It’s an intriguing way of running a country – actually ask the people who live there what they would like to see happen. The concept may have some politicians who think they know best wailing and gnashing their teeth, but not in Iceland.
Europe’s most sparsely populated state is crowdsourcing the constitution, drawing on suggestions from Facebook and Twitter about how the country should work.
Last weekend Iceland held a referendum that elicited responses of half the electorate with most of them backing a proposed constitution that was put together by a 25-member Constitutional Council who took into account comments on social media sites.
This progressive, democratic initiative was designed to involve all citizens irrespective of age, race, and sex.
The draft is not legally binding, but as it involved so many members of the public and received widespread national publicity, it will be difficult for politicians to ignore.
Involving the Crowd
The country’s constitution dates back to 1944 when Iceland gained independence from Denmark. It is essentially a copy of the Danish constitution, but with a few minor adjustments.
“The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes,” said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland’s constitutional council, in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch.”
This crowdsourcing initiative is a model of people power that fans of open government are hoping will be taken up by others countries of the world.