Essential reading for change makers seeking to solve public problems with collective intelligence

For activists | researchers | policy makers

Solve urgent public problems with the science of collective intelligence

This new reference handbook – packed with evidence based principles and 36 inspiring case studies – helps public servants and active citizens understand and apply the principles of collective intelligence.

If you are an activist, a decision maker or a researcher who wants to heal divides, strengthen democracy, and find solutions to our biggest challenges, this book is for you.

Free for all, forever, thanks to generous funding from the Porticus Foundation

The Routledge Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance

36 case studies
70 expert contributors
1st comprehensive survey of the field

Free for all, forever, thanks to generous funding from the Porticus Foundation

The reference Handbook on Collective Intelligence and governance

From Routledge, the world's leading academic publisher in Humanities and Social Science

This first survey of the field of collective intelligence, democracy and governance is required reading for public servants and active citizens seeking to solve today’s most complex public problems.

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Peek inside the Routledge Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance

552 Pages, 861 grams, more insights than you can count

1. The history of Collective Intelligence

The surprising lesson the politcial history of mankind can teach us about what makes groups smart, and how to blend hierarchy and equality.

Beyond the Greek heritage of democracy: discover why our prehistoric communities thrived thanks to collaboration, not strong man autocracy.

How the native American “Iroquois confederacy” – and its forward thinking ideas on representative, productive conversation – inspired Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 proposal to establish a “grand council”.

Why great thinkers like Aristotle, Spinoza, Du Bois and John Stuart Mill believed that collective intelligence produces wiser and smarter outcomes for all. 

The key historical turning points of collective intelligence, and how they are explained by leaps in technology and complexity. (and why the internet is our biggest transformation)

2. The hybrid future of collective intelligence

Why the future of CI will combine both human and machine intelligence: AI, predictive analytics and natural language processing all offer ways of extending – not replacing – human intelligence.

By accumulating knowledge from everyday experience, we often know more that we can tell. Discover how to harness this precious “tacit” knowledge within your communities to improve how you understand and solve problems.

How AI can help us tap into new data, improve how we harness the wisdom of crowds, identify threats and opportunities to our well being.

What it means for democracy to transition from a knowledge society to a collective intelligence society.

3. Collective Intelligence and change in government

Governments are wasting their citizens’ brainpower and failing to cope with our complex world.
Apply these guiding principles to design smarter institutions that harness the documented potential of collective intelligence.

The main obstacles blocking participatory democracy initiatives in government (and how to get unstuck).

The delicate art of balancing deliberation with creativity and compromise to produce smarter policy for all.

A former EU lobbyist and ministerial advisor’s take on why interest groups and governments fail to foster positive change and descend into shouting matches.

The triple dilemma you should keep in mind to make participatory democracy initiatives successful.

4. Thinking of government as a shared brain

How could democracy be organized differently if it wanted to make the most of the ideas, expertise and needs of citizens? The answer may be for governments – our most powerful problem solving tool – to function more like a brain, to become more open, engaged and hungry for information, insights and ideas from any source.

The democracies of tomorrow must improve how they think, act and learn. But governements rarely have a clear roadmap of how and when to do so. Discover the 4 guiding principles that help governments harness collective intelligence.

Why change makers should focus on these 3 questions:
1) how to mobilize data and citizen insights;
2) how to open up problem solving far beyond traditional bureaucracies;
3) how to embed rapid learning from those involved in and affected by policies.

5. Measuring the effect of collective intelligence processes

Two central questions you need to answer to convince decision makers that collective intelligence is a viable approach to solving public problems: will it generate good ideas? Are citizens better off?

Why increased collaboration makes citizens smarter, happier, and more civically active; and even more united as a community.

As the complexity of public problems grows, and trust in public institutions declines, the answer to both problems lies in the power of groups to observe, think and act together.

Why complex problems like public health can only be solved by harnessing more diverse sources of information and expertise.

6. Key defining concepts of collective intelligence

Two central questions you need to answer to convince decision makers that collective intelligence is a viable approach to solving public problems:
Will it generate good ideas?
Are citizens better off?

Why increased collaboration makes citizens smarter, happier, and more civically active; and more united as a community.

As the complexity of public problems grows, and trust in public institutions declines, the answer to both problems lies in the power of groups to observe, think and act together.

