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Decidim’s Functions and Features: Roadmap 2017/2018

Metadata

Title

Decidim’s Functions and Features

Version

1.0

Date

2018-12-18

Editors

Xabier E. Barandiaran, Carolina Romero

Authors

Xabier E. Barandiaran, Carolina Romero

Contributors

Asier Amezaga, Andrés Pereira de Lucena

Proofreaders

Andrés Pereira de Lucena, Marta Almela, Juan Linares

Participants

Josan Minguela, Joana Guijarro

Summary

Decidim [https://decidim.org] is a digital infrastructure for participatory democracy written on free software (Ruby on Rails), which enables the creation of citizen participation portals. Users of the platform (participants) interact through participatory mechanisms known as components which provide specific functions for the various participatory spaces. In other words, participatory spaces such as Initiatives, Assemblies, Processes and Consultations have components at their disposal which work together as participatory mechanisms. The more notable components include in-person meetings, surveys, proposals, votes, results monitoring and comments. For example, the various stages of a specific participatory process, such as the preparation of participatory budgets, can incorporate various components to: convene and capture the results of in-person meetings with citizens, conduct a survey, make proposals and, during the final stages of the process, hold a vote to decide on the projects with a budget expenditure system (always after a period for commentary and debate), conduct an assessment survey and, finally, monitor the implementation of the projects selected.

Keywords

Decidim, a democratic participatory platform, components, participatory spaces, software, e-democracy, participation, assemblyism, citizen participation, neighbourhood councils, citizen consultations, accountability, proposals, e-voting, transparency

Document history

This document includes a description of the current functions in Decidim and also those that are in the development or award phase (defined in the specifications of the public tender contract for the development of Decidim, as published by Barcelona City Council, dossier code 17000141). Hundreds of people have taken part in designing the current and proposed functions, during the 2016 Annual Metadecidim Conferences, in the Metadecidim participatory process for Barcelona City Council’s participatory portal and in the monthly meetings of SOM.meta.decidim. The document also takes concepts and procedures from Barcelona City Council’s new participatory regulations which are expected to be approved on 29 September and were developed on a participatory basis through the decidim.barcelona portal. In preparation for the 2017 Annual Metadecidim Conferences and the need to coordinate the implementation of prospective functions with various municipal technical teams and to publish an up-to-date roadmap, the Decidim team began to draft this document as a reference to the current and proposed Decidim functions for the 2017-2018 period.

How to cite

Barandiaran, X.E. & Romero, C. (2017) Decidim’s Functions and Features. v1.0.

Copyleft

Barcelona City Council and the authors of the text, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) licence and the GNU Free Documentation licence (GFDL)
CC BY-SA: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International
You are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, remix, transform and build upon material, for any purpose, even commercially. The licensor may not revoke these freedoms as long as you comply with the licence’s terms. Under the following conditions: a) Attribution: you must provide an appropriate acknowledgement of the authorship, provide a link to the licence and state whether any changes have been made. You may do that in any reasonable way, but not in a way that would suggest you have the licensor’s support or receive it for the use you are making; b) ShareAlike: where you remix, change or create from the material, you will have to disseminate your contributions under the same licence as the original. There are no additional restrictions, you may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the licence permits. You can find full licences on the following links: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.
GFDL: GNU Free Documentation Licence
You are permitted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, version 1.3 or any other version subsequently published by the Free Software Foundation; without Invariant Sections or Front-Cover Texts, or Back-Cover Texts either. You can find a copy of the licence on http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.

Authorship criteria and how to contribute to this document

This document is open to participation. You may contribute to this document in several different ways. Except for the editing function, all other forms of participation and authorship levels and criteria are stated below:

Editors

Responsible for monitoring a text and its versions, corrections and structure etc., and may or may not be one of the authors. In essence, an editor is someone who coordinates collaboration on the text. One of the editor’s responsibilities is to request and read revisions.

Authors

Strictly speaking, authors are those who have drafted the text. The order of the authors listed reflects their contribution, with the first mentioned being the one who has written the most. Authors must have read and revised their text in its final or previous versions, although they do not have to agree with its final form, a task that falls to the editor.

Contributors

Two groups of contributors are considered here. On the one hand, the document’s academic revisers (where they have made a considerable contribution) and, on the other, external collaborators whose contributions have been valuable and integrated in parts of the text included in the document. It is up to the editor and other authors to decide who is a contributor or an author, although the former is in any case meant to contribute less than the latter. As a general rule, a person who has written under 10% of the text ought to be considered a contributor rather than an author. By the same token, being a contributor means having written at least two or three paragraphs.

Participants

This is someone who has not contributed any specific text to the document but who has made valuable contributions such as observations about the document or provided valuable criteria, references or elements of discussion.

