vTaiwan – A Glimpse of Open Source Open Space Government (Part 1)

Here’s a fascinating introduction to one of the most remarkably co-intelligent experiments in governance happening on the planet today. More to follow….

I have not posted much in the last few months, having been very busy with
(a) the Emerging Network Governance Initiative – a project arising out of the insights and possibilities I noted in my post of July 9, 2017 “Inclusive networks are shaping our lives right now. Are they governance?”;
(b) the Bloom Incubator and Summit (whose potential is barely hinted at on its announcement page); and
(c) vTaiwan, the most remarkable innovation in governance I’ve run across in a long time – which is hard to track, partly because it is constantly evolving.

I intuit that all these – and the wise democracy pattern language and Nora Bateson’s “symmathesy” worldview centered on “mutual learning in context” – are pointing to a radically different understanding of how we could collectively order our public affairs in wise and largely self-organized ways.  I will be reflecting on all that in another post soon, but I want to share my excitement about vTaiwan first.

The following is a layered description of vTaiwan over four messages:  In this, the first post, you’ll find an introduction (a 1 minute read) followed by a 3-minute overview.  In the second post I offer you eleven brief “Notes on Aspects of the vTaiwan Phenomenon” (probably a 10-15 minute read).  In the third post, I describe two early examples of the work done by vTaiwan and its associated hacktivist community, g0v (gov-zero).  In the last post I share some of the best links I’ve worked with (including video conversations I’ve had with vTaiwan’s remarkable calm center, Audrey Tang), on which you can spend 5 minutes or 5 days or more if you wish to delve into the topic in more depth….

It has taken me almost two months to understand vTaiwan to the extent I do – which is to at least glimpse its simplicity on the far side of its complexity (instead of the oversimplifications on this side of its complexity) – and I am seriously impressed.  At the same time I realize that vTaiwan’s current form is not so much a model to be replicated as an inspiring beginning of a potentially profound evolutionary shift in all aspects of our collective governance. There is so much more to it than I have written in these four posts, but I think this material represents the core of what I want to share at this time.

Enjoy!…. and breathe! 🙂


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Intro to vTaiwan

What would it look like if democracy involved citizens, public servants, and issue stakeholders working together to develop policies, programs and regulations that featured approaches that made sense to almost all of them?  What if their ways of doing this were productive, totally transparent and constantly evolving through initiatives and dialogues among thousands of people dedicated to making it all work better? We can glimpse this possibility in the rapidly evolving political culture of Taiwan, especially in vTaiwan, a self-organizing mix of online consensus discovery and live-streamed face-to-face dialogues.

vTaiwan is neither a platform nor a process, but uses many platforms and processes in a self-organizing participatory activity that surfaces issues around which there is energy; it then calls up significant information and points of consensus about those issues that help stakeholders and public servants interactively draft and modify regulations.

There is nothing else quite like it in the world. And although it arose out of Taiwan’s unique political history and conditions, it has many features, principles, patterns and lessons that can inspire democratic evolutionaries everywhere.

The next step will be to understand those features, principles, patterns and lessons more fully so that new versions of the evolution they represent can be innovated elsewhere around the globe in ways that truly serve the life of the places in which they flourish and shift.


Overview of vTaiwan

vTaiwan is a unique adventure in open source, open space participatory democracy, profoundly self-organizing, seriously intelligent and intentional, and deeply motivated by having fun, building trust, and finding creative solutions at all levels of Taiwanese society.  It uses a rich and sensibly integrated palette of shared tools for collaborative thinking and transparency – online, face-to-face, and in virtual reality – woven together into a coherent whole.

vTaiwan runs parallel to and partners with traditional institutions of representative government.  It frames itself as a consultation activity, although I see it as a whole-system collaboration rather than merely advice-giving.  vTaiwan processes attempt to engage a full spectrum of players working together to improve policy outcomes. This approach explicitly supports public servants, creating safe spaces for them to do the right thing.  Yet in the realm of political theory, it seems to turn democracy inside out and upside down. Despite its (r)evolutionary nature, it is thoroughly grounded in the core principle of rule by the people and, in particular, by those who are most affected by specific government decisions.  To accomplish this it upgrades the opportunity for meaningful citizen and stakeholder participation and citizen-government engagement and trust by several orders of magnitude. There is little voting in the usual sense, but countless opportunities for personal expressions of perspectives, preferences and possibilities that have real impact on policy outcomes, especially thanks to the institutionalized participation of government officials.

This engagement ecosystem inspires a weave of diverse dynamics.  In activities like the national e-petition process, facilitators utilize the legitimacy of numbers: 5000 signatories are required to guarantee a government response.  In other aspects — like the crowdsourced consensus-mining platform Pol.is — it taps dynamic relationships between public agreements and disagreements to identify common ground and deeper insight.  In still others — such as its weekly hackathons — it cultivates the creative initiative of individuals and the self-organizing dynamics of their interactions. Most importantly it constantly convenes and harvests generative conversations between interested citizens, public servants, and issue stakeholders, all of whose views tend to shift in the process.

The result is a complex nonlinear mix of people’s engagement with each other and with evolving fields of information and proposals all unfolding in and around a core pattern.  This core dynamic first evokes and clarifies useful information and common ground from the many divergent perspectives that make up any given public issue. It then feeds the resulting insights into public reflections by panels of stakeholders and officials.  The outcomes of those conversations translate into official deliberations that generate laws, regulations, budgets, and other products of government.

All this is tracked, catalyzed and facilitated by hundreds of contributors — including the uncannily perceptive and accessible Digital Minister without Portfolio, Audrey Tang — who move through it all having fun and enabling everyone else to have as much fun as possible while nurturing trust among all sectors.  The entire phenomenon is historically rooted in the inclusively co-creative experience of the Sunflower Movement of 2014 — a plurality of spontaneous, self-organized communities of thousands of students and activists who occupied parliament for 22 days while engaging each other and the country in innovative deliberations that impacted public policy.  vTaiwan is a major evolving legacy project of that watershed event.

[For more on vTaiwan’s current practices and some examples from its recent past, see Parts 2 and 3 of this series, as well as the many links in Part 4.]


Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole

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