Why complex problems like public health can only be solved by harnessing more diverse sources of information and expertise.

6 chapters, 36 case studies

With key themes on representation, citizen knowledge, administration, social innovation and technology

Chapter abstract

Proponents of participatory democracy have argued that the best way to redress the past exclusion of citizens from policy decisions is to include them as widely as possible, with priority given to marginalized communities. 

Conversely, proponents of deliberative democracy have argued that the fairest way to include citizens in public decision-making is through ‘mini-publics’ groups of randomly selected citizens who are given a specific mandate and resources to carry it out. 

As Helene Landemore argues in her book Open Democracy, mini-publics should be understood as an alternative – and potentially superior – form of democratic representation, with citizens rotating in and out of temporary assemblies, representing others and being represented in turn. 

The authors encounter a range of ways of thinking about collective intelligence in the public sphere that go far beyond casting a vote on Election Day.

The vTaiwan platform originated from the g0v (“government zero”) movement of civic technologists in 2012 and is known for enhancing transparency and inclusive policymaking in Taiwan. 

In particular, vTaiwan has adopted four stages in the engagement process with the aid of new technologies, namely the brainstorm, preference expression, deliberation, and implementation. 

When COVID-19 struck, the government in Taiwan had to quickly modify policy guidelines to deal with the deadly virus. A few effective policies and guidelines have now been established through vTaiwan, such as the Long-Distance Health Care Policy, Long-Distance Education, Crowdfunding, and other regulatory processes for online commerce.

Lessons from the vTaiwan case about trust-building, technology adoption, co-defining the policy agenda, and getting public officials on board are discussed.

Iceland is the first country in the world which tried to produce a crowdsourced constitution. In 2010, there was an initiative to involve randomly selected citizens who would draft the topics of the new constitution and involve citizens through a referendum to refer articles to the parliament.

However, the attempt failed due to a lack of political support. This failure caused frustration among the citizens and led to a change of majority in government. 

A second attempt was initiated six years later. This time around, the leading party made sure to have sufficient support from other political parties in the parliament and to organize the process over two legislatures (2018–2025). The party leaders and the Prime Minister have been following the process closely. They have invited experts to support the planning and implementation process, combining offline and online deliberations. 

The methods used involve opinion polling, crowdsourcing, and deliberative polling. The results have been forwarded to the government to develop the new constitution. The process has been fully transparent and has resonated positively with the population.

This case study tells the story of Uffe Elbæk, co-founder of the political platform The Alternative, and his repeated attempts to bring collective intelligence and creativity to Danish politics. 

Faced with power struggles, traditional ways of working, and the curse of path dependency, Elbæk sought to disrupt traditional Danish politics through an entrepreneurial approach, informed by his background in creativity methods.

This approach resulted in the very first crowdsourced political program in Denmark and some political success, before renewed challenges. The case study highlights the importance of political entrepreneurs who are not afraid to fail and present key principles of creativity.

Rethinking the power systems of industrialized countries is crucial to fight climate change. 

However, discussions on energy transition often turn out to be very fragmented and indecisive because of the complexity of the task, its impact on the economy, the number of stakeholders involved, and the range of views and interests at play. 

To face this challenge, the German philanthropic foundation Stiftung Mercator created the “Agora Energiewende.” This platform brings together different stakeholders, offering a safe and informed space where different options for Germany’s energy transition can be analyzed and discussed in a meaningful and holistic way, fuelled with the input of a team of experts. 

Its objective is to bring about co-created and co-owned change. This approach has shaped the political debate in Germany and inspired other Agora-type approaches, in Vietnam, Madagascar, Turkey, and beyond, on coal, deforestation, and other topics.

In 2015, the City Council in Gentofte, Denmark, decided to change the way it develops policies in order to make them more effective, innovative, and legitimate. 

To that end, the politicians decided to introduce the so-called Political Task Committees where politicians and citizens engage in a joint effort to formulate new political programs and strategies. 

A longitudinal case study indicates that the committees hold the potential to advance a particular kind of collective political intelligence that could turn out to be an important building block in and guideline for overcoming some of the current challenges for representative democracy.

This case study examines an online deliberation experiment in which a group of supporters of a large political party were invited to propose ways to reform a national electoral law. 