Proofreaders

Their work includes carefully reading an entire text, correcting errors and suggesting improvements. Such work is generally commissioned (requested from a person regarded as competent in the field), although it is possible for someone to contribute by proofreading a text that has not been explicitly requested. In such cases, the depth and quality of the proofreading process may qualify a person to be considered as a proofreader.[1]

1. General description and introduction to how Decidim works

Decidim [http://decidim.org], from the Catalan for "let’s decide", is a digital infrastructure for participatory democracy, built entirely and collaboratively as free software. More specifically, Decidim is a web environment (a framework) produced in Ruby on Rails that allows users to create and configure a website platform or portal, to be used in the form of a social network, for democratic participation. The portal allows any organization (local city council, association, university, NGO,trade union, neighborhood or cooperative) to create massive democratic processes for strategic planning, participatory budgeting, collaborative regulatory design, urban spaces design and elections. It also enables the organization of in-person meetings, signing up for them, the publication of minutes, proposing points for the agenda and receiving notifications of the results. Decidim can also help organizing governing bodies, councils or assemblies, the convening of consultations and referendums or channeling citizen or member initiatives to impact different decision making processes. All together Decidim makes possible to digitally structure a complete system of participatory democratic governance for any organization.

To understand in detail how Decidim operates, a distinction must be made between participatory spaces and components (see Figure 1).

functional architecture en
Figure 1. Summary diagram of Decidim’s functional architecture showing a combination of components in participatory spaces. The "Vote*" component allows a variety of voting systems, expressions of support or allegiance for a proposal.
  • Participatory spaces. These are the frameworks that define how participation will be carried out, the channels or means through which citizens or members of an organization can process requests or coordinate proposals and make decisions. Initiatives, Processes, Assemblies and Consultations are all participatory spaces. Specific examples of each of these include: a citizen initiative for directly changing a regulation (Initiative); a general assembly or workers’ council (Assembly); a participatory budgeting, strategic planning, or electoral process (Processes); a referendum or a call to vote “Yes” or “No” to change the name of an organization (Consultation).

  • Participatory components. These are the participatory mechanisms that allow a series of operations and interactions between the platform users within each of the participatory spaces. The following are participatory components: comments, proposals, amendments, votes, results, debates, surveys, sortitions, pages, blogs, newsletters and meetings. Other components that build on top of basic components are: participatory texts, accountability and conferences.

spaces components
Figure 2. Decidim displays participatory spaces on the top menu (dark) and components are displayed on the bottom menu (white).

The ways in which spaces and components interact is the following. Users of the platform (participants) interact through participatory mechanisms known as components which afford a variety of features for the various participatory spaces. In other words, participatory spaces such as Initiatives, Assemblies, Processes and Consultations have components at their disposal which work together as participatory mechanisms. The more notable components include in-person meetings, surveys, proposals, votes, results and comments. So, for example, the various phases of a participatory budgeting process can combine components in the following way: at an early phase public meetings can be opened for citizens to analyze different needs classified by districts. In turn these meetings can lead to the design of a survey. The survey results can then be used to define a set of categories for projects to be proposed. The proposal component can then be activated for participants to create and publish their projects as solutions to the identified needs. These proposals can then be commented and, after two weeks of deliberation, the voting component can be activated to select among the projects with a budget-expenditure system. Participants can then be called to a public meeting to evaluate the results, and an assessment survey can be launched afterwards for those who could not attend the meeting. Finally, the accountability component may be activated to monitor the degree of execution of the selected projects, and people can comment on it. What makes Decidim particularly powerful is this combination of components within spaces, which provides an organization with a complete toolkit to easily design and deploy a democratic system and adapt it to the organization’s needs.

Decidim’s top navigation bar displays the different types of active spaces of the platform. Processes is a space that allows to create, activate/deactivate, and manage various participatory processes. These are distinguished from other spaces by being structured in different phases within which all of the components can be incorporated. Examples of participatory processes are: an election process for members of a committee, participatory budgeting, a strategic planning process, the collaborative writing of a regulation or norm, the design of an urban space or the production of a public policy plan. Assemblies is a space that offers the possibility of setting decision-making bodies or groups (councils, working groups, committees, etc.) that meet up periodically, detailing their composition, listing and geolocating their meetings, and allowing to take part in them (for instance: attending if the seating capacity and nature of the assembly so permits, adding items to the agenda, or commenting on the proposals and decisions taken by that body). Consultations is a space that makes it possible to coordinate referendums, trigger discussions and debates, get voting results published; it can be connected to a secure e-voting system. Initiatives is a space that allows participants to collaboratively create initiatives, define their trajectory and goals, gather endorsements, discuss, debate and disseminate initiatives and define meeting points where signatures can be collected from attendees or debates opened to other members of the organization. Initiatives is a special kind of space by which members of the organization can trigger actions that are generally restricted to elected bodies or platform administrators, by collecting (digital) signatures. The organization can define the types of initiatives and set up the number of signatures that are required to trigger the expected result (e.g. to call for a consultation).

