Wiki Government


New Member
Jan 30, 2008
Immediate Participatory Government

The concept of “Wiki Government” is a model of citizen participation in the activities of government. To create a context for these ideas, it is valuable to start with one of the foundational statements of the Declaration of Independence, “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”, and the forms of government that ensue from it.

In the times of our nations founder’s the government was based in Washington while the people lived in many far-flung locations. We therefore needed someone to represent us; and a representative is what we called our elected members.

But representatives are individuals with their own agendas. They are easily swayed by the influences of money, power, the press, and many other forces. The result is that they may not so perfectly represent the people who’ve they’ve been charged to represent.

In addition, our elected officials are dealing with an overwhelming number of complex issues, very few of which they are deeply knowledgeable about. So their decisions are not always based on sound facts or unbiased logic.

Immediate Participatory Government

Due to the advances in computers and telecommunications, there is the possibility today to address these issues in a different way. We do not need representatives in the same form as we did in the past. We now have the ability to involve the intelligence of great numbers of people in a form of immediate participatory government.

The goal of government of the people, by the people and for the people gets a whole new meaning through the interconnectedness of the Internet, the participatory nature of the software that we call wikis, and the ubiquitous penetration of the cell phone and text messaging. These tools can allow people to be involved in an immediate and comprehensive level.

The power of hundred of millions of minds creating together

What these tools do is allow issues to be put on the table and brought to the collective intelligence of our nation. We can draw upon the vast experience of millions of people. Ideas can be brainstormed, discussed, and looked at from many sides. We can create the means for facts, ideas and diverse experience to meet in constructive dialogue.

Secondly, we can immediately take the pulse of collective feelings through instant messaging, internet polling and voting. Today’s cumbersome process of collective decision-making can change into a continuous and immediate dialogue and feedback process. This process of dialogue and two-way communication is essential. Due to the predominance of TV, communication has become more of a one-way street. People’s voice needs to be heard. We need to talk together rather than be talked at.

The concept of Wiki government creates a new role for our political leaders. In our current political model a politician campaigns by standing for or against particular issues. They may have good ideas about how to deal with the issues. But this is exactly the problem; they are ideas, not necessarily deeply thought-through or tried in the furnace of experience. The real problem is that the model of a politician coming up with solutions to issues is fundamentally wrong. None of these individuals are experts and certainly not experts at the many complex issues they must deal with. Though they are applying their intelligence and coming up with solutions, these are the solutions of an individual or a small subset of individuals trying to deal with a large and complex problem.

Leaders as facilitators of social dialogue and implementers of the collective will

The model of Wiki government provides another way to deal with this. Imagine a politician who does not campaign on the issues but rather starts with the expression the more honest expression, “I don’t know.” One who has the humility to say, “The solution to this problem we face is too big for me to come up with a quick solution, one that I am then going to commit our nation to. Rather, I would like us to brainstorm. I would like us all together to apply our intelligence to the issue, to look at it from all sides, to hear the voices of many. And through that dialogue process, to allow a direction and decision of action to emerge.”

This is a new kind of leader operating in a new form of government. A leader does not have to try and be a know-it-all with solutions for everything. And people do not have to just trust and follow. Leaders need to become facilitators of social dialogue. Through dialogue there emerges a course of action. The leader then implements and manages these collective decisions. And through the ongoing and immediate involvement of large numbers of people, we can continually adjust our strategies as we learn from our experiences. After all, does not a business first research and test a new product before committing itself to it? Why does government not first test the many solutions to issues before we commit to them?

I believe that when several hundred million good minds and passionate hearts focus on a issue that not only will we generate a creative insight that is immense beyond anything that we have yet experienced, but that we will come up with the best of solutions. And not only will we come up with the best solutions, but we will all be involved in the solution. As each individual is more knowledgeable and feels that he or she has a hand in them, we become more committed to playing our part in making it work. Not only would Wiki government generate the best ideas, but it would bring back in to the collective decision-making process a great many creative individuals.

Kabir Jaffe