Researchers compared a traditional comment forum with the Deliberatorium, an online collaborative platform where users build “argument maps” to capture the various proposals and their associated arguments for and against. The aim of the study was to assess the capability of this tool to support large-scale deliberation in a real-world case, comparing the argument-map approach to a traditional discussion forum. 

By comparing users’ experience across several metrics related to usability, activity levels, and quality of collaboration, we found that while the argument-map platform was perceived as less intuitive and fluid, users nevertheless maintained their engagement at a similar rate to the forum condition and ended up producing more interactions, fewer self-referential arguments, and a more respectful tone.

We describe the design of a video-conferencing platform for online deliberation that is self-moderating in the sense that it works without a human moderator.

The platform includes an audio and video conferencing system and incorporates automated and user-assisted moderation, queues, nudges, speaker management, and agenda management. It can be configured to mirror the moderation practices of the Deliberative Polling framework (Fishkin, Luskin, and Jowell 2000), and has also been used in other deliberative settings. 

We evaluate the efficacy of our platform by analyzing surveys and metrics from a Japanese Deliberative Polling exercise conducted on this platform. We find that the online platform performs on par with an earlier in-person moderated deliberation on a very similar topic, overcoming both the need to convene in-person and the need to recruit and train effective human moderators. 

We present preliminary evidence that our platform leads to increased gender equity in participation compared to in-person deliberation, and also performs well on equitable participation across two other demographic factors commonly associated with privilege: income and education. Finally, we share some practical takeaways on how to effectively run a deliberative exercise through online video chat on a platform like ours.

On September 20, 2022, the National Assembly of Nigeria transferred a citizen-drafted bill to the President for signature. This case traces the policy-making journey over five years, examining the application of the “ADDIS Process” on a complex problem, the overhaul of public policies in Nigeria affecting entrepreneurs. 

The ADDIS Process is a collective intelligence framework developed by the pan-African Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4Policy) and developed through participatory practice in more than a dozen countries.

Chapter abstract

At the political level, collective intelligence can arguably be viewed as a public good when citizens contribute with their tacit insights, and the outcome of such insights is shared with the wider society, assuming that the majority of citizens within a given geographic area have access to such insights. 

To explain the sense in which tacit knowledge can be harnessed for the public good through its aggregation into a collective intelligence, in particular, the author shall emphasize the role of citizen tacit knowledge for societal development. 

Few studies have covered the spillover process of harnessing citizen tacit knowledge for collective intelligence as a public good that being both the transfer and sharing of tacit knowledge. It provides some indications about the challenges related to organizing and implementing the governance of a territory harnessing tacit knowledge and collective intelligence across a region as a public good.

Famously located at the head of the Great Belt Bridge, Slagelse municipality aims to create another linking element – a knowledge bridge to its citizens – by including their collective intelligence in local policymaking. 

For this purpose, the municipality designed an online deliberation platform together with the Collective Intelligence Research Group at the IT University of Copenhagen and in collaboration with CitizenLab in Brussels. The knowledge-based platform is a deliberation forum integrating artificial intelligence/natural language processing (NLP) mechanisms to sort and categorize citizen insights, making engagement of a larger number of citizens possible.

On the website “Our Knowledge,” the municipality aims to continuously involve citizens to capture their ideas and inputs, thus helping citizens to create better solutions. For example, it could be questions concerning biodiversity, the climate crisis, or public health. 

The preliminary findings of the research project show the potential of combining collective intelligence and artificial intelligence as well as barriers to overcome.

How can one facilitate important changes for an entire geographical region? This is the problem Co-Intelligence Wallonia attempted to find answers for. 

The project was intended to help political and civic actors explore the role of collective intelligence in achieving this objective. Although its goals were not completely achieved, this pioneering experiment provides valuable lessons for public actors who envision collective intelligence as the foundation for organizing and implementing the governance of a territory.

This is a tale of positive change that happened because people were willing to see things differently. Leaders of state and local agencies that served “troubled” youth were able to envision how things could be done differently.

Organizers and staff found the will to collectively become more creative and invest the time, energy, and resources to make it happen. Community members, including young people, were able to trust one another and explore new ways to solve difficult problems by working together, guided by a deliberate, creative process. 

When early indicators pointed to success, other key stakeholders got involved and invested in the collective effort. As a result, a statewide shift occurred that impacted the way in which policy was formulated, how funding was allocated, how interagency planning was conducted and how service providers were trained and certified. 

