Expert from TenneT to evaluate student projects

tom_suedlinkDuring the course of the summer term students of our teaching module on online participation developed two (online) participation concepts for SuedLink, a 800km long power supply line currently in planning to support Germany’s transition to more renewable energy. We were very happy to welcome Thomas Wagner of TenneT the company which is planning to construct the power line. Thomas Wagner is responsible for the consultation of the public in the areas affected by the new power line and provided an expert assessments of the viability of the concepts. He congratulated the students on their work and was impressed by the level of detail of their requirements analysis. At the same time, he also grounded some of the more ambitious ideas outlined in the concepts and offered valuable advice based on his experience with citizens and administration.

Expert lecture by Dorothée Manière:
Online Participation in Planning Processes

140514_Plakat ManiérePlanning permission processes are are among those administrative decisions for which there is particular potential for widespread public participation as these have a direct effect on people’s neighborhoods. However, use of digitally networked tools in planning permission processes is not limited to engaging the public for consultation but also to enable more efficient handling of the various documents by administrative staff itself. DEMOS Deutschland, a company specialising in developing and facilitating online participation has developed a tool to enable this internal handling for administration as well as external participation by the public. It is currently in use in two German states, namely Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. We are happy to welcome Dorothée Manière of DEMOS Deutschland here in Duesseldorf who will share with us her experiences and insights from implementing online participation in established administrative processes.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 at 4:30pm in lecture theater 5A. It is open to the interested public. No registration required.

This lecture is part of seminar series on “Online Participation in Practice” for which more information is available here (in German).

Note: Clipart used in poster thanks to / palomaironique

seminar series on “online participation in practice”

Within our colloquium on “online participation in practice” we regularly invite experts with experience in development and application of online participation processes. We are proud to announce the list of speakers for this term’s seminar series which includes a promising mixture of software developers, activists, journalists and administration officials. All relevant information is available from this dedicated page – in German language, as will be the talks itself.

This series of talks continues our seminar series started in the winter term 2012/13 (more information here).

3rd meeting of research network Liquid Democracy (FoLD) in Düsseldorf

FoLD LogoThe research network Liquid Democracy (FoLD) is a loose network of academic institutions and individuals who are interested in the role of Liquid Democracy. Its focus is currently on one particular implementation of this concept, i.e. the software Adhocracy. Not least in our role as developers and users of Adhocracy we have been a member of this network for some time now and we are proud to host the 3rd meeting of the research network Liquid Democracy in Düsseldorf in March this year.

On 6 and 7 March we welcome academics and practitioners from all over Germany who have used Adhocracy to enable participation by audiences as diverse as young people, University staff or party members and evaluated its effects, who are developing the software or who have tried to refine the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of Liquid Democracy. You can have a look at the program below. If you are interested in attending, please get in touch. However, please note that places are limited and that all presentation will be in German-language.

Donnerstag, 06. März 2014


12.00 Uhr

Anmeldung & Möglichkeit zum Mittagessen

13.30 Uhr Begrüßung
Aktuelle Entwicklungen und Projekte des Liquid Democracy e.V. Daniel Reichert

Liquid Democracy e.V.

14.00 Uhr Entwicklung einer verbindlichen Promotionsordnung an der Mathematisch-Naturwiss. Fakultät Tobias Escher, Martin Mauve

Internetvermittelte Kooperative Normsetzung an der Universität Düsseldorf

Stärken – Werte – Ziele: Der partizipative Weg zum Leitbild am KIT Timm Teubner

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

15.15 Uhr

Kaffeepause & Kuchen

15.45 Uhr Teilhabe und Beteiligung stärken – Chancen des digitalen Wandelns nutzen Benjamin Jopen

Landesverband der Grünen in NRW

PolicyCompass: Wohlstandsindikatoren mit offenen Daten erstellen und Regierungen zur Rechenschaft ziehen Martin Löhe

Fraunhofer FOKUS

17.00 Uhr


17.30 Uhr Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit – das Beispiel


Britta Oertel

IZT – Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung

Evaluation von „Youthpart“ (Modellentwicklung für kommunale digitale Jugendbeteiligung) Kerstin Franzl

nexus Institut für Kooperations-management & interdisziplinäre Forschung

18.45 Uhr

20.00 Uhr

Ende des ersten Tages

Gemeinsames Abendessen in der Düsseldorfer Altstadt


Freitag, 07. März 2014

09.00 Uhr Was ist „Flüssige Demokratie“?
Theoretische Zugänge zum Konzept der „Liquid Democracy“
gemeinsame Diskussion mit Beiträgen von

