Scaling our impact while practicing transparency and equity

Maybe you’ve already heard: we’re going open source! 

In 2015 my co-founders and I launched CitizenLab with one goal in mind: to make decision-making more open, inclusive, and equitable. Over time, we have helped more than 275 local governments and organizations across 18 countries increase transparency and gain their communities’ trust. Today we’re going open source to further lower the threshold to participation and increase transparency along the way. After all, democracy belongs to all of us! 

Since the first project was launched on our platform, we’ve been driven by ideasIdeas shared on our platforms by community members, ideas implemented by policy-makers around the world, and ideas from our team members on how to shape our product and the future of democracy. Ideas have the power to spark our imaginations, lead to deep discussions, and expose us to new perspectives – at CitizenLab, we have witnessed first-hand the impact this can have on communities. Being that social impact is the compass that guides our company, we’re motivated by the fact that going open-source means more ideas can be shared and implemented to bring about positive change for more communities.  

When we started this work over five years ago, we initially built our product with local governments in mind because their decisions greatly affected the lives of so many people. While governments continue to represent around 70% of our clients, we’ve also found that community engagement on public interest decisions can happen outside of government structures. By making our platform accessible to all civic organizations – from universities and NGOs, to political parties and sports teams – we’re reinforcing the commitment we have to our social impact mission. Going open source means that we’re removing some barriers to participation by giving all of these smaller institutions a chance to launch consultation projects, create stronger links with their communities, and harness the power of collective intelligence.  

So, what happens next? Our core functionalities have gone open-source and they’re available on GitHub under an AGPL license, so that anyone can view, reuse, and replicate our code. We’ll be adding to the GitHub documentation as we go, but our most advanced features are staying source-available for now, meaning that the code is viewable but still requires a commercial license to be activated. 

As a team of civic tech nerds, we hope this will lead to new and innovative uses of our platform. Don’t hesitate to experiment and share your projects – we’d love to see what you do with the code and platform, and how you get your community engaged.  For more information you can head to our websitecheck out our developers portal or get in touch with us directly.

Cheers to more transparency & collaboration,
Wietse Van Ransbeeck
Co-founder and CEO, CitizenLab



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