Published on January 19, 2016

Crowdsourcing and policy making

Citizens & science NHS Citizen Open government People & participation Sciencewise Scotland

By Simon Burall

Simon Burall is a Senior Associate of Involve. He has extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, governance, public participation, stakeholder engagement, and accountability and transparency.


This paper shows how the two virtues of collective intelligence – cognitive diversity and large crowds – turn into perils in crowdsourced policymaking. That is because of a conflict between the logic of the crowds and the logic of policymaking. The crowd’s logic differs from that of traditional policymaking in several aspects. To mention some of those: In traditional policymaking it is a small group of experts making proposals to the policy, whereas in crowdsourced policymaking, it is a large, anonymous crowd with a mixed level of expertise. The crowd proposes atomic ideas, whereas traditional policymaking is used to dealing with holistic and synthesized proposals. By drawing on data from a crowdsourced law-making process in Finland, the paper shows how the logics of the crowds and policymaking collide in practice. The conflict prevents policymaking fully benefiting from the crowd’s input, and it also hinders governments from adopting crowdsourcing more widely as a practice for deploying open policymaking practices.”

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