“We’re 21st century citizens interacting with 19th century institutions based on 15th century IT.”
Pia Mancini is one of the world’s most prominent democracy activists. Her day-to-day work revolves around reimagining democracy for the digital era. She’s starting up a new set of institutions, or at least the scaffolding for new institutions to be built, to help resolve the divide between how we organise and communicate in our everyday lives, and how legacy institutions expect us to interact with them.
DemocracyOS provides a platform for citizens to engage with politics away from those outdated structures: when a new piece of legislation is brought to congress in Argentina, DemocracyOS is used to immediately translate and explain it in plain language. Citizens are also able to discuss and directly “vote” on new bills using the site or desktop app.
Open Collective allows groups who collect and spend money together to operate in full transparency, from collecting membership fees or donations to reimbursing expenses with one click. Anyone who contributes funds to the collective can view all of the group’s transactions at any time.
Her newest project, Democracy.Earth, launched last year and centres on smart contract technology, computer protocols that automatically execute the terms of a contract and will allow decentralised governance of any organisation – from cities to corporations; student unions to football teams - using Blockchain. She says the millennial generation doesn’t want to engage with current political systems, but the notion that we can’t participate or make decisions amongst ourselves is so ingrained that, when we don’t like the options on offer, we don’t create better ones; our response is to disassociate ourselves. Instead of working to change existing political institutions, she is finding ways for new institutions to be born and find ways for new and larger groups of people to define the kinds of government institutions they would like.
One of the questions being raised by Democracy.Earth is whether we still need political parties and if we still need institutions that are based on territory instead of on ideas. What could open source democracy do for how we make decisions about the future of our energy system? Could shifting from a centralised to a more distributed system of governance enable the shift towards a participative energy grid? What would a 21st century governance system for our energy grid look like?