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The Social Network for E-Democracy

Airesis is a free software platform, built by a team of Italian developers and contributors, to enable communities and groups to organize themselves in a productive manner according to the principles of direct democracy and participation.

To achieve this goal, the application has been designed as a multifunctional system, which integrates all the tools that can help the development of a community, in particular "social" and deliberative tools.

Of the social tools, Airesis offers blogs and a system of promotion of events and meetings with adjoining scheduling. Of the deliberative tools it includes areas for the collection and deliberation of proposals and initiatives, and a voting system aimed to the election of candidates. The platform also allows you to create groups with access to regulation policies and customizable permissions. Since the goal of Airesis is to stimulate participation, great attention has been spent in order to maximize the intuitiveness of the whole platform. The development philosophy is focused on continuous improvement, a kind of evolutionary process based on users feedback. The development team is available to meet the needs of the communities which want to use the software according to the spirit of direct democracy.

Principles and core values

Airesis is an open source decision-making tool for e-democracy, strongly oriented to problem-solving and designed to maximize the immense evolutionary power of collective intelligence.

Entirely developed by volunteers according to non-profit principles, Airesis was created to take faster, informed, shared and participated decisions.
It is based on the following principles:

  • Participation
    Involving citizens means having more energy and points of view available. Only through direct participation it is possible to investigate the problems and understand what people really want. Participation is the essence of democratic decisions.
  • Transparency and Security
    Without transparency, rules can be easily circumvented and democracy can quickly degenerate. Transparency also means openness, ability to receive: for this reasons Airesis also allows unregistered users to view the contents of the site. The source code of the software is also "transparent", being it entirely open source.
  • Constructive dialogue
    No one owns all the right answers. Using appropriate tools, elaborating ideas proposed by many people can be more productive than doing it yourself.
  • Equal opportunities
    To be intended as how effective equality, in terms of offered possibilities, can be pursued by the system.
  • Flexibility
    Each group has its own needs, each proposal is different from the others, each user has their own needs.

Our goal: direct and participative democracy

Structured as a social network, Airesis allows users to engage other people according to their interests and to exploit the qualities of each in order to consensually deliberate any type of proposal. The architecture and its core values ​​allow the platform to pursue goals of social and constructive debate on issues that may involve the territory, social promotion, sector policies and consequently to bring out the best ideas.

Airesis provides tools to:

  • Promote the ideas and experiences of individual members
  • Group the initiatives / proposals of individual users and present them to the community
  • Provide tools for the debate on various initiatives
  • Promote shared editing of proposals
  • Manage the vote of various initiatives and proposals
  • Promote generic events or meetings
  • Manage the candidates applications and the adjoining vote operations
  • Manage restricted sub-groups, governed by specific regulations and permissions, but with all the tools provided by the platform

Characteristics and features

The Airesis development team builds all the functions and tools according to the needs of the groups which take benefit from the platform. The same development group is present on Airesis and decides consensually future implementations.

The actual structure allows the registered user to belong to a open space, to join one of the groups already present or to establish a new one. Either within the groups and the open space it is possible to publish initiatives / proposals, evaluate them, edit a shared summary and then vote them. In the same contexts you can create events concerning meetings and vote.

Basic features

  • Sign up and login
    from every page or even after adding a comment or a contribution. It is even possible to login using Facebook, Google +, Meetup, Twitter or Linkedin
  • Public area or private area for groups (More info in this video-tutorial)
    Signin up enables you to participate in the Open Space, to join one of the groups already present or to create a new one.
  • Creation of proposals and debates Both in groups and Open Space it is possible to post proposals/initiatives and receive contributions, comments and evaluations to edit a shared summary of the proposal that can gain the largest possible consensus.
  • Quorum and proposals vote
    Each proposal has its own quorum. Voting occurs by preference according to the Schulze method.
  • Events/calendar management
    It is possible to schedule events concerning meetings, voting, elections of candidates within groups or in the Open Space.
  • Newsletter of events and news about the platform
  • Messaging service and e-mail notifications (customizable by the user)
  • Uploading and managing documents and attachments to the proposals (feature currently disabled)
  • Polls both internal and external using Schulze voting method.
  • Mobile App

Proposal and debate tool

The core of the software is focused on the deliberative tool which allows you to participate in the drafting of a proposal, to set a common goal, to contribute to the search for alternative solutions and to bring to the vote the result of this work so that the proposal can receive the most possible consensus and the best and the most shared solution can emerge.

The process involves 3 steps:

  • The author creates the proposal following a wizard, after wich the system publishes the text in the section "In debate". During this period the proposal can be modified by the editors on the basis of given evaluations and contributions added by other users.
  • When the debate quorum is reached the proposal goes to the section "Voting" during this time the text of the proposal cannot be changed, the editor chooses a vote event (voting period) among those already planned or can create a new one using the calendar.
    All eligible users (according to the rules established by the group) can vote during the defined period.
  • At the end of the vote the system calculates the results and places the proposal in the "Voted" section.
  • If however the debate quorum is not reached, the proposal go to the "Abandoned" section, where it can be put back in debate to start again a new life cycle.

Particularly interesting is the adoption of a discussion area for each published proposal that allows the proposal itself to be modified by the editors (like a wiki) according to the consensus obtained by individual contributions. The discussion area is two-levels indented, the first designed to collect contributions, the second personal considerations on the latter. The first level implements a mechanism to increment the maturity of the proposal incorporating in it the most appreciated contributions.

