Category Archives: 2nd Open GSS Conference

Let’s work together over the Internet

The 2nd Open GSS conference was great, many excellent ideas discussed and debated. Now it’s important to keep the dialogue ongoing using the Internet. We have set up a special idea and brainstorming website for Global Systems Science at for use by anybody interested in participating.

Global Systems Science Your Priorities Website
Global Systems Science Your Priorities Website

This website is a part of Your Priorities and is operated by the non-profit Citizens Foundation in Iceland that fights for open source electronic democracy.  We can use the website for sharing, prioritizing and debating ideas, helping us focus on the most important ideas.

It is very simple to participate, here are the steps to submit a new idea:

  1. Visit the website.
  2. Create a user at the top right by clicking ‘Sign in’ – we recommend using Facebook login as it is quickest but you can also use email.
  3. Click on ‘New idea’ at the top left of the screen.

Róbert and Gunnar
Citizens Foundation, Iceland

Democracy under threat globally

We are Róbert Bjarnason, President and Gunnar Grímsson, CEO from the Citizens Foundation in Iceland, a non-profit focusing on promoting open source electronic democracy. It was founded as a direct result of the global financial crash in 2008. The Citizens Foundation has the aim of connecting citizens and their representatives online and give citizens more influence and oversight over the day to day running of their communities. We represent the interest of citizens and they are our only master.

We believe that democracy is under threat, especially by the lack of participation by young people and that the Internet is the best way to reach and motivate them to participate in democracy.

We believe electronic democracy is the future of democracy. It puts pressure on authorities to do their job properly as well as harnessing the minds of the masses. Great ideas can come from anywhere not only politicians.

We are social entrepreneurs with decades of experience in the Internet startup world. Among many exciting projects we have started the first web companies in Iceland 1993 and in Denmark 1995. We have won many industry awards including two Bafta awards for work in the online games industry and the European eDemocracy awards in 2011 for our work on the Better Reykjavik website.

We look at the Citizens Foundation as a startup enterprise. The service we are providing is a product and the citizens using our service are our consumers and customers. The key metric of success for our websites is participation. Without participation there is no democracy.

Looking at citizens as consumers of our electronic democracy product allows the use of proven methods from the startup world to keep our customer interested in participating and coming back to participate more as well as enticing others to participate.

Here are some key elements of a successful electronic democracy:

  • Our biggest challenge with democracy as a product is that citizens don’t believe it works. Our customers need to know that their input will be used in some productive way. For example on our Better Reykjavik website, each month the top ideas in all categories are gathered by city officials and sent for processing by the city, keeping citizens informed all along the way. In the People’s Assembly in Estonia the President promised to put forward the citizens priorities as law proposals in the Estonian parliament.
  • The second big issues is marketing and PR.  “If you build it they will come” is a famous quote from the early days of the Internet – this was never quite true and certainly is not today.  Marketing and promoting a website is a lot of hard work and costs money. As democracy nerds we are worried that most of our social lives are being run by one company, Facebook but as entrepreneurs we always try to turn problems into opportunities and in our experience Facebook is the best way to attract people to electronic democracy both via sharing and Facebook advertisements.
  • There needs to be as little friction as possible. For example, on our websites people can participate using their Facebook login.  Somebody shares a link which a friend, clicks and is taking part in the debate with just two mouse clicks. The user interface has been simplified in every generation of the software to enable more people to participate more easily.
  • Finally, taking part needs to be fun and rewarding.  On our websites you can earn Social Points for writing up points for or against ideas that many people think are helpful – then you can use those Social Points to buy promotions for your ideas that appear as banners at the top of the page. As a part of your marketing you could even offer cash prizes for participating. You might for example to have an idea drive to find the best ideas to save money in a given category and give a cash prize to the citizens that come up with the most practical and socially acceptable ways to save money.

Consumers today are a lot more active thanks to the Internet, they can do price comparisons, easily read up on product reviews and consume in a smarter way than before.  Looking at the online citizen as a consumer of democracy brings real results.

Here are few of the projects we have been working on:

Your Priorities Global
Your Priorities Global

Your Priorities Platform

Our open source social innovation platform – has been used by over 500.000 people so far with great success in terms of participation, both in Iceland and Estonia.  All our projects are based on this software platform. The platform has basic gamification elements as discussed and we are planning to significantly extend those gamification elements in the coming versions of the software as our experience and research shows that this is a vital element in participation.  –

Your Priorities Split Screen Debate System in Greece
Your Priorities Split Screen Debate System in Greece

Our debate system is a key innovation in our eDemocracy platform. We wanted to avoid the well known problem of traditional website comments system where people easily fall into yes and no arguments which often ends in personal personal attacks and other destructive  ways of debating.  So we decided to separate the two sides into two columns, one with points against and the other with points for each idea. This effectively eliminates the destructive debate as the best way to persuade others is to be constructive in your arguments. Users can also mark points as useful or not which means that the best points rise to the top which helps passive users to get an overview of the best points for and against an issue.

Better Reykjavik
Better Reykjavik

Better Reykjavik

Better Reykjavik is our first successful example of a Your Priorities website, in terms of participation. The website is actively used by residents of Reykjavik, Iceland, creating open discourse between community members and city council. Better Reykjavik launched in 2010, and played a vital role in the year’s city elections. During these elections 43% of voters participated, and over 1000 ideas were created. Ten to fifteen top priorities from Better Reykjavik are being processed by Reykjavik’s City Council every month.

