How it all works?

Consensual Debating is not a polling system

For the last two decades citizens’ participation has been best reflected in Citizens’ Assemblies. They represent a new a type of direct democracy, where randomly selected citizens sometimes debate the most important decisions, replacing the need for a referendum. For example, the Citizens’ Assembly debating changes to the Republic of Ireland Constitution in 2012 lasted a year (52 weekends) and led to fundamental changes in Irish democracy. The most recent and the largest example of citizens’ participation was the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) conducted in 27 EU countries over the whole year 2021-2022. It has been a testing ground for a large scale dissemination of this model of citizens’ participation . For the very first time all citizens of Europe directly participated in the debates and impacted in real time the future of Europe through their randomly selected representatives who constituted 25% of all delegates to the Conference. Tens of thousands of EU citizens also participated directly by debating issues and providing proposals on a dedicated EU debating platform. We also offered to those participants our Consensual Debating platform to discuss all main topics of the Democracy Panel on our Euro Agora website since its rationale is firmly based on a new type of democracy,  Consensual Presidential Democracy which we developed several years ago. It proposes a merger of direct and representational democracy as the fastest and most effective route to a deep reform of a democratic system.

However, this type of debates, which usually includes randomly selected citizens, has its problems. Most of the participants are completely unfamiliar with the subject of the debate, since they are randomly selected. To enable them to make a rational decision they must understand the fundamental reasons for the proposed motion or a decision. Facilitators use different methods such as Focus Groups or conference-style debates with voting by raising hands, and tools, such as ‘yellow stickers’, or more recently using ZOOM video conferencing. Although generally that achieve key objective for the participants to make an impartial and rational decision, the whole process can be highly inefficient.

To make such debates to be conducted more effectively, we need a new, customized approach using the latest technology. To achieve that, our Consensual Debating uses the most advanced Artificial Intelligence Assistant – ChatGPT. It is also seamlessly integrated with a world-wide tried voting system POLIS. Consensual Debating can be used not only for political debates but also for discussing social, scientific or economic problems. It allows even tens of thousands of participants to debate many topics simultaneously and come to an agreement in a consensual way many times faster (in a few days rather than in months).

Consensual Debating should not be seen as yet another polling system, like YouGov. There are several important differences between such a polling system and Consensual Debating:

  • It allows the participants to arrive at a decision gradually, in small steps, as their understanding of the problem gets better.
  • Each such step is defined by a simple one line statement on which the participants can agree, disagree or have a neutral stance.
  • As the participants vote they can see the graphs showing them in real time, how they vote against all other participants.
  • After each such voting there is a short deliberation, followed by another vote.
  • The participants can also add their own one line statements on which all others will vote.
  • The voting continues until 60% majority has been achieved. Usually there will be dozens of such short statements which address the decision to be made from different vantage points.

When at least one statement achieves 60% majority, there is a final deliberation. All statements that have achieved 60% majority or more are put on the final list. Only the top 5 statements, which have gained more than 60% support are listed as 5 options. The participants then vote on them using the Single Transferable Voting with Extended Threshold (STV-ET) method. This is a preferential voting when voters order their preferred choice from the most preferred to the least preferred. This time the motion which received 66% support (rather than 60%, because some decisions might require a super majority), is the one which would be put forward to the sponsor (organizer) of the session for a decision. This final vote is also automated but can be replaced by a paper voting, if such is a legal requirement. Depending upon the mandate of the Consensual Debating received from the sponsor, it can be a mandatory decision or an advisory resolution.

To see the animated overview of the whole process click on the picture below. Please wait until the download completes and then click on the download.

To show you how Consensual debating works in more detail, we have used the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion project as a Case Study where you can try it yourself and vote in real time, comparing your preference to other Londoners, if you happen to live in London.

Consensual Debating facilitates any debate. However, we take no responsibility for the accuracy of the data, its processing, nor for any omissions and misinterpretation of information provided by the organizer (sponsor), our team or by ChatGPT Assistant.