Since 1997, Berlin has had a three-stage popular participation procedure for the implementation of referendum petitions and referendums. Popular participation procedures belong to the group of direct democratic procedures and allow eligible voters to initiate votes on substantive issues outside of elections. This gives them the opportunity to exert direct political influence and address issues that may not have received sufficient attention in day-to-day politics.
Popular participation procedures are therefore of great importance for exercising the democratic will of eligible voters.
In the course of the almost 25 years long history of Berlin's popular participation procedures, a number of challenges have become apparent which, if overcome, could trigger democracy-strengthening potential.
One such challenge is the lack of transparency about all ongoing and previously conducted popular participation procedures. Currently, it is only possible to find details about the completed procedures (result, duration, number of signatures, ...) with enormous effort. The situation is similar for current procedures. There is no central point of contact where an overview of the current proceedings can be retrieved. Rather, one is dependent on the initiators' willingness to provide information, which is often neither complete nor up-to-date. Furthermore, there is no uniform presentation, since each initiator has a different focus on the presentation of information.
This situation is problematic for interested parties, regardless of whether they are initiators or eligible voters. Those entitled to vote, for example, cannot find out with reasonable effort which procedures are currently being carried out, which has a direct impact on possible participation. In turn, the initiators have to invest a lot of effort in achieving sufficient visibility. At the same time, they do not have a comprehensive understanding of what data and information might be of interest and in what form.
Other groups, such as the media, would benefit equally from comprehensive transparency.
The motivation for this software project is therefore the effective optimization of the popular participation procedures of the state of Berlin by bringing about more transparency. Therefore, a solution is needed that at least makes the status of current and future procedures visible. The most important criteria here are completeness and central as well as uniform availability of the data.
Further information on direct democracy and popular participation procedures can be found here:
The subject of this project is the development of a web application (also as a mobile app?) for status recording and visualization as well as tracking of popular participation procedures.
The relevant data cannot be imported automatically. Instead, it must be entered manually by the users (initiators). Appropriate rights management should ensure that users can enter the necessary data via a standardized input form and manage their own process. In addition, users should be able to upload relevant documents and evidence and assign them to their procedures (document management).
The data entered must then be visualized in a uniform and automated manner. At the level of the individual processes, the most detailed representation possible (analogous to a circuit diagram) is required, in which the status for all relevant intermediate steps of the process is presented.
Overarching this, meaningful dashboards and reports are to be considered, which show developments and correlations.
In addition, interested parties should be able to track processes that are important to them and be automatically informed of status changes (WebAlert function).
The selection of the right technology in terms of ease of maintenance and extensibility (using open source components) is just as significant as the selection of licensing models (software, data, ...) that do not impair use and further development. Comprehensive and detailed documentation of the software is similarly relevant.
Following the end of the project, the aim is to transfer the solution to a non-profit status, which would benefit future public participation processes in Berlin.
There will be a preliminary meeting for the software project in the first week (October 18, 2021 - October 24, 2021). There will also be project meetings during the semester. Final presentations will be held in the last week (February 14, 2022 - February 20, 2022).