The purpose of this case study is to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the creative problem-solving process.

In 2019 and 2020, a diverse group of 35 men and women were given a daunting task: Create a new model of national development for the nation of Morocco, inspired by the needs and ideas of the Moroccan people themselves. 

Over 14 months, the Commission spéciale pour le Modèle de Développement (CSMD) created an unprecedented national consultation, combining a range of field visits, workshops, listening sessions, townhall-style “citizen encounters,” and an interactive online platform. 

This case study focuses on a method of guided storytelling used as the basis of the first séance d’écoute on the UM6P campus in Ben Guérir, Morocco, in December 2019. With a new model of development now validated by the head of state and taken up by a newly elected government, the next step in defining the “Moroccan model of collective intelligence” is underway.

Chapter abstract

Academics and civil servants alike are now seeking new ways to tap into the wisdom of the crowds, to elicit and cultivate the practical know-how of civil servants and citizens developed in their varying contexts, to base policies on better evidence, to challenge the hegemony of experts and certain scientific disciplines on government, and to test out and assess policies in a more agile and decentralized fashion than past thinkers of public administration envisaged. 

Generally, there is a willingness to foster innovative thinking, whether it allows the emergence of better solutions within the public sector or whether it supports solutions developed within society more generally. The civil servants behind the cases reviewed may also have been aware of the limitations of what developers refer to as the “Big Design Up Front” approach. It is often assumed that simplicity and close-knit communities are more conducive to democracy than complex, large, loose groups.

In the early 2000s, the UK government redesigned its institutions and policy design processes, at local and national levels, with the explicit aim of identifying, applying and sharing more effective solutions to prevent young offenders from committing crimes and going to prison. 

By creating and sharing responsibility with the Youth Justice Board and Local Offending Teams and incentivizing them to work autonomously across silos, while playing a central role in monitoring, documenting, rewarding and spreading successes, the government was able to considerably lower the number of juvenile offenders sent to jail. 

The fact that the government was able to stick to its innovative approach for over ten years helps explain how the players involved changed culture and methods, while the government’s difficulty in spreading the innovations to other policy issues sheds light on the challenges of building on success in a fraught political environment, however collectively intelligent the innovations may have been.

When a group of activists and local villagers in Rajasthan shed light on massive embezzlement by the public officials in 1994, they organized a large hearing where citizens with limited access to power could share their grievances with public administrations. 

This set out to be the first of many jan sunwais – a type of public consultation, in between a community meeting and court hearing – in India on topics like healthcare, municipal budgeting, and violence against marginalized groups. 

The jan sunwai format has proven to be very effective and transformative in its ability to sensitize audiences, to channel emotions, to educate citizens about their rights, and to stimulate collective mobilization.

City Participatory Budgeting is a popular collective intelligence practice found in western urban governance systems, and it is rapidly gaining popularity globally. School Participatory Budgeting (School PB) is inspired from this methodology, while applying it to the microcosm of school communities. 

This case study explores School PB as a method of educating youth in applying principles of collective intelligence to improve governance systems within school communities, paving the way for a more collaboration-minded generation for the future.

How does society remember and use memory to better tackle public problems? How do public authorities work with civil society to allow policy experiments and scale them? 

The anti-poverty movement organization ATD-Quart Monde came up with an innovative solution to solve the long-term unemployment problem of the 85 persons who’d been out of work for over a year in a small French town, Seiches-sur-le-Loir. They suggested to the town Mayor to match the qualifications and skills of these unemployed persons to the full-time jobs in the town. 

The ATD-Quart Monde established a novel company structure that would recruit and pay the unemployed person while receiving social benefits from the government. This way the unemployed persons would temporarily work for the city and be trained, rather than being compensated to stay at home. 

This initiative had positive outcomes that led to changes in national legislation and the allocation of funds for an experimental phase. The experiment was launched as “zero long-term unemployment in French territories” with ten medium-sized municipalities involved. 

The success of the experiment made it possible to extend the movement throughout the whole country, to 200 projects, and inspired Belgium to experiment with the same policy. 

This case demonstrates the importance of public institutions’ support to develop policy innovations and bring them to scale as well as the importance of new governance models better suited to fostering innovation.

