The Social Contract of Decidim, a founding text

The Social Contract of Decidim, a founding text

We reproduce here, for the first time in French, the "Social Contract" of the Decidim platform, translated from Catalan through English. Any translation necessarily involves choices, which may in some places alter the original intention of the sentence, but we have tried to restore the spirit of the original as much as possible.

The choice to title this document "Social Contract" is a significant one, since this concept is one of the best known in political philosophy. Initially theorized by Grotius in the 17th century before being popularized by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, the social contract is a hypothesis for answering several fundamental philosophical questions. The aim is indeed to provide a conceptual framework to explain the foundation of society and to understand why human beings submit to rules to which they have not explicitly chosen to submit.

The idea behind the adoption of this notion by the founders of Decidim is therefore to assume the development of a new political functioning through the adoption of this platform. It is therefore the mark of a renewed understanding of our participation, as political individuals, in society. This renewed conception of the citizen's political weight stems directly, in the case of Decidim, from the close relationship of the project's leaders with the Indignant Movement, which explicitly wished to redesign the organization of political power in order to achieve a more open democracy.

Contract Social

Charter valuing democratic guarantees and open collaboration.

This text is the social contract that all the members of the Decidim project commit themselves on honour to respect.

The use and development of the Decidim platform, by any institution or group of any kind, implies full agreement and commitment to this Social Contract.

Free software and open content

The code of the platform, as well as that of the modules, software libraries or any other code developed for its operation and deployment will always be free and open source software, under the Affero GPLv3 license or a more recent version[] when the code is new and under a license compatible with the one mentioned above when the code is reused.

Similarly, content, data, APIs and/or any other interface deployed for interaction with any type of user must follow open and interoperable standards (e.g. OpenID, RSS, Ostatus, etc.), always with the aim of striving for compatibility with the most widely used open standards.

In order to ensure transparency and citizen collaboration in participatory processes, content, text, graphics, fonts, audio, video, or other design elements will be published under a Creative Commons By-SA license[].

The data available on the platform, especially all data that can be systematically collected using scrappers or other mass consultation techniques, will be published under Open Data Commons Open Database License[], in standardized and accessible formats (such as CSV, JSON, etc.) and, as soon as possible, with tools that facilitate data analysis and visualization.

Transparency, traceability and integrity

The platform and its current and future configuration, development, deployment and use must necessarily ensure and optimize the transparency, traceability and integrity of documents, proposals, debates, decisions and any other participatory object, mechanism or process.

By transparency we mean that any data related to these participatory processes and mechanisms is available for downloading, analysis and processing, always in the standards and formats most commonly used to share information (accessibility, multi-format, etc.).

The principle of transparency is a necessary condition for the control of participatory mechanisms and processes, but it should not be extended to the processing of personal data or serve as an attack on the privacy of platform participants.

We understand traceability to be the ability to easily and in detail find the history (past and future) of the development of proposals, plans, regulations or any other object of participation or decision included in a mechanism or process. The platform must at all times show how, why, by whom and with what guarantees a piece of a participatory process was rejected, approved or blocked.

By integrity we mean the authenticity of a specific content, and the assurance that it has not been manipulated or altered without this change having been clearly recorded and that it is visible and accessible. The requirement of integrity amounts to the non-manipulation of the proposals and results of participatory processes or mechanisms.

Equal opportunity and qualitative indicators

In conjunction with the guarantees defined above, the platform promises to provide equal opportunities for all persons, both with regard to the proposals and any other contributions that the platform welcomes. The platform offers equal opportunities for participation in all processes (proposals, debates, etc.): anyone can see them, discuss them, comment on them, evaluate them, treat them, without discrimination of any kind. The digital identity of the platform users will thus always be personal and non-transferable. The verification process that confers decision rights on the platform will also be unique, and it will be the responsibility of the administrative entity in charge of the platform to prevent the impersonation of a person or entity.

The platform must promote, with the aim of ensuring its democratic character, the use of qualitative indicators developed on the basis of data obtained through the various participatory processes and mechanisms and through the activity of users. The sharing of the settings of the different modules as well asopen data will be emphasized in the choice of these indicators.

Equal participation of citizens is one of the fundamental principles of any democratic system; the platform must not only ensure equality of opportunity regarding uses and functions but also access rights. Thus, the organisation in charge of the platform commits itself to act to promote access to, and support of, the platform for all citizens in the same way. Appropriate tools and resources for the platform are available to all without distinction.

Data confidentiality

The confidentiality and privacy of the personal data that individuals may provide to participate in any of the features and/or participation opportunities that the platform offers must be guaranteed at all times. Under no circumstances shall personal data be transmitted to a third party. Personal data will not be used more than what is strictly necessary in the context of user registration and improvements to navigation on the platform.

As soon as the technology of the platform makes it possible, the expression of political preferences or wishes during the decision-making process should remain inaccessible even to the administrator of the platform or the server(s) hosting it.

Accountability and Follow-up

Responding to all requests and contributions as quickly as possible must be a commitment to citizens. Another is to monitor the results of participatory processes and respond to those who request them. Finally, the last commitment is to study the integration of indicators to monitor the participatory process once it has been completed, in order to systematically evaluate its progress.

Continuous improvement and inter-institutional collaboration

Periodic evaluation mechanisms will be put in place to facilitate the improvement of the platform.

Priority will be given to collaboration and exchange of experiences between the institutions included in the project, with the aim of improving, repairing and building new developments to continuously improve the platform.

To this end, a collaborative atmosphere will be fostered for the development of improvements that aim to benefit the entire platform, allowing coordination between different actors if necessary.

Terms and conditions of use

All the points of this charter must be reproduced in the text of the license agreement that each organization that integrates Decidim into its services establishes with the users and must never be contradicted.

Open Source Politics is a company that develops participatory democracy platforms for public, private and associative actors. Contact us if you wish to engage in a consultation mechanism or a participatory budget using civic-tech tools!

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