The components (also called features) are displayed as a second level menu with white background within spaces (as displayed in Figure 2). The proposal-incubator facilitates the collaborative creation of proposals as well as the monitoring and control of changes throughout the process. The proposals component allows a user to create a proposal using a creation wizard, compare it with existing ones, publish it in the platform and include additional information like geolocation or attached documents and images. This component also makes possible to navigate, filter and interact with a set of proposals. The voting component offers organizations the possibility of activating different voting or support systems around proposals: unlimited, limited to a given threshold, weighted, cost-based, etc. The results component is used to turn proposals into results and give official responses concerning their acceptance or rejection, merging various proposals into a single result. The accountability component offers the possibility of subdividing results into projects, defining and applying progress statuses around their implementation, as well as displaying the extent of the results’ implementation grouped by categories and scopes. The surveys component can be used to design and publish surveys and to display and download their results. The sortition component allows to select a number of proposals (e.g. candidates for a jury) with random, yet reproducible, procedures that guarantees non-biased and uniform distributions. The comments component enables users to add comments, to identify the comment as being in favor, against or neutral in relation to the commented object, to vote comments, respond to them and to receive notifications about responses. The participatory texts component can be used to convert lengthy text documents into various proposals or results and, vice versa, to compose and display a unified text based on a collection of proposals or results. The pages component is used to create informative pages with rich text formatting, embedded pictures and videos. The blog component makes possible the creation of posts or news, and to navigate them chronologically. The meeting component offers organizations and participants the opportunity to convene meetings, determine their location and time, register and limit attendees, define the structure and content of the meeting as well as publishing the minutes, and the resulting proposals. The conference component allows an organization to create a website for a big event by joining up a series predefined meetings (chats, workshops etc.), putting together a unified program and managing attendees. The newsletter component makes possible to send emails to everyone registered in the platform or, more selectively, to those who participate in a specific space.

Participants can carry on different types of actions within the platform:

  1. They can navigate and search for information

  2. They can create contents of different types (e.g. proposals and debates).

  3. They can vote, support or sign all three modes allow for participants to aggregate their preference or will for a specific consultation question, proposal or initiative respectively (the difference between these three types of actions involve different levels of security and anonymity: signatures can be audited and attributed to a participant, supports cannot, in order to prevent coercion, while votes involve higher cryptographic guarantees than supports).

  4. They can comment on any object of the platform (proposals, debates, results, sortitions, etc.).

  5. They can endorse any content, meaning that they can publicly declare they support it or find it relevant, with the participants following it then receiving notifications.

  6. They can follow other participants, a participatory process, an initiative, a specific proposal, etc. and receive notifications.

  7. They can sign up for a meeting.

  8. They can also share and embed content out of the platform, sharing the link to other social networks and embedding content on other sites.

Component items (e.g. a proposal, a blog post, a meeting) have their individual page but are also displayed as cards throughout the platform, cards being a major design interface to interact with components. Figure 3 displays a proposal card with the different types of data and interactions identified within the card.

card anatomy
Figure 3. Decidim’s proposal card anatomy.

The users who participate in Decidim can be grouped into three different categories:

  • Visitors have access to all of the platform’s content without having to sign up or provide any information.

  • Registered participants can create content and comments, sign-up for meetings, endorse content, follow other participants and objects of the platform, customize their profile and receive notifications, mentions and private messages. By choosing a username and password, accepting the user agreement, and providing an email account (or using an account for several social networks) participants become registered. Registered participants can also have their account officialized (meaning their username is accompanied by a special symbol indicating they really are who they claim they are on their profile).

  • Verified participants can make decisions. In order to fall under this category they must first be verified as members of the organization, citizens of the municipality, or constituents of the decision-making group (an association, community, collective etc.). Decidim offers different ways to carry out this verification. Once verified, participants will be able to take decisions by supporting proposals, signing initiatives and voting in consultations.

Administrators can manage permissions for registered or verified users selectively. For example proposal creation can be activated for both registered and verified users but supports to proposals only for verified users. It is also possible (although rarely recommended) to consider all registered users as verified and to grant them decision making powers.

There are different types of administrators: administrators of the whole platform or of specific spaces and components, they can also be moderators (with the exclusive power of moderating proposals, comments or debates) or collaborators that can read unpublished content, create notes and responses to proposals.

Participants can register as an individual or as a collective (associations, working groups, etc. within the main organization). User groups might also be created so that individuals can be associated to a collective. Decidim allows participants belonging to such a group to express or act individually or embodying the collective identity.

Participants can not only navigate the content of Decidim through the top menu and move down the architectural hierarchy, from a space to its different components; they can also get information through the search engine, or via notifications. Participants can also talk to each other by internal messaging or chat.

The content of the platform can be classified by different criteria. A participatory space and its contents (e.g. a participatory process or the proposals within) can be (independently) assigned a scope. Scopes are defined for the whole platform, and they can be thematic or territorial (for example, an assembly can be assigned to a specific theme or subject, like "ecology", and to a specific territory, like a district within a city). Content within a space-instance can be assigned to a category or sub-category (e.g. topics) that are specific for such a space-instance. For example, the categories "sport facilities", "parks" and "schools" can be created for a participatory budgeting process, and proposals will be assigned to these categories. Hashtags can also be freely created and introduced in the body text almost anywhere in the platform (proposals, debates, comments, process description, etc), both by participants and administrators, to classify content and make it searchable.

Unlike other existing platforms, Decidim’s architecture is modular, scalable, easy to configure, and integrated with other tools or apps (data analysis, maps etc.). The platform has been designed in such a way that processes, assemblies and mechanisms can be set up easily and deployed from an administration panel. No knowledge of programming is required to install, configure and activate it. The components (participatory components) can be developed, activated and deactivated independently.

2. Participatory spaces

Participatory spaces define the main participatory channels. They are displayed in the platform’s main upper menu.

The basic logic behind Decidim’s structure is that components work together in the participatory spaces. There are different types of spaces (initiatives, processes, consultations and assemblies) and various instances within each type (a process for an election and another for participatory budgets, council body for neighbourhoods and another for workers, an initiative to call for a change in legislation and another for something to be included in a plenary meeting agenda, etc.).

