Escaping the Middleman Paradox: Better Reykjavik and Open Policy Innovation
Better Reykjavik is a unique municipal ePetition website that is developed and maintained by a grassroots nonprofit organization, has significant deliberative mechanisms, and has been normalized as an ongoing channel for citizen-government interaction across multiple elected administrations. The primary contribution of this study is an analysis of the novel “interface” that was established between the grassroots-developed technical system and the existing political and administrative institutions of policymaking. I begin with a brief overview of the challenges that citizens and governments face in the implementation of ePetition processes. I then suggest that Landemore’s (2012) “democratic reason” and Coleman’s (2008) “autonomous citizenship” constructs provide useful insights into why and how the Better Reykjavik has made a continuing impact on city governance. Next, I present an analysis of the socio-technical process of the initiative’s software development and political integration, showing how this project moved from the fringes of the grassroots towards the center of public and governmental awareness. I conclude by examining Reykjavik’s “new normal” political culture, which illustrates how a bottom-up, fast-moving technical initiative can productively support the slower-moving processes of democratic governance.
JeDEM is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal (ISSN: 2075-9517). All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Austria (CC BY 3.0) License.