12. Statements, the Citizen's Voice

Statements are the basis of participation

Citizens participate in solving issues by entering statements and assessing the statements of others. The foundation of any solution process involves judgement. The concept of collective intelligence in governing is that the combined judgement of a large group of people is better than that of a small group or an individual. However, our democratic solution process improves on the combined judgement by guiding the participants through an effective solution process.

The solution process contains four steps. Several times in each step, participants express their voice and make many small decisions or judgements through two activities: statements and assessments. Statements and assessments are the foundation of the solution process, allowing each process step to converge on the best ideas.

Open source, free software created by Polis for collecting and analyzing statements and assessments was the basis of the vTaiwan website. The Polis system "has been used all over the world by governments, academics, independent media, and citizens." [1] We might incorporate their open source software into our system or we might develop our own. Regardless of which path we take, the statement and assessment feature would be the same conceptually. As we use statements and assessments multiple times in each step throughout our process, understanding how statements and assessments work is the key to understanding our process.

Statements provide a voice

A statement is a short text describing one thought, idea, or perspective in direct response to a question. A statement can contain only one idea or point.

Our democratic solution process contains 11 or more questions throughout the four steps of the process. In response to each question, a participant could enter new, unique statements as well as assess the statements of others. Before entering a new statement in our process, however, the participant would be required to assess a minimum of 10 previous statements. If fewer than 10 statements had been entered by others, then all statements would need to be assessed to continue. In practice, with Polis surveys people often chose to assess 50 to 100 or more statements to discover what other people were thinking before entering any new statements.

For the assessment process, statements would be displayed one at a time on a screen similar to the one in Figure 12-1.



Figure 12-1


Participants would assess a statement by voting that they Agree, Disagree, or are Unsure of their opinion using their judgement. The next statement to assess would immediately appear. A participant could assess 10 or more statements in a few minutes. Unlike social media, replying directly to a statement would not be possible. This would reduce trolling and hostility.

After 10 assessments, the "Share your perspective" text box would be enabled allowing the participant to enter 1 or more statements of their own if they desire. The "Next" button would also be enabled allowing them to continue with the solution process when finished responding to the question.

Assessments provide an equivalent voice

Assessing a statement of another person allows you to express your voice as authentically as entering your own statement. Moreover, assessing the statements of others is a much faster way of expressing your voice than developing a new, unique statement yourself. Kudos to Polis for this ingenious concept of assessing statements!

Fortunately, only a limited number of unique statements can exist in response to a question, even if there were millions of participants. In Polis surveys, the total number of unique statements in response to a question would often be in the low hundreds and would rarely approach 1,000. A political survey in Germany that used Polis illustrated this natural limit.

Approximately 34,000 participants submitted about 800 unique statements. They entered about 2 million assessments of those statements. The topic of the survey was, "The Germans are doing better than ever..." The following very general question was asked. [2]

Is it really like that?

The economy is doing well, but what about the people? What matters to society? How are you? What are you afraid of? What would increase your quality of life and what would decrease it? What would really have to change in Germany to make it a country worth living in? Do you have worries or even existential fears?

Below are 3 of the 783 unique statements submitted in response to this question. [3

#50:  We need a policy for people with low & middle incomes; no rich minority politics for a rich minority.
[94% of the 13,209 assessments of this statement agreed]

#52:  I would like international corporations that make profits here to pay taxes appropriately.
[97% of the 13,666 assessments of this statement agreed]

#497:  Social professions (e.g. nurses, educators, etc.) require higher recognition - in the form of better working conditions + wages.
[96% of the 12,059 assessments of this statement agreed]

Federal Council staff would moderate statements

Federal Council staff would moderate every statement before it was seen by others. Whatever action was taken by the moderator would be logged with the moderator's ID for audit by the government quality department and the public. A moderator could take the following actions.

  1. Statements that duplicated the meaning of previous statements would be removed.

  2. Any personal identification information would be removed.

  3. Statements criticizing other statements or containing insults would be removed.

  4. Any cursing, bigotry, etc. would be removed leaving the original concept and voice intact if possible.

  5. Statements with junk entries or advertising would be removed. The submitter's citizen account could optionally be suspended from further participation in the issue for a period to protect the time of the moderators.