How does society remember and use memory to better tackle public problems? How do public authorities work with civil society to allow policy experiments and scale them? 

The anti-poverty movement organization ATD-Quart Monde came up with an innovative solution to solve the long-term unemployment problem of the 85 persons who’d been out of work for over a year in a small French town, Seiches-sur-le-Loir. They suggested to the town Mayor to match the qualifications and skills of these unemployed persons to the full-time jobs in the town. 

The ATD-Quart Monde established a novel company structure that would recruit and pay the unemployed person while receiving social benefits from the government. This way the unemployed persons would temporarily work for the city and be trained, rather than being compensated to stay at home. 

This initiative had positive outcomes that led to changes in national legislation and the allocation of funds for an experimental phase. The experiment was launched as “zero long-term unemployment in French territories” with ten medium-sized municipalities involved. 

The success of the experiment made it possible to extend the movement throughout the whole country, to 200 projects, and inspired Belgium to experiment with the same policy. 

This case demonstrates the importance of public institutions’ support to develop policy innovations and bring them to scale as well as the importance of new governance models better suited to fostering innovation.

Decidim (“We decide” in Catalan) is a free/open-source software for citizen participation and a democratic innovation ecosystem first promoted by the townhall of Barcelona in 2016, which has rapidly expanded to hundreds of municipalities, regions, states, and organizations around the world. 

Decidim helps organizations – such as public institutions, civil society groups, or cooperatives – in co-producing more effective and innovative policies through open processes of participation and deliberation (from problem diagnosis and ideation to policy implementation and accountability). 

This chapter captures some key learnings on the connection between collective intelligence, public innovation, and digital technologies, drawn from the experiencies with Decidim, with a special focus in the cases of and the Conference on the future of Europe, which illustrate how socioinformational technologies can be designed and used to unleash collective intelligence. 

Some examples are Decidim’s modular platform design; its Social Contract – which explicitly prescribes a democratic values-based vision of CI – and its internal participatory governance built around the MetaDecidim community.

Collective intelligence is thus not only a by-product but also the modus operandi and core principle of design. In this sense, Decidim takes part in the global conversation to rethink and reinvent what democracy and technology – and the connection between the two – may look like in the 21st century.

Chapter abstract

Society seemed to be coming apart in simple ways, too – in how people refused to look one another in the face, in the coldness and brutality with which they spoke.

The troubled young man by the name of Kong carried his frustrations into the civil service, where he had a middling career, and then into teaching, where he had perhaps the greatest career of anyone, ever. In early China, Puett explains, human beings were understood as a mass of contradictory elements – conflicting emotions, turbulent energies, chaotic spirits – all of which they worked to refine during their lives.

The field of social innovation covers a vast range of challenges, from education and health to violence and discrimination to fighting pollution and climate change.

The power dynamics at play may present a hierarchy – from the generational hierarchies of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai to the administrative hierarchies of the health systems in Sollefteå and Aarhus.

For three years the yellow-vested activists had been peacefully protesting the closure of the maternity ward in Sollefteå Hospital in the peripheral town in Sweden. After changes in political power, the regional government finally paid attention to the protesters and invited them for a dialogue. 

The dialogue in question would ideally witness the authorities listening to all possible perspectives and creating trust for the process, while all participants are assured of the neutrality of the mediating team. However, not in this case, as people on both sides had clear positions, expectations, and demands and there was resistance to finding a common goal. 

The mediating team initiated a conversation between limited representatives for each of the parties to identify common ground and to design a process for constructive dialogue. 

The outcomes were unsuccessful, as the politicians and government officials found conflicting positions internally and decided to continue the dialogue process internally on their own terms, while excluding protestors and other interested parties. 

This case demonstrates that excluding different stakeholders, ignoring people’s voices, and hindering empowerment of collective thinking impede solving the problems and conflict in society. While on the other hand, listening to each other, thinking together, good preparation, and collaborating attitudes can lead to collective intelligence for smarter solutions of public concern.

This case describes the effectiveness of youth participation as a mechanism for an entire community – the Teme-Augama Anishnabai community living on Lake Temagami in northeastern Ontario, Canada – to talk to each other and make decisions. 

In a context rife with inertia and conflict, our approach overcame differences in opinion and created a shared vision regarding the organization, planning, and direction of the band. 

