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California Experiments with Crowdsourcing Legislation

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

shutterstock_117252703 [Converted]by Jeremy Loudenback

Crowdsourcing is a familiar term in the world of fundraising, where platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped bring to life passion projects and dynamic new businesses. Crowdsourcing has also made its mark on the world of social enterprise and marketing campaigns. And now you can add government to that list.

A growing number of governments are experimenting with the idea of using crowdsourcing as a tool to improve engagement with citizens as well as elicit creative solutions to difficult issues. Finland has been leading the way, starting with the establishment of an Open Ministry designed to solicit laws directly from its citizens. And Malaysia has recently solicited ideas for its budget as part of its #Bajet2014 campaign.

Now California is getting involved in the crowdsourcing government movement. Last week, the California Assembly approved AB 1520, a proposed bill from Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that was crafted by the public using an online wiki page. (The bill now heads to the state senate for another vote.) Using the same format as the Wikipedia encyclopedia, users were able to make changes to the measure, offer ideas to improve the legislation, and work in a collective manner to come to an agreement. According to Gatto, the process served as a way to increase the transparency of the political process, utilize the considerable expertise of many citizens, and guard against the influence of special interests.

The somewhat obscure world of probate law was selected for the state’s first experiment with crowdsourcing legislation, a deliberate decision designed to avoid to controversy and focus on working on the new process. A more robust test of the process may emerge the next time around, when the assemblyman promises to choose a more polarizing topic. As a result of the success of AB 1520, it’s likely that crowdsourcing legislation in government will be a trend to watch next year in California and across the country.

Bedrosian Center