2.1. Processes

Participatory processes require a general configuration form with the following fields: Title or name of the process; short name for URL; hash tag (used as a reference for communications on social networks); short description; long description; home page image; banner image; date of start and finish; field; promoter group (responsible for the participatory process on a political level, may be the local authority or a group made up of the authority’s experts/politicians and associations and other organisations); who it is aimed at; goal of the participatory process and participatory structure. The participatory process allows accompanying documents to be added.

Participatory processes are divided into stages (e.g. 1. Information and convening stage; 2. diagnostics stage; 3. proposals stage; 4. prioritisation stage; 5. decision stage; 6. evaluation stage and 7. results-monitoring stage). Each stage includes the following configuration fields: title, description, start date, end date.

Highlights of announcements or texts may also be displayed in the processes, both on the home page and in the heading of each component (proposals, discussions and debates, etc.) Different messages can be configured depending on the particular stage of a process.

A participatory process configuration tool enables the simple activation and deactivation of stages and their components. Decidim’s process configuration tool is one of its most powerful features, enabling total flexibility in designing participatory processes according to the various realities and forms of citizen participation.

The feature of process groups enables various processes to be grouped, such as by the Participatory Budgets of different districts or neighbourhoods.

Participatory processes may have one of the following process statuses: 0) published or unpublished; 1) open (started); 2) closed (the participatory process has ended but its results are still under way; 3) finished (both the process and its results phase are complete) and 4) future (has not yet started).

A process can be highlighted (which increases its visibility on the homepage).

There is also the possibility to copy participatory processes from the administration panel. This feature enables process models to be designed and copied so that certain details can be configured within the new processes, avoiding the need to create them from scratch.

2.2. Assemblies

Decidim allows the creation and configuration of participatory or government assemblies (government or participatory bodies; councils; work groups, etc.) defined as structured participant groups which, whether on an individual or representative level, meet up periodically, with the authority to make proposals and decisions.

The assemblies section allows you to see a full list of all of the assemblies that are activated and configured from the administration panel. The basic settings require the following fields to be completed for each body: name; image; scope (global, territorial or sectoral); body’s function (purpose of action); type of body (government, executive, consultative / advisory, participatory, work group, commission etc.); creation date; created on the initiative of (City Council, citizens or others); duration (indefinite or fixed, in the latter case, finishing date); date of inclusion in Decidim; date of closure and reason; how it is organised (functions, powers etc.); composition; if it can be joined and how to do that; method of choosing members; type/ function of members within the body; composition of internal work groups as monitoring or advisory committees; characteristics of the body; the body’s social networks (name of social network and link) and the body’s next meetings.

  • Convening meetings: enables to send automatic meeting invitations, collaboratively create agendas, and register attendance. For a complete list of features see the "meetings" component [feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod2].

  • Assembly’s characteristics: open, public, transparent and other characteristics regarding the level of participation that the assembly allows.

  • Composition: This enables the composition of the body to be defined in greater detail, using the profiles of participants associated with the body as well as other characteristics. A display of the body’s structure is automatically generated based on the composition of participating members [feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod3]:

    • Types of members: Chair, deputy chair, secretaries, others

    • Membership origin: by draw; direct election; representation from another assembly; government representation etc.

    • Internal work groups: for the creation of sub-assemblies. Work groups will be able to relate to the body they belong to

    • Characteristics: Open/closed; transparent; with various access permits.

  • Display: allows us to view internal data about each body as well as the associations between assemblies [feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod3]

    • Composition: the structure of a body is shown in the form of a circle diagram

    • Organisation charts: allow us to view the hierarchy or network of assemblies and their associations.

  • Map and calendar: allow us to view the location of all the assemblies on a map and calendar [feature expected for 2018Q3-4, AjB-Lote2Mod3].

  • Involvement with other spaces and components

    • Involvement with processes: assemblies can be promoter groups, start a process or make proposals within a process. A body’s composition may be the result of a process (for electing posts) [feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod3]

    • Proposals and results: a body can generate its own proposals or results.

      • It shows how the proposal was agreed on (by consensus, majority, number of votes etc.). [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod3]

    • Meetings: assemblies will have a list of associated meetings, but some features may jump from one meeting to another, such as citizen initiatives to include an item in an agenda. Likewise, it must be possible to view minutes separately from the meeting, as they are associated directly with the body [feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod3].

2.3. Initiatives

Initiatives. This participatory space allows citizens to make proposals and collect the requisite number of signatures and/or endorsements depending on type (the various types are set out in the municipal regulations), giving rise to the start of the administrative procedure for its processing and citizen monitoring.

Initiatives operate as follows:

  • Any person or citizen association can make a citizen-initiative proposal. There are several types of initiatives with various numbers of endorsements/signatures required for their processing (these are all configurable). From the initiative-creation page, a description of each of the methods, the number of signatures required and examples (e.g. explanatory videos) can be viewed.

  • To avoid duplicates, once an initiative has been created, the system will present suggestions for similar initiatives before continuing with the following step. Once similar proposals have been ruled out, the specific form will be shown for each type of initiative, along with the minimum number of endorsements required. The creator then has an URL at their disposal which can be used to invite others to join in and endorse the initiative. A map is also displayed showing the locations of meeting points to collect signatures should there be any.