This case study provides a novel contribution to contemporary reflections on collective intelligence models with regard to methods of combining different perspectives in conflict resolution.

Nowadays 55% of the world population lives in cities and, according to the World Bank, it is predicted that by 2054 this figure will rise to a staggering 70%, with the overall urban population expected to double. By then, 70% of us will live in urban areas. 

This scenario presents the challenges and stress that come with rapid urbanization – such as accelerated demand for affordable housing, well-connected transport systems, basic services, jobs, resource and waste management, tackling urban inequalities – but it also presents an opportunity for the transformation of the system within our current paradigm. 

But for that to happen, a change is required in the mainstream narratives around what cities are, what life in them means, and how they are expected to operate. This chapter explores the power of stories to catalyze systemic transformations.

Sager der Samler is a local powerhouse for citizen initiatives in the Danish city of Aarhus. It creates collective action and social innovation by supporting a new wave of activism emerging among local citizens who feel marginalized by current political issues, malfunctioning systems, and social injustice. 

The role of the platform is to scale initiatives up from a personal impulse sparked by frustrations or aspirations into a viable initiative that can address and potentially address the issue on a systemic scale. 

With the actions of the shared community practices – collaboration, co-creation, and co-production – the initiative described in this case attempts to “infiltrate the bureaucratic walls” of health care and public services by developing more inclusive awareness and understanding of citizens’ needs in future public servants.

Impact Collective (IC) is a community-driven investment and acceleration program for startups creating social and environmental impact in Asia Pacific (APAC). 

The program brings together a wide array of partners and is powered by TheVentures, a Seoul-based, early-stage venture capital, and Citypreneurs, a UN-backed startup initiative co-organized by WFUNA, UNDP, UNESCAP, WeGO, and city governments. 

IC aims to redefine the capital model for impact-driven startups in the APAC region by bringing the collective intelligence of community and local experts into business incubation and investment decision-making processes, facilitated by a tokenized voting system hosted on IC’s online platform.

Chapter abstract

The neighborhood of BEDZED in the UK may be a model for ecodesign. The city of Grenoble’s ZAC de Bonne may be an admirable eco-neighborhood copied elsewhere that offers answers to the environmental and social challenges faced by dense urban areas. It is at international level that many governance issues need to be addressed with speed and decisiveness in order to tackle major problems at the required scale. 

Finally, a specific challenge of collective intelligence (CI) for international governance is the increased complexity of the task simply because participants are unlikely to share the same language and value base, level of trust, understanding of cultural norms, and other factors that make collaboration and risk taking at local level easier. International governance reminds us powerfully how CI is not simply a “brainy” process, as the word “intelligence” or the technicality of prediction markets or crowdsourcing technologies might suggest.

The “Open European Dialogue” (previously “Mercator European Dialogue”) was piloted in 2013 and initiated in 2014, originally to mitigate the North-South divide within the European Union (EU) following the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Inspired by the toolbox of international diplomacy, the Stiftung Mercator developed a safe space for exchanging ideas and building trust among members of national parliaments across the EU. Ever since, multiple methods of collective intelligence have been deployed in order to enable a better connection and cooperation between European lawmakers and to foster a deeper understanding of different perspectives. The Open European Dialogue is the EU’s first cross-party, cross-border informal network of elected politicians.

The ability to predict the future is key to intelligent behavior and good governance. It is also famously difficult, even for the most expert individuals in any domain. 

Fortunately, collective intelligence can greatly help push the forecasting frontier, especially in domains where too many variables are involved for individual experts, and too few structured data are available to feed machine-learning models. 

Here we present the results of a large-scale crowd forecasting experiment conducted jointly by Hypermind and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to predict infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, Measles, or coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

While most experts predicted poorly, the crowd outperformed even the most accurate individual. We explain why and how crowds can offer wise predictions given the right combination of expertise, diversity, independence, and aggregation methods.

The aspirational premise of the United Nations 2030 global development agenda is rooted in the understanding that achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is only possible through partnerships among different stakeholders across society and at a global scale. Every year, UNLEASH, a global initiative first piloted in Denmark, gathers more than 1,000 young talents from all around the world in their Innovation Lab to think together about concrete solutions that can accelerate the success of the SDGs and reinforce innovation capacities everywhere. The core of this approach is to create an ecosystem that mixes young people from social entrepreneurship and the private sector, with committed academics as well as a network of experts and facilitators dedicated to these young talents. These UNLEASH Innovation Labs are not hackathons per se, but encounters that cultivate a collaborative state of mind, unleashing collective intelligence to create solutions to the enduring challenges of sustainable development.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of the most complex intergovernmental expert organizations of our times, bringing together scientific and technical experts and government representatives to agree on the state of the knowledge on climate change, its impact and solutions. 

