Collaborative governance

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Collaborative governance is an emerging form of governance, based on direct democracy, supported by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). It enables any interested individual to collaborate in the creation/modification/deletion of policies and laws of a community. The name of this concept is a re-brand of the computing-specific term open source governance.


Collaborative governance is broadly inspired by the free and open source software (FOSS) movement, which — through the availability of its source code — liberally grants to the users the right to study and change its design. Because of this, FOSS tends to improve and evolve extremely rapidly. The derivative open content movement, a generalization of FOSS initiatives for every type of creative work, is an inspiration as well.

In a collaborative governance-community, there exist direct participation of all the governed on every aspect of its government, making it truly, completely open. Then the community may benefit as FOSS users do, translated into democratic policies and up-to-date laws.

Use of technology

In direct democracy, decision-making requires the frequent gathering of the members of the community. When this is not very small, without the aid of technology it becomes difficult to reach quorum because of spatial barriers (each member has to mobilize him/herself to the meeting point, which in turn, should be prepared to receive all the participants) and temporal barriers (not only at the same place, the members need to be coordinated to be there at the same time).

While overcoming these barriers is perfectly possible, without technology is uncomfortable and often impractical. Also much information must be gathered for the overall decision-making process to succeed, however, technology may provide important forces leading to the type of empowerment needed for participation in this kind of government.


A 'Practical direct democracy' is:


Participation is intended to be an every-day action, not a discrete and time wide-separated event...

Technology lets participation happen from (almost) anywhere, anytime.


Collaborative governance does not demand that every person participate in every decision. It simply allows people to participate as much or as little as they please in any decision.

When a member wishes to participate, he/she will provide a better quality contribution than a member who has the same information but is obligated (and so not self-motivated) to do it.


As participation is non-coercive, it is thus expected that people will tend to channel themselves into specific areas of expertise and interest. They will not be restricted to those areas, but they will have the opportunity to become "leaders" in those fields simply by their reputation.

Due to the notable quantity of subjects and its wide disciplinary spectrum that are covered by a government, the distribution of the tasks between the community may result in better quality decision-making.


As Collaborative governance uses computers, all the information passes through them. It is easy to archive it and make it available for auditing: the Radical transparency principle.

Transparency fights corruption, an inherent shadow in legitime governments.


A community willing to adopt this methodology of governance must: be literate, hold democratic values, and ensure access to ICT for all its members. A simple solution to all of these issues is to supplement collaborative governance software with regular physical meetings.

Ultimately, no system, no matter how thought-out can be sustainable without trust.