Cidade Democrática in Brazil

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= "developing and experimenting with open source participation technologies that facilitate public participation in the policy creation process".



Ricardo Poppi:

"The “Ideas challenge” open source software built by Cidade Democrática has been used to encourage the participation of regular people in the policy process and foster the emergence of collaborative communities around public proposals. Since 2011, this application has been used in 15 cities including two Brazilian states (São Paulo and Pará) and cities with a range of socio-economic profiles and population size.

Composed of different phases (Inspiration, Proposal, Applause, Union and Announce), the Ideas Challenge stimulates the emergence of project proposals based on:

  • Collaboration between proposal authors and the population at large (“proposal making stage”)
  • Social engagement and search for support (“applause stage”)
  • Convergence and dialogue between participants (“union stage”)

The challenge seeks to stimulate social innovation by way of establishing new social connections — that is, promoting the creation of links, relationships and collective identity — as a necessary support for the construction of public solutions. The results serve as a foundation to support the official policy process in the establishment of roundtables, identify engaged citizens to promote participation opportunities (in councils and other spaces) and to be part of a preferences agenda to be fulfilled with public policies and investments, when possible." (


Limitations on that experience and possible solutions

Ricardo Poppi:

"Inspired by the experience of Iberoamerican LABIC, we developed a methodology of a Citizen Innovation Lab that connects to the Ideas Challenge. The innovation lab creates connections between creatives, social and political entrepreneurs, ordinary people and communities that emerged from the challenges. The lab’s mandate is to foster the innovation that will respond to the collective intelligence produced by the challenge. This helps articulate knowledge and resources necessary for the prototyping of the community desires. This LABIC model has already been tested in two cities in 2016. The ideas challenges allow and encourage people to produce policy guidelines together, and to share preferences for these guidelines with each other. This helps create a shared sense of purpose and collective identity.

Local activities like workshops, interviews and mapping, as well as the algorithmic approach to crowd feedback, enable the emerge of agendas typically ignored by the media. However, the software built by Cidade Democrática could not effectively address what happens after producing and sharing ideas: collective action.

With Cidade Democrática’s knowledge about social media architecture’s possibilities and limitations, we were able to use Ideas Challenges to build a process that overcame the habitualized confrontation between Society and Establishment, which are present in debates in the media and on social media platforms whose algorithms prioritize audience discovery (a more detailed discussion about this issue is present in Cidade Democrática change theory).

However, the need for face to face contact, efficiency and more fluid communication required by collective action remained unsolved. Cidade Democrática was quite successful in producing outputs that create dialogue between society and governments and allow the organization of social innovation laboratories, but the participants engagement after the contest results ends up falling short.

The idea of creating and experimenting with new debate architectures and algorithms for mass deliberation, instead of just analyzing social media, is very fundamental for two main reasons First, a desire to be independent from proprietary technology. Social media platforms are not transparent. Second, social media platforms are not focused on enabling collaborations between different factions, or between the government and society to bring about collective impact to communities." (

The History of Participation Technologies in Brazil as a Common Good

Ricardo Poppi:

"Since 2000's, the Brazilian society has invested some effort in building technologies for collaborative social participation on the Internet. Walking along the way paved by Brazilian digital culture movement, the most significant of these experiences took place in 2009's “Marco Civil da Internet” consultation that had its technology based on the work of an open source community from digital culture agenda, led by the Ministry of Culture.

As an extension of this experience, a number of other public consultations used the same technology or created other open source communities who were developing collective deliberation technologies on the network. This was the case of initiatives as “” and “Pensando o Direito” who adhered to at least three different open source communities: Noosfero, Delibera (Wordpress), Allourideas (Pairwise). The common thread of these initiatives is that they were all based on the use and adherence to software development open source communities who had already been working on the creation of innovative technologies for collective deliberation.

The state’s relationship with those open source communities beyond bringing innovative technology into the governmental processes, also brought the practice to work with the construction of common knowledge goods shared between state and society. Cidade Democrática believes that the knowledge to build and maintain relationships with open source communities and manage the use and development of software as a common good is a state capacity that needs to be present in public institutions, especially to accelerate (or even make possible) institutional transformations (see our change theory). That’s why we keep betting on that, for instance in our more recent grassroots action, “Free Laboratories of Social Participation”. (

More Information

Directory of Tools for Participation

Ricardo Poppi:

"There are lots of apps (and new being born) addressing the opportunities and challenges of public mass participation and collective intelligence in many different manners, like

  1. Loomio,
  2. Pairwise,
  3. Liquid Feedback,
  4. Participa,
  5. Agora Delibera,
  7. Decidim,
  8. Cónsul,
  9. DemocracIT,#City-R-Us,

among others."