It draws its authority not only from the quality of its assessment reports, but crucially also from the processes that seek to aggregate the collective intelligence of researchers, government representatives, and, to a lesser extent, observer organizations. As this case illustrates, these processes, however, are not without limits.

Using the example of the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930–2017), who ruled from 1982 to 1998, this chapter describes how eating and drinking together help to cope with difficult negotiation situations, build trust, and forge (political) friendships. It becomes clear that, in the best case, gastrosophy opens new possibilities of interpersonal communication that makes collective thinking more effective – an experience that many people have already made in private, but of which there are also numerous examples on the world political stage.

African Digital Futures convened 22 next-generation changemakers together with African futurists and next-generation thinkers in early 2021 to launch provocative conversations on data-driven technology as imagined, developed, and used by communities across the continent. 

These next-generation changemakers used collective intelligence methods to anticipate the future and worked alongside leading experts in African history, culture, journalism, storytelling, agriculture, education, civic technology, environmental activism, and scenario development who facilitated and informed the conversations. 

The stories and insights have been shared openly to encourage discussion and debate.

Chapter abstract

It is thus relevant for collective intelligence to unfold how collective intelligence supported by technologies can possibly advance such states of our sensory apparatus and lead to a collective consciousness across many individuals when harnessing their insights in participatory democratic processes to serve policymaking.

With that in mind, let’s proceed to a consideration of collective intelligence and technology for the advancement of collective consciousness. Building on such interactions between collective intelligence, artificial intelligence, and related concepts, collective consciousness developed from collective intelligence as an emergent scientific discipline could be described along a continuum of the extent to which technology is integrated into the formation of collective consciousness. 

So, resulting from information technology such as the internet and collective intelligence platforms, large groups of people can act and interact to make collective actions, informed by their knowledge and experience.

Smarter Crowdsourcing is a tech-based approach for a rapid, global consultation process to find implementable solutions to complex public problems like corruption, infectious diseases, or disaster management. 

In this case study we analyze the Smarter Crowdsourcing process deployed by the Governance Lab and the governments of seven countries from Latin America and the Caribbean in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to understand its key components and how it differs from the traditional open call for expertise.

Where expedition cruises can play a crucial role. Through the collective intelligence of resident communities and visitors, citizen science enables valuable data and information to be generated from local and outside sources of knowledge. 

This chapter outlines a citizen science pilot program of environmental monitoring by Arctic expedition cruises in Svalbard and Greenland during 2019 conducted to understand the potential this kind of environmental monitoring may have and to identify suitable approaches for enhancing data collection, management, and knowledge sharing.

Observations are more likely to be used by decision-makers in the Arctic if records are analyzed and interpreted with a view to informing decision-making processes and if the findings are communicated to decision-makers in appropriate formats. 

An intermediary organization that can facilitate the dialogue and knowledge transfer between citizen science programs, scientists, and decision-makers is essential to ensuring that data actually enter the decision-making processes.

How can we use digital technologies to formulate healthcare policy mechanisms that address the world’s critical unmet needs and anticipate potential crises with policies before they arise?

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) leveraged two “Superminds” to combine the practice of expert-based crowdsourcing with problem-solving and scenario planning on two open-source platforms: The “Pandemic Supermind Activation” Initiative and “Trust CoLab”. 

Both exercises showed the importance of global asynchronous activity in policy formulation, and further highlighted the need for decision-makers to utilize these approaches to create tangible policy mechanisms before healthcare crises devastate the globe.

How do you fluidify interactions between elected officials and citizens when the flow of messages is too voluminous to handle with limited staff and resources? 

The Congress of Brazil has been experimenting with different artificial intelligence-assisted technologies and a chatbot or automated dialogue system to handle citizen questions. 

With some promising early results behind us, the development of a “virtual assistant service” for lawmakers and citizens will require an understanding of four relevant dimensions: (1) technology, (2) governance, (3) human resources, and (4) ethics. 

