In September 2013 I joined the core development team of Participedia and since then I have been involved in a large international effort spearheaded by more than 25 universities across the world to create a community that brings together practioners and academics that study democratic innovations.
While a conventional top-down research approach was feasible when democratic innovations were few and isolated cases, now that thousands of new cases emerge every year such model has become impractical.
Participedia is exploring new methods to gather data on democratic innovations. One approach aims to crowdsource data directly from practitioners. But such a method is currently very hard to sustain, and we hope that it will become operational in time when Participedia develops greater visibility. Another approach aims to exploit the unused capacity that we have in univeristies around the world. More precisely we have developed a teaching module that guides undergraduate and master students in writing simple case studies on democratic innovations that occur in their region. This module has already been experimented with in the UK, Italy and in the US, generating more than 500 case studies. Participedia has become the largest repository of such case studies using this method. A third approach is to require funding agencies to adopt our case study module as a requirement in their post-funding review. We are currently discussing a pilot project with the regional government of Tuscany (Italy) to implement these ideas.
Participedia is still in its proof of concept stage, but it is a fascinating project that if succesful might revolutionize the field. We are currently requesting funding from Canadian Government agencies. We passed the pre-selection in June 2014, and we are now completing the final phase of the grant.