Collective intelligence for the common good

 

Collaboration is the way of the future. The world is facing a multitude of environmental, social and economic problems and it will require the help and input of many different stakeholders to find the necessary solutions.

The number of organizations that are seeking to do good in the world and who need to mobilize their stakeholders is breathtaking. International organizations, non-profits, universities, communities of practice, event participants, medium to large businesses, civil society networks – the list goes on and on.  It is the belief of Imagination for People that collective intelligence is one of the keys necessary to move the world to a better future. 

 

What is collective intelligence?

 

Broadly defined, collective intelligence is a way of thinking that connects people so that, collectively, they act more intelligently and creatively than they would as individuals. Benefit is greater when ideas are pooled and discussed than if people acted on an individual basis. The concept has existed for centuries, but now, with advancements in technology, it can be applied on a much larger scale.

Harnessing the power of collective intelligence is one of the projects of I4P. We are developing software and an accompanying methodology that will allow hundreds to thousands of people to work collectively on a single document. This program is called Assembl.

The process is based on the idea that implementing three main roles can greatly enhance the collaborative process for participants:

  1. The Orchestrators - the people who help formulate the problem, determine the type of document that will be created, set up the pace and decide the constitution of the workgroup (open, semi-open, closed; small, medium, large; with or without deadlines, etc.
  2. The Harvesters - individuals who extract the key ideas from each thread that will represent the core structuring elements of the debate 
  3. The Wrappers - individuals who create summaries of the key ideas and submit the syntheses to the group for “rough consensus” or line-by-line voting 

 

This image shows a central screen of Assembl. Key ideas are displayed in the Table of Ideas. A detailed look at a selected idea is shown in the Idea panel, and the Messages panel shows the message the idea came from, along with any related replies to that message to give context to the selected idea. 

 

 

The three roles for partipants provide structure to the discussion, allowing all participants, regardless of their level of attention, to get an overview of the debate and easily navigate the contributions. Assembl will also create many visual representations of the findings through the use of cognitive maps, mindmaps, argument maps, metamaps and other clickable maps that assign a symbol to each key theme, much like the examples below.

 

 

The methodology behind Assembl has allowed 300 people to come together and co-write and publish a book, called La monnaie, et après ? (Money, and then what?), in 90 days. The accompanying software is currently developed by an international consortium called Catalyst, supported by the European Commission. One of the key pilot experiments will be the co-writing open source of the European Constitution in 2014.

 

If you would like to learn more about collective intelligence or Assembl, please do not hesitate to contact Laura Gillies at lauragillies@imaginationforpeople.org