  6. If a statement contained two ideas, it would be split into separate statements.

  7. Otherwise, the statement would be approved and added to the list for assessment by others.

Submitters would be notified automatically of actions taken by a moderator regarding their statements. The notification would contain the statement submitted and a link to the issue. If the statement were removed as a duplicate, the previous original statement would also be included and the submitter would be invited to assess that statement or to enter a revised statement with a unique meaning if desired.

Statements would display in semi-random order

Each participant would be shown the list of statements in semi-random order. The order would not be truly random because a statement might have a slightly higher or lower chance of being displayed. However, all statements would have some chance of being displayed and would be shown to many people. There are four exceptions to true randomness of statement display.

  1. Statements that facilitated grouping of statements and of participants would have a slightly higher chance.

  2. Statements that were agreed to by more people that facilitated forming a consensus would have a slightly higher chance.

  3. If many statements had already been submitted and assessed, then new statements would have a slightly higher chance to ensure they were seen and assessed.

  4. If a statement were "passed" on often, then it would have a slightly lower chance.

Participants and statements grouped

Throughout the day, an AI algorithm would cluster participants into different groups of like-minded responders based on two factors as Polis does now. 

  1. Those who tended to assess the same statements the same way.

  2. Those who voted distinctly differently from other groups.

Statements would also be grouped based on a consensus of 60% or more matching assessments. For example, Figure 12‑2 shows some of the consensus statements from the German survey. Statement 50, "we need a policy for people with low & middle incomes; no rich minority politics for a rich minority," was agreed to by 94% of all participants.

The consensus results in Figure 12-2 illustrate how participants are automatically clustered into groups. In the example, there were two groups, Group A with 6,516 participants and Group B with 16,838 participants. However, more groups are possible depending on the assessments. The results illustrate both the consensus and how each group responds to each statement.


Figure 12-2 [4]


Participants and the public could view the latest results at any time. In the Polis surveys, after viewing the results, participants often added new statements that they felt more people could agree to, naturally steering participants towards consensus on the question over time.

Divisional statements

While the statements with consensus were aligned, assessments of other statements were strongly divided between the two groups. Figure 12-3 illustrates the most divisive statement in the survey, statement 17, "German immigration policy scares me." Overall, the participants were almost evenly divided 38% in agreement to 41% in disagreement to the statement.



Figure 12-3 [5]


Figure 12-4 contains a dot plot illustrating the level of consensus versus division for all statements of the German survey. Statement 17 was the furthest dot to the right, the most divisive statement in the survey. Statement 52 was the furthest dot to the left showing the most consensus with 97% in agreement.



Figure 12-4 [6]


As you can see, most participants felt the same way about most statements, demonstrating that societies are more aligned than polarized. This flies in the face of political party propaganda that would have you believe that the dot plot would be reversed, that almost all the dots would be to the right because citizens are naturally divided.

In reviewing the dot plots of the many diverse surveys posted on Polis, there was generally much consensus regarding the statements in every survey. This demonstrates that the Right and the Left are artificial constructs meant to generate anger, drive you to the extreme to support the political party, and to focus your attention away from the actions of the party. When it comes to statements about individual issues, people are more aligned than the political parties and the media want you to believe. "Common ground" is actually common on almost every issue when you view one issue at a time and assess all the parts. That is why participatory budgeting works and why our Collaborative Democracy will be superior.

Tracking the demographics

From the demographics entered by citizens during registration, the Federal Council could monitor the characteristics of the groups formed from their statement assessments. However, the Federal Council could also create their own demographic statements for an issue before making the issue active. Participants would agree or disagree with demographic statements just as they would assess other statements. Any information that the Federal Council needs to know to ensure the participants are representative of the population affected by the issue could be entered by them as a statement.

 For example, the following demographic statements were used in the German survey.

  • I live in the new federal states.

  • I am over 30 years old.

  • I have a foreign background.

  • I have the impression that I am better off economically than the average population.

  • I am self-employed.




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