/ civic tech

Decidim fest 2021

Decidim fest is the annual event at the intersection of Open Source and democracy

3 intense days of exchange on digital commons, politics, radical transparency, privacy by design, and sharing hopes and fears walking late in the city of Barcelona at night.


Decidim, the COP26, and citizen participation

Decidim is an Open Source technology powering web platforms all around the world and enabling citizens to lead transparent debates, participative budgeting, and assemblies.

One week after the COP 26, the UN's climate summit in Glasgow, it is more than ever necessary to focus on a top priority: how can we lead a climate transition with citizen participation?

Since 2018, Octree works with the state of Geneva to provide Decidim to the people living and working in the greater Geneva region, the platform is known as participer.ge.ch. Additionally, I'm also a consultant for Genève en transition within the state.


Another tech conference?

As our first time there, we were getting ready to enter a classic tech conference with a spin around human rights, and FOSS, in short: small talk, elevator pitches, and business cards. Most of all we were expecting to meet the community* (*other Decidim providers, potential competitors). We arrived in Barcelona with something like this in mind:

Initial hypothesis
Decidim still has alot of potential users left out by the complicated technical setup. All Decidim instances are launched manually. Most of this can be automated. By unlocking access to an easy Decidim setup with a Decidim SaaS version, the use of Decidim will scale globally creating stability for the project and the community.
Carol Romero, Decidim's product owner presenting the roadmap.

Big spoiler! No business cards, and a passionate and welcoming community of specialists all sharing similar challenges. Since day one, it actually felt like Octree, but with tapas and beers at the end of the day: we were discussing governance, ecology, politics, UX, and open source software development with new friends:

  • Mainio tech: based in Finland, Mainio tech is the Decidim provider behind websites like Omastadi, the Decidim instance in Helsinki, and an important contributor to the Decidim project.
  • Open Source Politics (OSP): based in France, Open Source Politics is the Decidim provider behind websites like La Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat and the largest known provider on the market.
  • Pipeline To Power: From new york, a small company specialized in participatory budgeting and behind a click-and-go Decidim SaaS instantiator. Try it out and get your Decidim instance up and running in 15 minutes!
  • Platoniq: Based in Spain and working from the same office space as Decidim, Platoniq is one of the earliest Decidim providers and the major contributor to the project, and the creators of awesome plugins.
  • Puria & Micol (Dyne.org): behind a recent redesign of the interface of Decidim for a client in Italy, Puria is initiating discussions around the UX of Decidim.

Self-organization and lateral digital product growth

The best way to describe what was on everyone's minds is on one side "How do we get organized all together?" and on the other "How can we technically improve all this?". The latter includes tons of questions ranging from features to documentation, infrastructure, security, and new potential plugins so we'll keep this one for another article ;)

...Given that, on the last day, something magic happened: convergence!

With OSP, we held a 1 hour talk between the present providers, stakeholders of the Decidim project and the association and took actionnable steps to strengthen the community!
in random order: Puria & Micol from Dyne.org, Platoniq, Open Source Politics, the Wikimedia Foundation, Mainio.tech, PipelineToPower, Carol & Andres from the Decidim association and Octree as we talked together about the provider-association dynamic. The recap will be published to metadecidim.

Key takeaways

Final hypothesis
Although the creation of  a Decidim SaaS version is on many minds, the global scaling of Decidim depends on the capacity of the community to self-organize around international revenue streams. The governance of this project cannot be led only by the tech community, it has to be done for and by the final users first: the citizens.
  1. 💥 All Decidim Providers are looking forward to working together to consolidate the quality of service and contribute to the community
  2. 💥 A fail-safe, self-organized, hybrid Open Source & democratic governance model has to emerge around revenue streams in order to scale Decidim from the national level to the international level.
  3. 💥 As in any Open Source project, risk of commodification is looming. This can be diverted into open rules for collaboration between the Decidim Association and the Decidim providers around the world.

Conclusion

We left with a sense of peace and hope, our heads full of dreams, and our hearts full of gratitude to the whole Decidim team for organizing such a wonderful opportunity, especially to Carol, Andres & Arnau!

Here's what we commit to:

  • 🤝 Participate actively in community growth
  • 🤝 Provide technical and infrastructural support to scale a true commons digital space at the service of open civic tech

Finally, we would like to acknowledge and thank our news friends for sharing so openly and for their deep and inspiring discussions, and above all their warm welcome and trust: Mainio tech, Open Source Politics, Pipeline To Power, Platoniq, and Puria.

It felt like coming home to a new nerdy and tremendously ambitious family.

Long live Decidim!

— Lucien for Octree