no.mads-land (on the moon)


Civic tech platforms that enable citizens to participate in decision-making activities in their city are becoming more common. Yet, they still face many challenge.

In this article on, I argue that opening cities require developing an infrastructure to cultivate and nurture a participatory culture, something that open source has done for decades and which contributes to its sustainability.

#opensource #civictech #participation

#participativetech #opensource #democracy

Table of content

What's this? How this page is organised Timeline of Decide Madrid The origins of Decide Madrid

What's this?

This webpage serves as the open repository of public resources for the Marie Curie project 'Sustainability Beyond the Code'. I investigate the sustainability of open source beyond the technical spaces where open source projects are created. What happens when open source leaves the technical domain and comes into contact with the 'wild'? What forces does it stir? What questions does it ask of sustainability?

In particular, I study Decide Madrid, a Free and open source software on direct participative democracy. It is one of the most ambitious participative projects taken up by governments in recent times and so it's worth talking and reading about it.

Here are a few points why you should care about Decide Madrid:

  1. If you are interested in open source information systems for social innovation;
  2. If you are interested in future models of democracy that will likely become a staple of societies in the decades to come;
  3. If you're a public official implementing participative technologies in City Halls or government institutions.

You will find resources here talking about each of the above points, resources that I have found interesting in my years studying Decide Madrid. You will find, for example, an overview of some of the initiatives that particularly marked Decide Madrid and why they mattered most than others. There are many online resources that pay testimony to the complexity and ambitions of Decide Madrid, but these are often disparate. I try to tie them some together here. If you think there's something that should be in here, drop me a line.

By going through this page, my hope is that you can have a quick idea of the extremely ambitious objectives behind Decide Madrid, what problems they had to solve, and how they tried to solve it.


This is still a work in progress. I'll be adding content on a weekly basis, with a first version ready by end of july.


How this page is organised

A quick word about organisation. I'm really tired of multi-page, deep depth webpages, so this webpage is it. It's a summary of resources, so it will help me control the content creep that might take place.

Navigate through the table of content at the top of the page and the links at the beginning and end of each section to go back up to the table of content.


Timeline of Decide Madrid

I go through some of the most important moments of Decide Madrid.

The origins of Decide Madrid

If you ask people when Decide Madrid was created, they will probably say in September 2015, which is the date the web site was launched.

* This is a good summary of many elements that went into the thinking when designing Decide Madrid. There are two other parts that continue to look at Decide Madrid's inception.But Decide Madrid wasn't born in a vacuum, the idea comes from somewhere, specifically the 15M.* The 15M was a testing ground for some of the participative technology that was being created at the time and became in the minds of some participants a key (if not the only) way to effect the democratic change they sought. Beyond urgent social demands, many participants thought that the cause of the problem was a lack of democratic implication on key political and societal questions. The reason for a lack of participation was historic: without information systems, it is difficult to scale recurrent citizen participation. This was not the case any more and indeed, many systems were developed to facilitate coordination and collaboration between the different assemblies. The 15M, thus, was the realisation that procedures could help right Spain's situation and prevent future such situations.

Decide Madrid is infused by another imaginary: that of open source. Some of its most prominent members were highly visible hackers before the creating Decide Madrid. Some had spent time in student groups disussing issues concerning open source. Others, had used open source technologies (e.g. Ruby language). Pablo Soto, one of the main proponents, had been taken to court by music majors for developing a p2p software programme. Between individual experience, through work, or within the 15M, many had felt and experienced the fruitful intersection between open source and society beyond its intellectual promise.

* I realise that (1) this trend may not be linear (e.g. past and current privacy violations that may encourage the exact opposite trend with rampant co-optation); (2) but I still think that, at least for the two last decades, open government principles have made some headway into the institutions are governed; (3) there is still a (much) long(er) way we can go in opening up organisations and institutions; (4) the participation of 'open' as an organisational vector propelled by fablabs and makerspaces during COVID-19 is a good recent example of its growing importance and capacity to participate.It is no coincidence that after the 15M, an important initiative grouped many Free Software and open source hackers with political theorists and sociologists. The purpose was to think about governance systems in an age where open principles are increasingly espoused.* This project, sponsored by Ecuador's plan of Good Living, had the suggestive name of Free/Libre Open Knowledge (FLOK) society. In Spanish, the project had an even more suggestive name: the “Good Knowing”. They organised and met to study how such a future society based on notions of commons and open knowledge (with open software) would look like. Suffice to say, for our purposes, that 'open' was more than just values (i.e. a preference for certain behaviours), it had a vision, processes to implement, and resources to create.

We can actually go further back when talking about the origins of Decide Madrid. Next week!