  • Once the minimum number of endorsements has been collected, the initiative will move to a technical moderation and validation stage, where the City Council’s staff can respond in various ways (by approving it, rejecting it or suggesting amendments).

  • Initiatives can be monitored and notifications received on updated statuses, in addition to which their individual promoter or group can periodically send information newsletters to other uses of the platform who have opted to follow the initiative.

  • On reaching the specified end date, an initiative can have two possible states:

    • Rejected: where it fails to reach the minimum number of signatures, a message will be shown stating "does not meet the number of signatures required" and the initiative’s creator will be notified.

    • Accepted: where it has achieved a sufficient number of signatures or endorsements it will be accepted and the corresponding procedure will start.

2.4. Consultations

Consultations (a voting procedure where all of the organisation’s participants are called to vote on specific questions), allows participants to find out about current or prospective consultations, discuss and debate the consultation’s subject area and monitor the results. It also provides a gateway to an e-voting system which is external to Decidim but integrated in the interface in order to manage and verify identities [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB].

3. Components

Decidim’s components are basic participatory mechanisms that are activated and configured for the various participatory spaces or subspaces (stages of a process, the work groups of a body, etc.).

3.1. Proposals

Proposals are Decidim’s most important component. Proposals can be defined as any element of a strategic plan, a regulation, an investment plan, a change in legislation or any other minimum decision unit. Proposals may be made by any of the following types of creators: by the very organisation managing the platform (e.g. a local authority); by registered participants; they may originate from a meeting as a result of a discussion or collective deliberation or may be generated by an assembly or body or by an organisation registered with the platform. They may also be created directly or collaboratively and be subject to amendment .

Proposals are defined by an author, a title and a text content. They may also include images, geo-location and accompanying files.

Once a proposal has been published it may be moderated (if someone labels it as such and defines the reason for moderating).

Proposals in the administration panel can be ordered under various criteria, can be commented on internally (without these observations being seen by the public), can be downloaded in JSON or CSV format (compatible with spreadsheet software), can be recategorised or moved to different spaces [the latter two features are expected for 2017Q4, AjB-Lote3Mod1]. In addition, proposals may be accepted, rejected or kept in an evaluative state.

Other features associated with proposals include:

  • Version control: this makes it possible to keep a record of all the changes made to a proposal, as well as code-generation to verify the proposal’s integrity [2018Q3].

  • Detecting similarities: This allows anyone making a new proposal to find similar ones previously made on the platform, thereby avoiding duplications.

  • Connections between proposals: proposals made can be connected to one another using links in the comments section, showing related proposals as cards and giving notifications on the existence of a new connection.

  • Supporting proposals: organisations can support proposals and such public support will be shown within the proposal and participants that follow the organisation’s activity will be notified of this.

  • Modification and withdrawal of proposals: a proposal’s author may modify and/or withdraw it before the endorsement-collection stage opens.

  • Amendments: any participant can edit a proposal’s text and a sub-proposal will be created in amendment mode (as Pull Request in Github). This sub-proposal may gather endorsements. Besides, the proposal’s author may accept or reject the amendment (or sub-proposal). Where a sub-proposal is rejected, its author may convert it into an official proposal.

  • Guided creation of proposals: While a proposal is being created, the participant is accompanied through the process, which is divided into different steps, with contextual help and previews before the proposal is sent.

  • Proposal incubator: Decidim permits collaborative and co-creations of proposals. It incorporates the following features:

    • Creating rough drafts with numerous authors.

    • The listing of collaborative drafts

    • Comments in drafts

    • Asking for help from and accepting the help of other collaborators

    • Linking drafts to an appointment in person

    • Promoting drafts on initiative, process or project proposal.

3.2. Participatory texts

Participatory texts are defined as an ordered collection of proposals that make up a document with complete text. Participation in the text stems from interaction with the proposals that form it. This component basically allows three operations [component expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote3Mod4]:

  • Breaking down a text document into ordered proposals from a document in ODT, XDOC, MarkDown and HTML formats. If the text is structured in sections and subsections, ordered proposals will be created from the lower level subsection; if the text is not structured, a proposal will be created for each paragraph of text. The interface allows proposals to be re-edited, merged, separated, given titles, etc.

  • Composition of proposals in a unified text: based on a series of proposals, these may be ordered and generate a unified and downloadable text.

  • Viewing and interacting with documents composed of proposals: A collection of proposals will be shown as a unified text and may be amended or comments can be added in the margin.

3.3. Results

Results are proposals (or amendments to proposals) which have ended up being the result of a decision taken in Decidim, whether directly (as a consequence of applying a voting system) or brought about by meetings, assemblies or the expert or political team in charge of a decision area through the platform’s management.

The results component allows official responses to be managed for all the proposals made: with the reason for rejecting or accepting the proposal and the result in which the proposal has been accepted.

Results collect metadata on the traceability of the proposals incorporated into the result, as well as the meetings where they were discussed and debated or created (by those attending these meetings) and the endorsements received.

3.4. Monitoring results

The result-monitoring component enables results to be turned into projects or allows them to be broken down into projects or sub-projects. Each of these projects can be described in further detail and allows the implementation status to be defined, in sections which range from 0% implementation to 100%. The monitoring component also enables people visiting the platform to view the level of implementation (comprehensive, by category and/or subcategory), of the results and projects. Results, projects and statuses can be updated through a CVS, or manually by the administration interface.

