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The mission of the Metagovernment project is to support the development of internet tools which enable the members of any community to fully participate in the governance of that community. We are a global community of people working on various projects which further this goal.

We envision a world where every person, without exception, is able to substantively participate in any governance structure in which they have an interest. We expect new forms of governance software to be adopted in small communities and to spread outward with the potential to gradually replace many institutions of representative democracy with collaborative governance. We envision governance which is not only more open, free, and democratic; but also which is more effective and less fallible than existing forms of governance.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson, 1816.

Collaborative, not representative

In today's representative democracies, political power is consolidated in the hands of elected individuals who are seen to be best placed to take decisions in the common interest. This implies that people cannot be trusted to solve their own problems: leaders must take control and act on their behalf. At the Metagovernment project, we do not agree that the political world should be structured as a top-down hierarchy. Rather, we assert that people hold political power, and should exert their influence through effective collaboration.

See these pages for more on the specific problems associated with representative democracy and traditional direct democracy.

Overcoming divided interests

The greatest challenges currently faced by humanity are of a global nature. However, global decision-making is still conducted by politicians who are under pressure to represent the economic interests of their individual nations. Metagovernment knows no borders: it has the long-term aim of allowing all the world's citizens to align their decision-making processes so that shared problems may be met with collective action.

Basic principles

The basic principles of the Metagovernment project are as listed below.

Common principles

The following two principles are generally held by every group and person participating in this community.

  • Government of, by, and for all the people – Anyone may contribute to any collaborative governance structure.
  • Openness in everything – All aspects of governance will be as open as possible, under the principle of radical transparency. All software and systems used to run administrations will be free, open source software and systems.

Suggested principles

The following two principles are held by some groups, and are suggested as mechanisms to make collaborative governance more sustainable in the long-term.

  • Without consensus, there is no law – Unless consensus can be reached on how a policy could address an issue, then there will be no policy on that issue.
  • Consensus through synthesis – When opposing views are presented, preference is always given to synthesis rather than either conflict or compromise.

Transition

We anticipate that open governance software will most effectively be used in communities organized around a common theme. Starting with small communities, we will get a better idea of how the process works in the real world and adapt our projects accordingly to enable software to scale to larger and more diverse communities.

Members of those communities will set up an instance of open source governance software and invite members of that community to begin using the software, they will eventually invite the entire community to switch its formal governance mechanism over to the new form. In this way, any community, from a small club to a large government can transition to open source governance.

We do not expect governments, particularly national governments, to cede their authority in the near future, but the expectation of Metagovernment and its associated communities is to gradually make a governance system far superior to the status quo — and so compellingly, unprecedentedly democratic — that the people will simply demand a change to this form of government. In states which claim to be built on democratic principles, the people should be able to peacefully transform their government through the mechanisms of that government or even more gradually through attrition. In less democratic states, the transition may take longer, but open source governments innately are protected from brutal force, as they do not have a single leader or a single physical presence.

The software tools in current development may not be those which gain widespread adoption among the populace, but that's not a reason not to write them. The path transition takes will take us on many unexpected turns, but that's not a reason not to lay the foundations. The philosophies, principles and practices we are developing together form the cornerstone of the next major revision of democratic participation in governance.

You can make it happen

Join us in building real democracy for everyone. You can help by participating in this project or by investigating and joining one of the many active projects.

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You can make it happen.

More information

For more information on how collaborative governance works, have a look at the FAQ. To explore more of the site you can use this Map.