The debate quorum, necessary to promote a proposal to the voting phase, is composed of three different parameters:

  • Participants: number of people who participate in the debate;
  • Discussion time: period of time in which the proposal remains in the debate phase (starting from its submission);
  • Maturity: percentage of participants who claim that the proposal is ready to be voted;

The evaluation of "maturity" of a proposal is a formal act of the members of the community (done during the discussion period), through which they express the suitability of the text of the proposal for the following voting phase.

There are different types of quorum: Depending on the complexity of the topic, the parameters (participation, time and maturity) vary. For the proposals inside the Open Space quorums are defined by the system administrator, while the quorum of the proposals published inside groups can be freely modified by the groups administrators.

The proposals are organized, sorted and searchable in different ways:

  • depending on their status ("In debate," "Voting", "Voted", "Abandoned")
  • according to pre-defined categories ("Work", "Health", "Education", etc.)
  • depending on the type of proposal: standard, regulation, estimate, statement, technical decision, etc ...
  • using free tags which can be entered in the text of the proposal.

Schulze voting method and Direct Democracy

When the period of time assigned for the debate ends and a sufficient number of people agree on the maturity of the proposal (these conditions vary according to the quorum of debate), the proposal go to the voting phase.

At this point the proposal is frozen and the editor have to choose a time frame in which the group will be able to vote the proposal. The 'voting' event is recorded on the group calendar and is notified to all members of the group.

At the time of vote a new notification is sent in which it is displayed the proposal to be voted and the page in which the vote occurs. At this point each participant, after having read the proposal and the list of possible solutions, can submit their preference ordering these solutions from the most liked to the least and thereby allowing the processing of the Schulze Method to find out the solution preferrred by the group.

At the end of the vote the proposal go to the "voted" status, where it is possible to review the result of the vote at any time.

Promotion of shared proposals and Participatory Democracy

Airesis was developed to promote the sharing of ideas and opinions within the community. To achieve this, the platform offers different tools:

  • the proposal is public by default
  • publication of proposals on social networks, in the Open Space of Airesis or on external blogs and forums;
  • the personal blog where community members can present themselfes and post info and announcement in the news of the groups they are members of, in addition to share ideas/opinions;
  • the possibility of organizing meetings for the members of the community;
  • the possibility to mark interesting events on a shared calendar;
  • the presence of a discussion board in each proposal, in which to add contributions that editors will be able to integrate in the text of the proposal, according to the evaluations received;
  • reputation system that rewards participation, constructive debates and clarity, encouraging problem solving
  • the opportunity to invite their contacts to join the discussion
  • the opportunity to apply to become co-editors of a proposal;
  • the resolution on the proposals through the vote of the certified members.

Temporary anonymity, secret ballot and auditable voting

One of the peculiarities of Airesis is that groups can choose if the proposals debate will be anonymous or not.

If anonymity is enabled, authors and commentators of the proposals are indicated by means of a pseudonym. This feature allows you to evaluate the proposals, criticisms and suggestions according on their content only, impartially, without the "name" of the authors and the dynamics of interpersonal liking/disliking influence the debate.

In any case , at the end of the debate , and after the vote , the participants will be displayed with their real names so that it will be possible to verify the interventions of each of them.

This option is also applicable to the voting stage, so it’s possible to choose if this will take place by open or secret ballot. Important, especially in the case of a secret ballot, is the ability to verify the registration of votes and the absence of fraud. This is possible through the system of auditable voting implemented by Airesis .

Managing groups and user roles

Airesis implements a flexible system to manage permissions which any member can have within the group so that we can allocate the following roles:

  • View private proposals
  • Contribute to proposals
  • Insert new proposals in the group
  • Publish in the Home Page of group
  • Create events and votes
  • Supporting proposals in name of group
  • Add participants in the group
  • Nominate members for election

Airesis allows groups that use it to choose settings that best suit their needs and their internal regulations. It is possible, for example, allow access to certain functions only to active users and/or certificates, or those that have a particular role. There is also ample freedom on the management requirements that proposals must meet to access the vote.

Another important feature is the division into areas/working groups that makes it possible create areas within the groups and be entitled to hold each area of the participants who will discuss the proposals regarding that particular area . Each participant will be assigned particular roles for each area in order to make it even more flexible tool.

Groups

Access to the "Groups" can be done either by pressing on 'seeking groups' from the top bar or from the left column of the home page staff.

Clicking on the name of a group, opens its home page (presentation + news / blogs). In the area of proposals are displayed what the group has decided to make public, and to see the internal ones (proposals and private events), you have to ask the local administrator admission to the group.

The area proposed is divided into four tabs ("In debate","In the vote","Vote","Left Behind"), which are lists the proposals according to their status. Clicking on the title of a proposal, it opens, displaying the text and the area of contributions. Proposals can be further filtered by selecting the Categories or Tag, to display only the proposals of the topics that interest you.

Each member of the community can promote a new proposal: to do this just click on the button "Create New proposal", and it will appear in the form to fill out.

By accessing inside a proposal under discussion, community members can interact with it in accordance their skills, expertise and opinions.

Open Space

Clicking on "Open Space" to access the area intended for the management of the proposals that may be of common interest.

The area of the proposals of the group looks similar to that of Groups; It is also present a "private calendar" that displays all public events, most private ones related to the group.

In the Open Space is also a tab "calendar", which highlighted the events for the entire community (signaling events, meetings, voting). By clicking on a note, open the page on the event and, depending on the type, you can interact with it (eg. by participating in a vote or signaling the willingness of attend a meeting).

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