Discover the Decidim platform, its history, philosophy and functionalities!
History of Decidim
A brief overview
In September 2015, Decide Madrid, a digital participatory platform was launched by the Madrid City Council based on the software Consul, which began to experiment with several participatory approaches such as public debates and citizen proposals. Launched by the Barcelona City Council, the Decidim Barcelona project, which was also based on Consul with significant modifications and adapted to new needs, was launched in February 2016. Its original objective was to coordinate the participatory process of drafting the Municipal Action Plan (MAP) and to be used for future forms of public participation in the city.
Approximately 25,000 people registered in two months, 10,680 proposals were made, 410 public meetings were held, and more than 160,000 votes were cast. As a result, a space for collaboration and deliberation was opened between citizens, civil society organizations, and the Barcelona City Council.
Many municipalities expressed their desire to implement similar processes, taking advantage of the technology used, given its success and the fact that it is free and reusable. This included the City Council of A Coruña, through its participatory budget platform, A Porta Abierta; the City Council of Oviedo, with Consulta Oviedo and a space dedicated to citizens' proposals, and finally the City Council of Valencia with decidimVLC, for the preparation of participatory budgets. There were also many examples of local authorities and other institutions that showed great interest in the decidim.barcelona project and its implementation, such as the city councils of L'Hospitalet, Badalona, Terrassa and Gavà, as well as the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Localret Consortium.
This series of changes and adaptations led to a new technological need requiring the modification of the tool to uphold the independence and diversity of local authorities, and to ensure the durability of the platform in the medium-term. A decentralized (modular) and scalable development strategy was established, which rendered the entire project flexible and able to accommodate long-term growth, while also generating development, design and community support at the municipal and (more importantly) inter-municipal level.
This led the Barcelona City Council to seriously reconsider the architecture of the platform and initiate a complete rewrite of the software based on the principles and needs mentioned above. The Decidim project was the product of this rewrite: a generic, participatory democratic framework based on Ruby on Rails, which any group, organization or institution may use with minimal technical knowledge.
Open development and free software
The Decidim platform project was developed with open source software (both during its initial phase with Consul and following the complete rewriting of the code) with the entirety of its development carried out in an open manner, making it fully traceable and trackable from the beginning.
Its creation using open source software means that the source code of the platform is under AGPL v3 (GNU Affero General Public Licence), which entails that the code must include the possibility of being consulted, copied, modified and reused, and that the same licence is applied to any work or product derived from it. It is one of the licenses that guarantees the most freedom and which puts copyleft into practice. To this extent, it makes perfect sense for public authorities to make a clear commitment to this type of software, since it is through this type of license that one can receive a "social return" on public investment.
Access the license text file through this link.
Copyleft corresponds to a wide variety of licenses that can be applied to software, artistic and other creations. Copyleft supporters see copyright as a means of reducing the individual right to make and distribute copies of a creation. A copyleft license, in effect, uses copyright law to ensure that everyone who receives a copy or derivative product can use, modify and even distribute both the original product and the derivative versions. In a strictly non-legal sense, copyleft is thus the opposite of copyright (Wikipedia, 2017).
The fact that the software has been developed openly means that the entire development process is transparent and accessible. In other words, everyone can see, from the beginning of the software development, each modification, every contribution, every developer involved, etc. (Wikipedia, 2017). As a result, transparency is becoming a fundamental principle not only for citizen participation, but also for software development.
All this has been done on a platform built for open collaboration in software development: GitHub. This platform gives access to codes and the control of software development. GitHub is dedicated to hosting Git directories, but there are alternatives, such as GitLab.
Open Source Politics is an official partner of the Decidim project, which gives us an important role in the development of the tool - for which we are particularly proud. In addition, we have already had the opportunity to deploy platforms for dozens of institutions in France and Europe.