Participatory Budgeting in Reykjavík
Participatory Budgeting in Reykjavík

For the past two years we have also done participatory budget voting in Reykjavik which uses Better Reykjavík for collecting ideas but a separate system for the secure binding voting.

Estonia Peoples Assembly
Estonia Peoples Assembly

Estonia Peoples Assembly

Grassroots organizations are leading a law and constitutional reform project born out of political scandals in Estonia in 2012. Tens of thousands used the Your Priorities platform to crowd-source the best ideas for reform and the ideas were then developed further, both crowdsourced and by experts. The president of Estonia delivered the results to the Estonian Parliament in April 2013 which will process them as law amendments. –

EVE Online True Stories
EVE Online True Stories

True Stories EVE Online

This project has a different perspective than most of our work. It’s purpose is to crowd-source the best stories from players from 10 years of the EvE Online multi-player game which 500.000 subscribers play monthly. The game is totally user driven so there is no storyline or plot from the makers of the game, CCP Games. During the process of adjusting our software to their requirements many code and UI improvements were made which are now used on the Your Priorities websites. As seen by this example, our software can be used for a many of applications, to crowdsource ideas and arguments for and against most things that can be debated. –

Balkan eDemocracy Bootstrap Project
Balkan eDemocracy Bootstrap Project

Balkan eDemocracy Bootstrap Project

We’re now working on and looking for funding for a democracy project in the Balkans. Currently there are 11 projects from 7 countries signed up with different focus on how to use e-democracy to improve their communities. Recently we held workshops in Sarajevo and Belgrade in how to use our tool as well as meetings about the project. One of the key things is the transfer of e-democracy knowledge from Iceland and Estonia to the Balkans as well as knowledge transfer between the Balkan countries. There are 3 project from Serbia, 3 from Kosovo and one each from Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and R.Macedonia.

Contribution to a Research Program for Global Systems Science

I fully agree with the idea p7 to go from big challenges to small questions.

And I think that part III, Knowledge Technologies needs more than Computer science and its present sections. We should not start from Tabula Rasa as more less implied in many arguments heard during Open-GSS2. If we adopt a State of the Art/ Beyond the State of the Art analysis as requested when answering European calls for projects, the state of the art could be Complex Systems approach and beyond SoA GSS.


Following foundation works in the late 40’s in discrete maths and network of automata, the idea of a search for generic properties, (equivalent to classes of universality), was a step-back from the pretention of full predictions about a complicated system under study (such as the Brain, the Earth climate, or predicting the phenotype from the genotype). SFI research e.g., although not unique, was a search for generic properties, stylised facts, scaling laws etc. to be observed in different systems such as the brain, the immune system, societies etc. In this quest, computer simulations played an important role, and this might be the reason for the confusion about Complex system research = Computer simulations.

Beyond SoA

It as already be proposed that GSS research implies:

– Systems of Systems, and obviously their couplings;

– Global systems, at the level of the Earth Globe;

– A science for policy making. Because of the difficulty to deal with such challenges I would also add smaller horizontal questions such as:

– The Man in the loop, i.e the coupling between the dynamics of human individual and social cognition (representations, learning, paradigm shifts etc.) and the dynamics of natural systems such as Climate, natural resources, Energy and so on. I would also lift the obligation to use Big Data, HPC, Global Challenges as compulsory request to start Research.

Update: Open Global Systems Science Conference – June 10-12, Brussels


Organized by the Global Climate Forum on behalf of the steering committee of the EU project GSDP in cooperation with the EU projects EUNOIA, FOC, INSITE, MULTIPLEX, NESS, and the G3M project, funded by the German BMU.

The study of problems as diverse as global climate change and global financial crises is currently converging towards a new kind of research – Global Systems Science. GSS is emerging hand in hand with the substantial advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The use of computer models, digitized data, and global virtual networks are vital for GSS, in the same fashion that GSS can become a trigger for truly disruptive developments in policy-oriented and socially useful ICT.

The purpose of this conference is to discuss a possible research program for Global Systems Science and to further build up the community of practitioners from science, policy and civic society working on the pressing global challenges of our times.

This conference is conceived as a two day-event with a third day for interested sub-groups and workshops. It is embedded in an on-going conversation taking place in many settings, including The present program version may evolve further at the conference as a result of this conversation.

The conference is structured by plenary and break-out group sessions. It will develop from a format focused on plenary sessions on the first day towards break-out group targeted workshops on the third day. The second day will follow a hybrid format of plenary and break-out group sessions.

All participants are asked to actively contribute and participate in the different plenaries as well as the break-out group discussions. This second conference has attracted a significant number of remarkable researchers and practitioners from all over the world and therefore the opportunities for further networking and learning are unique. The event has been organized in a style that facilitates an open dialogue among all participants.

This event is part of a series of workshops carried out by the research network Global Systems Dynamics and Policy and follows the First Open Global Systems Science Conference carried out in November 2012. It also constitutes part of a series of open GSS conferences which shall continue in the years to come.

We are working on elaborating an ambitious research agenda driven by policy needs and developing and using ICT to meet policy and societal challenges in close consultation with policy makers and citizens.

For contributions during the conference please actively contribute to the GSS blog ( In case you would like to post but do not yet have access just send an email to

GSS Orientation Paper

Agenda Outline & Logistics

Please note:

  • Registration is closed, since only a limited number of seats is available, registrations were handled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Participation is free of charge.
  • Unfortunately we are not able to cover travel and accommodation for conference participants, unless expressly agreed.

In case of difficulties please contact: Dr. J. David Tàbara