Can technology enable a more inclusive, transparent, truthful, and deliberative democracy? Could algorithms provide a solution for augmenting participation and co-creation of policies? At all scales? This is the ambitious objective of Orbis, a Horizon Europe Project led by Politecnico di Milano with the participation of leading organizations from across Europe. 

The consortium working on this ambitious project, led by Politecnico di Milano,  includes the The Democracy and Culture Foundation acting through the Athenian Agora for Democracy and Culture, the Center for European Political Studies (CEPS), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Center for Social Innovation (CSI)Associazione CopernicaniNovelcoreThe Open University, the Prefecture of Western Greece, Re-Imagine Europa, Rob de MattUnisystems,  Université Côte d’Azur and Universitá della Svizzera Italiana.                 

Orbis will respond to the profound lack of dialogue between citizenship and policy making institutions with “pragmatic socio-technical solutions to enable the transition to a more inclusive, transparent and trustful deliberative democracy in Europe”. 

The project will deliver, among other innovations, a sound methodology for deliberative participation and co-creation at scale and novel AI-enhanced tools and guidelines to apply deliberative participation across diver settings. 

 To achieve its vision, Orbis brings together a rich pool of technical and social science expertise and instruments to ensure multidisciplinarity with a strong human-centric approach to technology innovation.  A group of scientists and civic technology experts that have already produced relevant research and technical tools in this field: from the deliberation platform bCause (developed by The Open University) to the tool for mining arguments in the US presidential elections DISPUtool (CNRS), the Community Engagement Against Radicalization project (CSI) or the Citizen Engagement in Science initiative implemented by Re-Imagine Europa, with the participation of over 50.000 citizens across Europe. 

 The solutions provided by the Orbis project will be validated through six selected use cases addressing important contemporary issues at different scales and setting (from local to global), experimenting with civic participation and deliberation models. Re-Imagine Europa will implement the Future4Citizens use case, a series of dialogues across Europe to address citizens’ main fears and concerns and build solutions together assessing how Europe could help attain their goals. The dialogues will be structured around the Narratives Methodology developed by Professor Andrzej Nowak and his team, and the expected outcome is to catalyze a depolarization of popular attitudes toward national and international institutions. RIE will also lead Work Package 2 (WP2), dedicated to acquire a deep understanding of user requirements and system characteristics. Through a participatory design approach, WP2 will identify al functional, structural and technical component of the project and design the scalable modular architecture of the Orbis solution. 

After years of development in the area of democratic innovation, current solutions still cannot cope with the management of large-scale participation and deliberation. Orbis will contribute to address this by delivering a novel platform with advanced NLP techniques and Machine Learning pipelines to identify and meaningfully assemble and aggregate pieces of knowledge and compose evidence-informed policies. The project will also develop mechanisms and tools to augment trustworthiness, accountability and legitimacy of informed decisions while enabling policy makers to better understand public priorities and the values and reasons behind them.  Our shared and ambitious goal, clearly stated in the project: to build a digital solution that finally enables a socially cohesive society, where all individuals have a sense of belonging, participation, inclusion, recognition and legitimacy.

This project has received funding under Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme / Action n. 101094765

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