Anja Adler

Rouven Brües

Anna von Notz

Jennifer Paetsch

Nadja Wilker

10.30 Uhr


11.00 Uhr Was braucht Adhocracy?
Adhocracy 3 und mögliche technische Weiterentwicklungen
gemeinsame Diskussion mit Vorträgen von

Nicolas Dietrich

Liquid Democracy e.V.

Forschergruppe Internetvermittelte Kooperative Normsetzung

Uni Düsseldorf

Christian Voigt


12:30 Uhr Zukunft des Forschungsnetzwerks Liquid Democracy Jennifer Paetsch, Daniel Reichert

Liquid Democracy e.V.

FoLD 2014: Rückblick & Abschluss Tobias Escher
13.00 Uhr

14.00 Uhr


Ende des zweiten Tages & Abreise

Lecture: How does Wikipedia work (if it works)?

Within our interdisciplinary teaching module on the Theory and Practice of Online Participation we combine sessions on the core syllabus with guest lectures by experts in particular areas of online participation. One of those experts is Christian Pentzold from Technical University Chemnitz and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society who has been researching Wikipedia for several years now. We are very happy that he joined us in Düsseldorf today to share his knowledge about how Wikipedia works and how it deals with what we have defined as the core challenges of any online participation effort: i) activating participants and quality contributions, ii) aggregating those contributions and iii) finally making decisions, e.g. about the norms that hold such communities together.

Lecture: Legal aspects of citizen participation online

Within our interdisciplinary teaching module on the Theory and Practice of Online Participation we combine sessions on the core syllabus with guest lectures by experts in particular areas of online participation. Today we were very happy to welcome Saskia Fritzsche from the German Research Institute for Public Administration in Speyer who shared with us her intimate knowledge of the legal requirements for as well as obstacles to citizen participation online.

Guest lecture on planning cells by Nicholas Bach from the Nexus Institute, Berlin

We are very happy to had the opportunity to welcome Nicholas Bach of the Nexus Institute in Berlin as a guest speaker for our lecture on the “Foundations of Online Participation” yesterday. Nicholas Bach offered a valuable insight into participatory processes that do not rely on the Internet. In particular, he introduced planning cells, a tool which is the product of many years of research to offer some answers to the challenges of participation. It provided instructive lessons for the assessment and design of online participatory processes.

Start of revised interdisciplinary teaching module on “Theory and Practice of Online Participation”

As a research group we do not only focus our efforts on research but also on sharing our knowledge through teaching. To this end we developed a teaching module on the “Theory and Practice of Online Participation”, consisting of a mixture of lectures, seminars and invited talks over the course of a year.

Its unique because it brings together students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, first of all computer science and the social sciences. The module aims to provide students with the knowledge and expertise to implement participatory online processes in practice on the basis of a sound theoretical understanding. To this end it introduces basic theories of online participation, helps students to develop the skills to assess the promises and the challenges of online participation in their relevant occupations and provide the expertise to implement them in practice. We introduced it last year and after the first cohort of students finished the module, we took some time to think about what we have learned to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the programme so far.

As a result, we restructured the module, giving it a tighter focus and offering more ways to enable students to earn credit points for their courses. The new module started today and we are very happy about the feedback as many students enrolled. For more information, see our teaching section.

Normsetting in action: redrafting doctoral regulations at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

On July 2 the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (MNF) has initiated a faculty-wide consultation process to elicit feedback on how to restructure the examination regulations concerning doctoral degrees. More than 1.300 people have been invited which include all faculty and doctoral students as well as a selection of undergraduate and postgraduate students and representatives of the administration. Legally it is organized as a public session of the Faculty Council – therefore the whole process is publicly visible on the web even though only invited people may register to participate.

The  Faculty Council takes all the binding decisions concerning the MNF and will also formally have to take the final decision on adopting the cooperatively developed document. While the Faculty Council is still free in its final decision, it is the first time that all the members of the faculty that are (potentially) concerned with PhD degrees (either by trying to obtain one, by supervising students or by administering it) can have a say on the actual regulations.

