Voxiberate is a software platform for participatory governance that is based on the “citizen assemblies” model. Our platform aims to help communities, such as membership organisations, cities, cooperatives, DAOs, NGOs, trade unions, etc., arrive at consensus on complex, and potentially polarising, issues without coercion but through free, democratic, deliberation.
Deliberation is a type of conversation that is different from everyday chat. It is based on the principle of equality and mutual respect: every person that participates in a deliberation has the exactly the same time to express their view — and their view carries the same weight and is evaluated equally with every other participant’s view; regardless of race, gender, education, social status, etc. Moreover, deliberation is purposeful: its goal is to shape a community spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding through rational argument that results in consensus. Finally, a deliberation is facilitated, so that its principles and rules are adhered to by those who participate. Voxiberate is implementing these fundamental principles and methods in a software platform.
On January 12, 2023, we run a pilot to test how our platform would perform, and how deliberating citizens would behave, in a deliberation over a complex and polarising issue such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). The question we asked participants was to deliberate and vote on a proposition that advanced AI systems, such as ChatGPT, should be democratised, i.e. made freely available to all without restrictions. Participants were invited to join a community in Voxiberate several days before the actual “voxiberation” (the term we use for deliberation on Voxiberate). In the community space participants could access educational and orientational materials that explained the dilemma over AI from various angles, such as articles in newspapers that opposed the motion (the “Ask”) or were in favour.
On the day of the voxiberation citizens logged to Voxiberate and a Facilitator started the voxiberation. The first stage of a voxiberation asks participants to express their view on the motion in written form within a certain time period. Following that the system groups citizen comments according to their views. Interestingly (as you may see in the video clip above), most citizens were in favour of regulation and against democratisation at the beginning of the deliberation.
However, as voxiberation started taking place, and citizens were able to converse with fellow citizens, views in favour of democratisation were “voted up”, which indicated that the community’s opinion started shifting. Finally, the community was asked to take a vote on the Ask: 71% voted in favour of democratisation.
Our pilot has demonstrated that it is possible to implement citizen assembly principles in an online platform and that citizens participating on an online deliberation using Voxiberate can arrive at consensus on a complex and highly polarising issue.
We look forward to piloting our platform with several more global partners in the weeks to come, so that we may roll out our service more broadly to communities across the world.
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