3.5. Votes and/or endorsements

Participants can endorse proposals. Such endorsements can be interpreted as votes, signatures, endorsements or in any other format that demonstrates a positive agreement in accordance with the political will itself.

There are several voting and management systems for this in Decidim. The simplest way is by activating endorsements, so that participants can issue a single endorsement for each proposal they wish, without any limit to the number of proposals that can be voted for. Alternatively, the number of votes can be limited (e.g. 10 per participant).

From the administration panel it is possible to configure the display settings for the voting results either during or solely after the voting period.

There is a special form used to vote for participatory budgets which allows participants to vote by "spending" an amount equivalent to the budget in question among the proposed projects. The number of votes is limited here by the selected projects’ accumulated spending amount.

3.6. Comments

Comments are a special component generally associated with another component (proposals, discussions and debates, results, meetings etc.) to enable a deliberative process on an issue or proposal.

Decidim’s comments system has been designed to encourage deliberation. First-level comments, with respect to the discussion’s subject matter, can be classed as: In favour, against or neutral. Comments can be embedded in subsection commentary threads and voted on. Decidim allows observations to be ranked by those in favour or against, in chronological order and by number of votes in favour.

3.7. Informative pages

This is a page with html content and a title that appears in the inner menu of the participatory spaces. It is possible to embed images, videos and rich text here.

3.8. Discussions and debates

Discussions and debates can be opened on questions and specific issues established by administrators or participants.

3.9. Surveys

The surveys component allows to design and conduct surveys and to mappe out the results, processed and displayed for surveys that can be carried out in various participatory spaces.

  • Survey configuration tool: allows administrators to create questions and answers (open, test types, multiple selection etc.) and launch the survey, as well as download the responses in CSV format.

  • Survey interface for participants: allows participants to respond to survey questions.

3.10. In-person meetings

This component enables users to convene meetings, add them to a calendar with geo-location, upload meeting minutes, debate, create proposals associated with meetings (stating the type of collective endorsement for the proposal), record the number of participants, upload photos of the meeting and categorise the meeting within a space.

The configuration settings for meetings include the following basic fields: Title; description; address; location; Location hints; start and end time; scope; category and maximum seating capacity.

It also includes the following advanced fields: nature (public, open, closed); organiser group; existence of reconciliation space; adaptation to people with functional diversity; existence of simultaneous translation; type of meeting (informative, creative, deliberative, decision-making, evaluative, account giving, etc.) [function expected for [2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod2].

Meetings relating to a participatory space (a specific process or an assembly) can be shown on a map and be ordered by date or category. Besides, all the meetings can be shown in calendar mode, with the possibility of exporting them to a mobile phone calendar or other apps.

Some of the meeting component’s advanced features include:

  • Registration and attendance system:

    • This allows to manage the type of registration (open and automatic, closed and accessible only to certain types of participants, etc.), to establish the number of places available for attendees, to reserve a place, to do manual registrations, sent out Invitations, to define the conditions that need to be accepted in order to be able to attend the meeting (e.g. image rights release), and registering the attendance of participants.

    • It allows participants to register for a meeting, request a family reconciliation service (playroom, childcare space) and to obtain an accreditation code for attending at a meeting.

    • Those registered who have attended a meeting will have special access enabling them to evaluate the meeting or make comments, etc.

    • Participants or administrators will be able to receive notifications on registration-period openings, the number of places remaining for registrations, reminders of meetings, and the publication of minutes.

  • Managing agendas: allows to define the duration of meetings, to create agenda’s items and sub-items, title, content, and estimated duration. Participants can propose agenda items. [function expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod2]

  • System for drafting, publishing and validating meeting minutes [function expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod2]:

    • Minutes can be uploaded in video, audio or text format.

    • Minutes in text mode are associated with a collaborative writing board integrated into Decidim.

    • Minutes go through 4 stages of preparation: 1. Collaborative writing during the meeting; 2. Preparing the official draft of the minutes; 3. Draft-amendment stage; 4. Publication and final validation of the minutes.

    • Minutes can be commented on using the comments component.

    • Accompanying documents may also be added to the minutes.

  • Auto-convening: verified participants will be able to convene meetings directly through the platform , with support from a certain number of other participants, the meeting will be publicly activated and convening participants will have access to the administration panel [function expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod2]

  • Displaying and exporting meetings: meetings can be displayed in map mode (for spaces or generally on the platform) or in calendar mode, and can be exported to agenda and calendar managers (in iCalendar format) [function expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod2].

3.11. Events

Events are defined as a series of meetings having several specific features (interactive and downloadable programme, registration system, system for generating certificates of attendance and/or diplomas).

Decidim has a configuration and event-page generator, which enables the creation of an internal website for holding events relating to a participatory process or another participatory space. [The Event component is expected for 2018Q2, AjB-Lote2Mod5]

Configuration settings include:

  • The option to generate an interactive programme on the event (where there are guest speakers, it will include their name, position, organisation, a small biography and links to other websites).

  • Email invitations.

  • Automatic diploma creation for those who request it, through a support panel that an administrator can verify.

  • Links to the event video and materials platforms in the programme and documents.

  • Automatic links to digital-media websites covering the event.

  • The ability to following events through social networks (e.g. by incorporating a Twitter feed).

