Introduction to Collaborative Democracy

The Collaborative Democracy Workshop

The Collaborative Democracy Workshop is an organizing tool developed by May First/People Link to develop our skills in participatory democracy and build a consensus on issues that are critical for our movements. The workshop is politically grounded in the Organic Internet.

Basis of the workshop

The Internet is humanity's most explosive and effective form of collaboration, born as we seek a new era of social organization based on justice and respect. To get there, we must be able to make decisions collaboratively. This workshop uses Internet technology as a collaborative tool to write a Declaration of Rights based on topics important for us to agree in order to work collaboratively. Using a local network or operating over the Internet in multiple rooms, small groups write, edit and endorse rights in constant, dynamic collaboration with the other groups. The result is a document for organizing and a unique and exciting experience in the chaos, creativity and power of collaborative democracy.

Directions for organizing a workshop

This software is designed to be used in a workshop setting, with the goal of collaboratively writing a Bill of Rights on a pre-selected topic.

The workshop can be limited to a single physical room, or can be spread across several physical rooms in different locations. All rooms must have Internet access, a projector, and one computer for every 4 - 5 participants.

In each room, we break the participants into small groups of 4 - 5 people. Each small group speaks with one voice via a "scribe" who enters the group's proposed rights into a web-based system. A dynamic, projected display of the current state of the aggregate Bill of Rights is visible to all.

All ideas belong to the entire workshop: any group can edit any Right, whether they wrote the original version or not All revisions of a given Right are stored, but only the most recent version is projected to the group as a whole. The group which creates a new version of a right automatically endorses that right, but otherwise holds no special connection to it.

Each group also has the ability to endorse any Right that seems worthy. When a Right is edited, existing endorsements are cleared; each group needs to decide if they want to endorse the new version. Rights with more endorsers float to the top of the projected list, while the rights with fewer endorsers sink to the bottom.

To keep the Bill of Rights to a manageable, concise size, only 10 rights can exist at a given time. If 10 rights already exist, the only way to add a new idea to the Bill is to edit an existing right, which requires engaging other groups in a dialog to ensure an adequate number of re-endorsements.

Supported Languages

The software's interface is translated into English, Spanish, Portugeuse, and French. Machine translation of user generated content is available in these four languages as well.

Getting Started

Sound interesting? You can get started right away by moving through the steps outlined in the sidebar on the left. Next is Plan.


The software the runs the workshop is free software, and is available on this site.

You can check out your own copy with:

svn co