The Socialist Party in The Netherlands has previously employed a crowdsourcing website (Dutch-language link) to gather ideas on popular ways to bring down unnecessary health-care costs. Anybody could propose an idea, as well as cast a limited number of votes on other ideas. Among the ideas proposed were to return and use unopened medicine packages to the pharmacy (in particular for expensive prescription medicines) and to reuse mobility scooters. The party was and is in opposition, and I don't know if any of the ideas have been implemented (but the party certainly has relayed a selection of the ideas to parliament). Ironically, the idea of crowdsourcing in politics comes very close to the idea by Mao of take the ideas of the masses (...) and concentrate them, even though the Socialist Party officially discarded maoism in 1975.

I wonder if there are other notable examples of the use of crowdsourcing in politics. Internet enables technologies for crowdsourcing that were not available before. Where and how has this been put in practice in politics, if at all?

Edit: there are probably numerous examples where groups of civilians can propose ideas that legislators then have to respond to: petitions, initiatives, etc. However, I'm looking for something more interactive where specific problems are solved interactively by the crowd, such as in crowdsourcing. Wikipedia quotes Estellés and González (2012):

Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, and in which the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience, always entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken

  • Leaving the answers unaccepted for now, Ask Patents is an interesting example but a more in-depth study would be interesting.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 20:38
  • You mean apart from the idea of asking everyone to choose the leader they want to representing them, and giving the job to the one most people prefer? Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 17:38
  • @DJClayworth That's not crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing "mines" specific knowledge among the larger population. Among one-million minds, there may be more good ideas in a kind of giant brain-storm, than among a few hundred parliamentarians and their staff.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 20:51
  • Everyone with good ideas can stand for office; that's a pretty good way of mining for specific knowledge. Then the crowd gets to choose the best ideas. Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 21:00
  • @DJClayworth Having a good idea about a specific area of expertise doesn't mean I want to spend a significant part of my life being a politician, involving many things that have nothing to do with the field of expertise at all (most notably campaigning — a major disadvantage of democracy vs. technocracy is that we're not electing the ones best at politics, just the ones best at campaigning).
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


While it may be questionable whether patents are politics are not (actual patent granting is not political, but the whole patent law and IP is a highly political question), Stack Exchange created "Ask Patents" site - "question and answer site for people interested in improving the patent system". The site is done in partnership with US Patent and Trademark Office, which makes it a somewhat political endeavour.

Reference: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/09/askpatents-com-a-stack-exchange-to-prevent-bad-patents/

  • I'm confused. Does this answer my question?
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 21:24
  • @gerrit - depends entirely on how political patent issue is for you.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 22:55
  • Aah, you mean that Patents.SE itself is a forum for crowdsourcing on how to improve the patent system. I thought you somehow meant I ought to ask this question at Patents.SE, but now I get it.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 23:04

In what way is Democracy not crowdsourcing?

"a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task". Everyone is invited to choose a leader.

" the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience". They are invited to use all of those not just in choosing a leader but also in persuading others to choose the same one.

The whole of democracy is in fact founded on the principle of crowdsourcing - that decisions taken by a large group of people with varying degrees of expertize make decisions that are at least as good as leaving the decision to a small number of experts.

  • In a representative democracy, the population does not make decisions; rather, they elect people who do. They can affect the decisions at best in an indirect way. In a direct democracy, where the people can put forth ideas for a referendum, there is indeed a form of crowdsourcing.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 20:59
  • So crowdsourcing was implemented by the Ancient Greeks then. Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 21:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .