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Citizen Think Tank

UPDATE 05/2010: Check out Zilino (!

My questions:

  • How can we leverage collective/collaborative intelligence among large-scale groups of citizens in order to help solve the “messy problems” our society is facing today?
  • How to use the web to collaboratively learn about, understand and solve problems/issues?
  • How could a combination of various web 2.0 tools (e.g. wikis, tagging, “digging”, RSS feed aggregation, social networks etc.) help achieve this?



Slides / Folien

Citizen Think Tank - Web Monday Cologne, July 3, 2006

Description / Beschreibung

Please note: This is all still very early-stage (and might not always make sense). It's little more than a few idea fragments that I'd like to put out there and get some feedback on.


I'm making a number of wild assumptions here, of course, such as:

  • Collective/collaborative intelligence does in fact exist and can be harnessed somehow.
  • Many of today's issues/problems are complex, traditional (linear) approaches don't seem to work well.
  • Large-scale citizen (online) dialogue is possible.

How could this possibly work?

  • Web-based tool-kit
  • Online community
  • Basically, you take a bunch of folks, put them on this platform together, provide the right tools, then some magic happens and voila what you get is bright ideas for difficult tasks. (That was easy, no?)

Things you could do on this magical island of sanity:

  • Deliberate an issue: try to define problem, brainstorm solutions, identify pros and cons (both yours and others'), list questions etc.
  • Vote, rank, prioritize…
  • Collaborative mind-mapping
  • Find people you agree/disagree with.

You should use the platform if you:

  • Care about the issues.
  • Enjoy meaningful debate.
  • Want to make a difference.
  • Like learning.
  • Have come to realize that the other formats out there (traditional meetups at your local party branch, your daily newspaper, screaming and yelling on political blogs, TV talk shows etc.) plain bore you to death.

Questions & Answers / Fragen & Antworten

Post your questions/thoughts here

Problem; Possible coruption of police department and district atterney. Question; How can one find justice for the murder of a family member?

Some background information / Ein paar Hintergrundinfos

Think Tank

A think tank is a research institute, other organization or informal group providing advice and ideas on any aspect of future planning and strategy - for example issues of policy, commerce, and military interest, and are often associated with military laboratories, corporations, academia, or other institutions. Usually this term refers specifically to organizations which support multi-disciplinary theorists and intellectuals who endeavor to produce analysis or policy recommendations.


Social messes, wicked problems

Social messes (synonyms: wicked problems, ill-structured problems, messes). Definition: social messes are those problems about which different people have very different perceptions and values concerning their nature, their causes, their boundaries, and their solutions. They are the problems that bring out two or more points of view from the first mention of them.

Wicked problems are situations that have these properties:

  • complicated, complex, and ambiguous
  • uncertainty even as to what the problems are, let alone what the solutions might be
  • great constraints
  • tightly interconnected, economically, socially, politically, technologically
  • seen differently from different points of view, and quite different worldviews
  • contain many value conflicts
  • are often a-logical or illogical

Sources, additional reading

Wisdom of crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, first published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument, and touches on several fields, primarily economics and psychology.

Four elements required to form a wise crowd

Not all crowds (groups) are wise. Consider, for example, mobs or crazed investors in a stock market bubble. Refer to Failures of crowd intelligence for more examples of unwise crowds. What key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones?

  • Diversity of opinion: Each person should have private information even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
  • Independence: People's opinions aren't determined by the opinions of those around them.
  • Decentralization: People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
  • Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.


Collective intelligence

A situation where the knowledge and problem solving capability of a group is much greater than the knowledge possessed by an individual group member.

As groups work together they develop a shared memory. The memory is accessible through the collaborative artifacts created by the group: meeting minutes, transcripts from threaded discussions, drawings etc,. The shared memory (group memory) is also accessible through the memories of group members.

Distributed Collaborative Intelligence is the act of a group collaborating within a virtual sphere of interaction. Group members can interact in real time or asynchronously even though they are not located within the same physical space.

The ability of a group to solve a problem collectively is potentially directly proportional to the number of members in a group, however effective architecture of interaction is needed to achieve this.

Critical success factors for a high collaborative intelligence quotient are:

  1. Group moderation and facilitation
  2. Adherence to a small set of fundamental rules relate to member interaction
  3. No limits to thinking; or the promotion of creative thinking
  4. Strong group membership feedback
  5. Quality control. Ideas need to be nurtured, but the solutions should be upheld after a critical peer review.
  6. The construction of a deeply documented group memory or knowledge base


Dialogue Mapping

Dialogue Mapping is the combination of (i) a shared hypertext display, (ii) a trained facilitator, and (iii) a conversational grammar.

Dialogue Mapping is structural augmentation of group communication. As the conversation unfolds and the map grows, each person can see a summary of the meeting discussion so far. The map serves as a “group memory,” virtually eliminating the need for participants to repeat themselves to get their points made.

Other benefits of Dialogue Mapping include:

  • Each participant's contribution is heard and acknowledged in the map.
  • Each participant can see how their comments relate to others.
  • The group sees where they are, where they've come from, and where they are going, and is thus self-correcting if they get “off-topic.” (example Agenda map)
  • The shared display map shifts the dynamic of the group into a collaborative mode … “What can we think and learn together.”
  • The map focuses the group on a kind of “lightly logical” perspective as they work on the issues at hand.
  • The map increases the group's shared understanding about the problem at hand, possible solutions, meaning issues, roles and responsibilities … all of the key elements of a successful project.
  • At the end of the meeting or during breaks, the group can view various printed snapshots of their discussion.
  • Thanks to the IBIS grammar, the map summarizes the rationale behind any decisions that are made
  • Since the map captures the thinking process of the group, anyone who was not at the meeting can be quickly brought up to speed by reviewing the map with them.
  • The map easily displays all of the open issues and action items at any point.

Sources, additional reading

topic/citizen_think_tank.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/28 01:37 by tim_bonnemann