3.12. Blogs

Blogs are a component that allow news items to be created and displayed chronologically. Blog entries are another type of content and have to be associated with a participatory space. Blog entries relate to the classification system of the platform’s content. Comments associated with blog entries will be treated like the platform’s other comments, as described above.

3.13. Newsletter

Decidim has a function which enables a user to send a newsletter (email) to everyone registered with the platform who has agreed, under the terms and conditions of use, to receiving this information newsletter email. Personalised emails are sent out addressed directly to the name of the user in the language chosen by the user by default.

Participants will automatically and directly be able to unsubscribe through the email itself by clicking on a link in it and it will also be possible to track the number of visits generated by the newsletter.

3.14. Search engine

The search engine allows participants to perform searches across all of the platform’s indexable content, both generally and specifically, by searching within a specific participatory process or inside its components (proposals, results, etc.), through advanced searches.

Pages that can be browsed and filtered from search results show contents according to their type and ordered by the priority they have been defined under (e.g. Showing first the terms found inside assemblies and later the participatory processes).

3.15. Sortitions

This component makes possible to select randomly a number of proposals among a set of proposals (or a category of proposals within a set) maximizing guarantees of randomness and avoiding manipulation of results by the administrator.

4. Participants

4.1. Registration and verification

Any visitor can access all of the website’s content directly. However, anyone who wishes to submit proposals or comments will have to register. Users may register directly on the platform or through gateways of other social networks (Facebook, Twitter or Google+). To register directly, users will need to associate a email account and a password to the user-account.

Decision-orientated features (endorsements, votes, etc.) require verification. The main verification method cross-checks against the municipal register or other databases of registered people with whom Decidim can communicate via API. Users may also be verified by text or using a special code sent by post or other means. A participant can also be *manually verified*from the administration dashboard [features expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1].

Besides the verification process, participants can also ask to have their user name made official. Once made official, their user name will appear with a symbol that allows third parties to acknowledge that this user name corresponds to the person it claims to be.

Associations and organisations whose identity can be verified in some way can also be registered and verified. The official name status will be automatically verified.

4.2. Public registration of administrative activity

The manual verification of participants, as well as other administrative actions can create vulnerability or may enable the administrators to use the platform in an abusive manner. To avoid it, Decidim includes a public register of administrative activities so these actions can be publicly and transparently audited.

4.3. User profile and personal settings

There is a user-profile page where participants can make changes to their data (such as email account, password etc.), upload and enable an avatar image, set notifications or delete their account.

The user-profile page also allows participants to add additional information to include interests and skills, voluntarily and by selecting the level of visibility of that information. This allows personal notifications to be sent and participants can be matched with others for collaborations [feature expected for 2018Q4, AjB-Lote1].

4.4. Monitoring and notifications

Participants receive automated notifications regarding the content they have created: responses to comments and comments on their proposals, as well as the results of their proposals (whether accepted or rejected).

Besides automated notifications, participants can decide to follow any element of the system (other proposals, results, processes, assemblies, initiatives, groups or users etc.), and receive notifications.

4.5. Communication among participants

Instant messages can be sent to participants through the platform, who will receive an email notification.

Mentions can also be added (in the comments section) to any registered user and a notification will be automatically sent.

4.6. Engagement

Decidim has a series of features geared to gamifying the platform, to attract and keep a growing number of participants interested, as well as to promote practices that boost democratic quality and collective intelligence in participation [the gamification system is expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1].

The gamification system includes two modes, one centred on users and the other on proposals.

  • The user-centred mode incorporates a points system based on several criteria (degree of detail of its user profile, number of invitations to others on the platform, number of proposals made and commented on, number of comments, number of endorsements obtained, number of followers, etc.)

The combination of these and other indicators is used for generating gamification routes for each user and defining threads such as: most participatory person in the district, leadership in discussions and debates, etc.

  • Gamification centred on proposals/initiatives allows promoters, signatories and followers to boost interaction with them by incorporating several metrics (number of times that the proposal is shared in social networks, degree of controversy (number of positive and negative comments), quality of deliberation (depth of observation tree), number of hits received, etc.

4.7. User groups

Participants can register with the platform as members of one or several organisations/collectives. Once the organisation and membership status have been verified, participants can carry out actions (make proposals or submit comments, etc.), with their user or with the organisation name. [Feature expected for 2018Q3, AjB-Lote1]

User groups can also manage user permissions and administration roles assigned to groups, as well as private debate spaces or share information among group users, for example, who attended an in-person meeting. [Feature expected for 2018Q3, AjB-Lote1]

5. General features

Below, we will outline a series of the platform’s general features and characteristics which do not appear in the spaces or components, or in the features directly associated with participants.

5.1. Installation and settings

Decidim can be easily installed using the command prompt in any GNU/Linux server with the following installed services: PostgreSQL 9.4+, Ruby 2.4.1, NodeJS with yarn (JavaScript dependency manage), ImageMagick and PhantomJS. An automatic installation script allows you to deploy the whole dependency system, libraries, databases and other automatically required services in Heroku or Docker [feature expected for 2018Q4].

The portal’s settings are customisable in the following fields that are filled out on a form from the administration panel: Name of the portal, social network profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Github); brief description; welcome text; default language; home image; the organisation’s logo; favicon; reference prefix (unique identifier that will apply to the portal’s elements) and the organisation’s URL.

