Iceland Is Crowdsourcing Its New Constitution

In the wake of a crippling economic crisis, the nation is trying new things

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As every news organization in America crowdsources their Palin email research, Iceland is months deep in a project to crowdsource the writing of a new constitution. The recovering European nation's existing constitution is essentially a carbon copy of Denmark's, Iceland claiming independence from Denmark in 1944. There were slight adjustments, like replacing the word "king" with "president," but after the financial crisis that brought Iceland's economy to its knees in 2008, the country's decided to start from scratch. The approach uses a combination of social media platforms--Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr--to gather suggestions from the citizens, and members of a consitutional council post drafts on their website every week. From The Guardian's report:

"I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet," said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland's constitutional council. "The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch."

The idea of using crowdsourcing to draft the document came about last year when the national government crowdsourced the brainstorming process of how to draft a new constitution. At a forum last year, 950 randomly selected citizens discussed the constitution, and in November the Icelandic parliament created a council of 25 to manage the process. ReadWriteWeb notes that the hyper-democratic approach is nothing new in the island nation:

But Icelanders are old hands at this sort of thing. Their parliament, the Alþingi, started in 930 C.E. with leaders from around the island gathering in the fields of Þingvellir to argue issues of import to the community. It is the oldest parliament in the world.

Reykjavik-born Björk ought to be pretty happy about the new approach. The daughter of prominent activists and hater of paparazzi often dedicates her song "Declare Independence" in order to advocate for citizens to engage more democracy. Here is that very weird music video:

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