Realizing the benefits of a large-scale communication system powered by political virtual assistants, as considerable as those benefits could prove to be, will demand a complex organization to work properly in parliaments.

The Hexágono de Innovación Pública (HIP) model is the outcome of learnings from more than a decade of accompanying innovation in public administrations. It promotes the transformation of traditional, hierarchical, closed, and bureaucratic institutions into a network of open, empathetic, and democratic organizations. 

The model is based on the idea that innovation is ultimately social and based on conversation. It encourages a new form of emotional connectivity and favors a systemic, community-wide approach to contemporary challenges. 

This case study tells the story of the development of the model and illustrates its application in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This case study illustrates how society can be creative and productive during a crisis (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) through collective intelligence. This is illustrated with the example of the Collective Leadership for Scotland network, a collaborative initiative led by the Scottish government. Their work is primarily led by the action inquiry approach of Theory U.

In a hurry? Read our one pager case studies for busy change makers

Bite sized break downs on what works, and why.

Gov Lab's Smarter Crowdsourcing method curates diverse exeprts to improve government crisis response

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Curating experts insights to tackle Covid-19 with Smarter Crowdsourcing

A new method to attract diverse ideas from global experts and rapidly develop actionable proposals.

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Understanding the levers of public opinion: deliberative polling and AI assisted online deliberation

A new way for governments to reduce polarization and uncover how citizens change their mind on important policy issues

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Slagelse citizens sitting on a bench

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Citizen sourcing local health policy with AI assisted idea curation

How Slagelse used AI to gather citizen insights on health and well-being to craft local policy

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Is the Handbook really free? What's the catch?

There’s no catch, the Handbook is completely free and open access, mainly thanks to the generous support of the Porticus Foundation.
Explore the Handbook’s individual chapters most relevant to you here, or explore our featured cases studies.

Intelligence refers to our ability to use our brains to know which path to take, who to trust, and what to do or not do. (Mulgan, 2018)

The Latin roots of the word – inter, “between,” and legere, “to choose or gather”– suggest the essence of the idea of intelligence as a “gathering together” of information from our environment and experience, combining diverse cognitive capacities in a manner that enables us to make choices favorable to our survival.

Put simply, Collective Intelligence is the capacity of groups to outperform individuals in problem-solving, innovation, prediction, creativity, and other cognitive tasks.

Recent research reveals that when giving IQ tests to groups, we can calculate its problem solving performance thanks to a collective intelligence “c factor”. This echoes the discovery of a “g factor” used to measure individual intelligence over a century ago.

This study demonstrates that the smartest groups, controlling for individual intelligence, have three main drivers::
1) the average social sensitivity of group members, 
2) the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking,
3) the proportion of females in the group.

Today’s biggest challenges – from Covid to climate change and corruption – will not be solved with the hierarchical governance systems that created them. 

Durable, widespread change is only possible if we involve all parts of society, from experts, to decision makers and citizens. The concepts and examples in this Handbook provide you with examples of what works and why, so you can improve how you harness collective intelligence and maximize your positive impact for the greater good.

The Handbook allows decision makers to craft more legitimate and impactful policies. The science of collective intelligence – applied to participatory democracy – shows us how opening up policy making to more and different inputs (other minds, new data and tools) helps reduce blindspots, become more creative, more trustful, and create a sense of common ownership.

The Handbook was co-edited by 3 pioneers of Collective Intelligence.

Stephen Boucher is the founder and CEO of Dreamocracy and teaches at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Sciences Po-Paris, and the Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE).

Carina Antonia Hallin is the Founder and Research Coordinator of the Collective Intelligence Research Group at the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU), Denmark, and Co-Founder of the Academy of Management’s Community on Knowledge Integration, Synthesis and Engineering, and Co-Founder of the CI company Mindpool and Global Mindpool in collaboration with the UNDP.

Lex Paulson is the Executive Director of the UM6P School of Collective Intelligence, Morocco, and lectures in advocacy at Sciences Po-Paris, France.

Our Collective Intelligence experts

A global and diverse network of 60+ experts, contributors and mentors, from the world’s best academic and consultancy teams came together to write this Handbook. 

Our network helps public officials, NGOs, and all those seeking to develop new and impactful projects that renew and strenghten democracy.

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