AppCivist

Chancellor’s Award for Public Service 2015-16 for Campus-Community collaboration with the City of Vallejo

AppCivist is a platform for democratic assembly and collaborative decision-making. It helps people tackle problems in their communities, discuss and decide on ideas for solutions, turn ideas into proposals, edit and vote on proposals, and follow their implementation. It features both modular functionalities and interoperable services. AppCivist can facilitate ideation and help participants make better arguments through versioning, visualization, and collaborative deliberation.  It encourages both on and off-line collaboration, addressing problems of scale in processes of direct democracy for small and large communities.

AppCivist is the result of a joint research initiative between the Social Apps Lab at CITRIS, UC Berkeley (http://socialappslab.org/), where the project began several years ago, and the MiMove Research Team (https://mimove.inria.fr/) at Inria, Paris. The AppCivist research project studies how new social media can support democratic assembly and participatory citizenship. The initiative is further rooted in the principles of social activism in that it aims to provide citizens with software systems that help them articulate projects, deliberate directly among themselves, and mobilize action.

To enable democratic assembly and collective action, the platform is organized around the following core concepts: Assemblies, Campaigns, Working Groups, and Contributions. Assemblies of people coordinate Campaigns and organize into Working Groups toward a specific goal. Working Groups are formed to coordinate users’ Contributions toward that goal, such as developing, selecting, and making decisions about proposals for actions that must be implemented by the Assembly which may be a social organization or an entire city.

Figure 1. AppCivist Vallejo Participatory Budgeting User Interface.
Figure 1. AppCivist Vallejo Participatory Budgeting User Interface.

The AppCivist team is currently collaborating with the City of Vallejo to use AppCivist for the city’s 2016 participatory budgeting campaign. Participatory budgeting (PB) is an allocation process used in many cities around the world through which they commit a percentage of their annual budget (often 5%) to implement citizen-proposed projects. In PB, residents brainstorm, develop, and select project proposals that local governments are then committed to fund and implement.  A key contribution of AppCivist PB Vallejo 2016 is to enable the cohesive creation of both citizen and software assemblies that together implement a given PB campaign.  The Social Apps Lab launched an alpha version of AppCivist for budget delegates in Vallejo in December 2016 and anticipates pilot testing it in 2017 with a federation of organizations in France and in a PB campaign in Asunción, Paraguay.

For more on the AppCivist pilot in Vallejo, see vallejopb.appcivist.org.

Principal Investigator:  James Holston, Professor, Anthropology, UC Berkeley

Co-Investigator: Dr. Valerie Issarny, Senior Research Scientist, Inria

Lead Design Researcher and Engineer: Dr. Cristhian Parra, Postdoc, Social Apps Lab, UC Berkeley; Research and Development Engineer, Inria