good. Recently, Jeremy Hunt MP announced a £1million prize competition for the individual or team "that develops a platform that enables large groups of people to come together online to solve common problems and develop new policies."

 

The approach that Civic Agora will take to harnessing collective wisdom is by functioning as a reasoning tool. Since many debated topics are complex and multi-dimensional, the system will provide a facility to allow each problem to be broken into its parts, allowing any argument or idea that is introduced to build upon the assumptions, premises or criticisms of previous arguments. The system will then progressively evolve into a network of reasoning allowing the strengths and weaknesses of any standpoint on a topic to be traced, identified and, in this way, for arguments to be continually improved. A presentation of the refined arguments will be made within collaboratively written quality position papers outlining the analysis of the topic and proposed resolutions in an accessible and pointed form.

 

The Civic Agora project, once operational, would be a decent candidate to fulfill the criteria for the competition. Rather than just ranking participant ideas based on popularity or by conforming to the weight of consensus, the system would examine the reasoning of the contributions, so as to prominently present refined ideas grounded in tested quality thought.

 

At this point in the project, most of the conceptual design for the platform has been brought to completion. We are currently seeking developers who would be interested in working on the team that will bring this project to functionality, so that this may be presented as an entry for the competition. We are also seeking trustees who can provide leadership and direction for the organization. Please contact us with a summary of relevant experience at civicagora@gmail.com if you would interested in applying your skills towards the project or to discuss this further.