The process itself is structured along five stages:

  1. online (3 weeks): discussion of and vote on basic rules to incorporate
  2. online (2 weeks): discussion of and vote on proposal by the Dean of how to aggregate the basic rules from stage 1 into a single document
  3. offline (3 weeks): drafting of actual document by Dean
  4. online (3 weeks): discussion of draft
  5. offline: vote of Faculty Council on adoption of draft document as binding examination regulations for doctoral degrees

Today marks the end of the first stage which has seen widespread and constructive discussion of 26 proposals (suggested both by the Vice Dean as well as by the participants itself) which included some asking for quite dramatically altering current practice such as getting rid of the grades for PhD degrees, introducing public examinations or seeking external examiners – all not standard at German universities today. You can see a screenshot of the (partial) list of proposals below, detailing supporting votes in green, declining votes in red and number of comments on each proposal.

screenshot of list of proposals

While many more have been visiting the site, more than 200 people have participated through commenting or voting, generating thousands of votes and more than 400 comments. A screenshot of an individual proposal, consisting of proposal, justification, comment section as well as details on votes is below:

screenshot of individual proposal

We are excited to see how the process continues and will provide updates accordingly. This process is part of the efforts of our research group on Internet-mediated cooperative norm setting to not only develop theory but also to practically apply our knowledge in real-world settings. The redrafting of the doctoral regulations is our second pilot project, following our first pilot on performance-based pay of University faculty. We use the Free and Open Source Software Adhocracy by Liquid Democracy with a custom theme. It significantly simplifies the powerful functionality of the original code and introduces a number of features specifically relevant for our research context such as displaying votes for a proposal broken down into the different status groups within the university (i.e. professors, fellows, PhD students, else). At Düsseldorf we are now part of the core developers of Adhocracy, contributing to the main code performance improvements or introducing data logging features and facilities to administer experimental treatments.

Dennis Frieß presents at OpenNRW event by state government of North Rhine-Westphalia

3f4111091dOn 17 May OpenNRW took place, a conference event organized by the government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, aimed at discussing the new Open Government strategy of this federal state as well as the opportunities of digital technologies for increased political participation more generally. There Dennis Frieß (the latest member of our research group) spoke about the evaluation of electronic citizen participation. In particular, he presented the results of a survey of 670 participants of online participatory budgeting in Bonn and Cologne, inquiring specifically into whether such initiatives help to further feelings of political efficacy and other attitudes supportive of democracy. You can find the (German) presentation here as well as the audio recording (from minute 27).

The results are derived from a research project conducted in collaboration with Lena Bayer-Eynck, Johanna Schade and Caroline Strobel as part of their Master’s course. It is called Funktion erfüllt? Onlinegestüzte Bürgerhaushalte aus Sicht der Bürger. (Function fulfilled? Online-aided participatory budgeting from a citizens’ perspective”).

The study exams the question whether effects that accrue through the participatory process are recognised by the participants of online participatory budgeting. It also analysed which variables influence participants’ propensity to recognise such effects. To this end the research group identified 13 democracy-promoting effects from participatory theories (e.g. Barber, 1984; Gould, 1988; Mansbridge 1999; Pateman, 1970) in order to sharpen the democratic perspective of e-participation evaluation.

The main conclusion has been that participatory budgeting projects can indeed support such democracy-promoting effects. What is more, participants who are 1) in general happy with local politics, (2) have a generally positive attitude towards political participation and (3) trust in the political system all evaluate these projects more positive. In contrast, respondents with a high interest in politics and strong political engagement evaluate the democratic functionality of participatory budgeting rather negative.

This project was enabled through a cooperation with our partner Zebralog who designed and implemented both of these budgeting processes.


Barber, B. (1984). Strong democracy. Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley [u.a.]: University of California Press.
Mansbridge, J. (1999). On the Idea that Participation Makes Better Citizens. In S. L. Elkin & K. E. Sołtan (Hrsg.), Citizen Competence and Democratic Institutions (S. 291–328). PA: The
Pennsylvania State University Press.
Pateman, C. (1970). Participation and democratic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.