5.2. Integration with other services and compatibility/creation of additional services

Decidim can be easily integrated with the following services that can be installed or configured with Decidim:

  • OpenStreetMap: to show events and proposals with geo-location

  • Piwik: website traffic analysis

  • Pad: collaborative real-time writing boards (technology to be determined) [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3 AjB-Lote1]

  • Digital identity and signature: integration with OAuth2 digital-identity management system, systems based on blockchain and recognised institutional digital identity and signature management systems.

  • Distributed filing system: Disseminating or copying proposals or other elements from the platform in a distributed filing system (blockchain or IPFS type) [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1].

  • Microblogging: integration/compatibility with a standardised and open microblogging protocol/service such as GNU Social or StatusNet type for participants’ activities (proposals, observations and messages) [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1].

Decidim automatically generates the following services besides the ones that can be browsed on the website or accessed through an API:

  • SMTP: sending emails.

  • Calendar: integration and compatibility with calendar-management systems and automatic creation and updating of events calendars, etc. [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1].

5.3. Multitenancy

The multitenancy of the platform can be used on the basis of a single installation. In other words, a single instance of Decidim software allows to deploy as many portals (tenants) as you want under specific settings for each of the tenants. That way an organisation can create participatory portals for its sub-organisations or various organisations can share a server and reduce the maintenance costs of its portals.

5.4. Multi-language

Decidim is a multi-language platform. Its available languages will be configured during its installation. Menus, administrative forms and, generally, the platform’s fixed texts are available in several languages (Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Italian, French, Dutch and Finnish). A collaborative translation system in https://crowdin.com/project/decidim enables new languages to be incorporated into the platform.

As for content, once the official languages of the instanc have been set during the installation, all the content that is created from the administration panel has the option of being generated in these languages. The administration panel allows content to be managed in several languages through tabs. The content generated by users is displayed on the platform in a single language (the one chosen by the participant through the language selector in the upper part of the menus or automatically through its browser’s language settings).

5.5. Statistics, open data and downloads

Besides the application programming interface (API) which automatically provides access to public data, Decidim’s home page features a general statistics table with the following fields: number of participants, processes, proposals, results, meetings, observations and votes.

Another statistics table for each participatory process shows the number of meetings, proposals, votes and results of a specific process.

The administration panel lets you export the proposals, results and observations of a participatory process in CSV and JSON format and responses to surveys for processing and/or integration with other management systems. Participants can download the results of a participatory process and the extent of its implementation through a CSV file.

Decidim also has a data-display component at its disposal on the platform’s general level and on a specific level (showing data from a specific Participatory Space) [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod4]. The following are included among the graphics that are displayed:

  • Interactive graphics in the form of a time line showing the development of the various components’ counters.

  • Heat map of all the meetings, proposals or other content with geo-location tags.

  • Interactive diagrams (bar or pie charts) with the results of a process (amounts of each of the participatory budget projects, filter by category and status of the proposals - whether selected or not, etc.)

All of these displays are accompanied by an option for downloading data in CSV format [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote2Mod4].

5.6. API, adaptable website design and mobile app

Decidim has an application programming interface or API which is a series of independent service calls and data from Decidim’s website interface. This allows third parties to develop services on the platform, automatically release data or develop new interfaces, or integrate other services with decidim.

The API comes with documents and a formal participatory ontology [Feature expected for 2018Q2-3, AjB-Lote1]

Decidim’s website design is completely adaptable (responsive), using mobile-first design philosophy (designed first for mobiles and later extended to desktop systems and tablets).

Both the website’s design and the API enable the development of mobile apps for Decidim, and a Mobile App is expected to be developed for the end of 2018 [AjB].

5.7. Content-classification systems

As for content classification, the following to be distinguished and adjusted in Decidim: fields, categories and labels (or tags).

Scopes are generic throughout the platform and divided up into territorial and topic types. Territorial areas, once defined, allow the spaces’ elements to be classified by territory (e.g. if a process or a body or an initiative affects a district or two, the entire city, a region or country, depending on the organisation). Topic areas are likewise defined for the entire platform and allow classification of the various elements of the participatory spaces.

Categories and subcategories are used for classifying content within the various spaces and are defined for each of the levels of the spaces. So, for example, a participatory process may include several categories and subcategories (the process administrator defines them) whereas the process’ meetings, surveys, proposals and other components can be classed under these categories.

In contrast to fields and categories, labels or tags are cross-cutting and freely defined by participants and can apply to any level or component. Labels can be created, embedded and defined in the administration panel. A label-suggestion system allows the people taking part to choose labels similar to the ones that are they are suggesting for labelling any of the platform’s elements. Elements can be browsed by labels and the most popular labels displayed.

5.8. Contextual help system, usability and evaluation tests

Decidim includes editable contextual help for guiding individual and administrative participants in using the platform. It also includes a system that allows usability experiments to be carried out with tests and usage statistics, as well as automatic evaluation surveys to be conducted on participants for the purposes of identifying usability and participatory-procedure errors and improving the democratic quality experience of the software [Feature expected for 2018Q-3, AjB-Lote1].


1. This division and specification of authorship levels has been copied directly from the criteria established under the FLOK Society - Buen conocer (see Barandiaran et al. 2015, pp. 38-39).