Using an online platform and a 'Deliberation Day', the Estonian government sourced proposals for the country's electoral laws, political party law, and government spending, due to concerns about bribery.
Problems and Purpose
Following accusations of bribery among the ruling Reform Party's MPs, the Estonian public took to the street to demand more transparency in party funding as well as greater dialogue and openness in the political system as a whole. To convert this activism into constructive change, civil society activists proposed crowd-sourcing as a method for finding solutions to these complex problems.
Following the online engagement, a Deliberation Day was held, where a representative sample of 314 people discussed the pros and cons of ideas selected from the online platform, the experts’ consultations and the thematic workshops. At the end, they voted to select the most popular ideas. The outcomes were presented by the President to the Parliament who set a timetable when these legislative changes would be discussed in the formal procedures. Until now, three of the sixteen presented proposals have been fully accounted for and turned into laws and four partially. 
Background History and Context
A former Estonian MP, member of the ruling Reform Party, announced in 2012 that the party’s officials gave him 7600 euros of unknown origin that he then had to donate to the party. He claimed that dozens of members had donated funds to the party in this way, including MPs. This is illegal in Estonia. Although the party rejected the accusations and the subsequent investigation ended due to a lack of hard evidence, the public did not find the party’s denials convincing. Widespread protests led to street demonstrations and petitions in the autumn of 2012.
People’s Assembly (in Estonian, Rahvakogu) is an initiative that was proposed by Estonian civil society activists in November 2012 as a solution to then widespread political protests. The same month, the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves called for a working group consisting of the representatives of civil society, academia, government, and political parties to lead the initiative. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
A working group of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and representatives from political parties gathered in November 2012. Five weeks later, a website (www.rahvakogu.ee) was launched where everyone could propose ideas for improving elections, public participation, as well as governance and funding of political parties. Many different individuals and groups helped organize this initiative: the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, the Praxis Centre for Policy Studies, the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, the e-Governance Academy, the Open Estonia Foundation, as well as political parties, IT and communications professionals, and others. Core funding for the project came from the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, a state-sponsored nonpartisan think tank. Organizational costs of the ‘Deliberation Day’ event were primarily covered by a grant from the Open Estonia Foundation. However, most of the work on the project has been done by volunteers.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The website was open to anyone who wished to participate in the process. Within the first three weeks the website gained 60,000 visitors. 1,800 registered users posted nearly 6,000 ideas and comments. The Rahvakogu also included five thematic seminars attended by political representatives, experts, and crowdsourced participation, to review and refine the list of proposals to be considered by a group of 314 people in a day-long, face-to-face deliberative event. Around 100 people participated in these discussion seminars. The discussion seminars were held to debate and chose ideas to be sent to the Deliberation Day.
For this final 'Deliberation Day', organizers used a national database to randomly select 500 individuals according to the socio-demographic profile of Estonia. Of the 500 who were invited, 314 individuals took part in the ‘Deliberation Day’ event. This group broadly reflected the Estonian population in terms of age, ethnicity, occupation, and gender.
Methods and Tools Used
This case use both online and face-to-face methods of engagement. Online crowdsourcing was used during the initial phase of proposal submission. Crowdsourcing is a process designed to use information and communication technologies to harness the collective power of the internet to provide solutions to a problem, generate design ideas, or perform big-data analysis. Following this there were a series of thematic workshops to refine the proposals to be considered during 'Deliberation Day' which involved a random stratified selection of 314 citizens.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
During the first stage of the process, the public interacted with policy makers and other citizens through the website. The website accepted suggestions, recommendations, and comments, but it also provided forums where individuals could discuss issues and post arguments in favor or against specific proposals. This part of the process was open to anyone, including elected politicians and other political actors. The results of the online comments and discussions were compiled by a team of analysts and organized into themes. Based on these analyses, several scenarios or alternative policy options were identified. The team of analysts also conducted assessments of the likely impacts and effectiveness of each scenario. The results of the online phase of the project were refined through a set of five thematic seminars attended by political representatives, experts, and citizens who had participated during the crowdsourcing phase. 18 recommendations were selected by this group to be sent to the Deliberation Day event on April 6th, 2013, where 314 randomly selected citizens discussed the pros and cons of each scenario, and identified their priorities. At this event, participants were divided up into small deliberative groups of approximately 10 individuals. Each group was led by a trained moderator. After these deliberations, each participant completed written survey as a record of his or her preferences. The preferences of the group, as a whole, were aggregated using electronic voting tablets. The outcome and recommendations of the Deliberation Day phase of the project were formally presented to the Parliament. The Parliament, for their part, will set a timetable during which legislative changes will be discussed in formal parliamentary procedures.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
According to the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, 3 out of the 15 proposals sent to the parliament were adopted into law while 4 have been partially implemented or integrated into the government's commitments. As an example, the number of members required for the establishment of a party was reduced from 1000 to 500. Another implemented proposal was to further citizens’ opportunities for participating in decision-making, legal amendments were adopted to require the Parliament to start official procedures of public petitions receiving at least 1000 supporting signatures. Petitions were until then a constitutional right, but their submission and subsequent processing at the Parliament was not regulated before. 
After the introduced legal amendments, a portal was opened to provide an online environment for the preparation and the collection of signatures for the petitions, called Rahvaalgatus i.e., The Citizen Initiative. The latter has been widely used. Later, in 2017, the Estonian Cooperation Assembly (financed by the Office of the President) has repeated similar participation method when discussing the pension Reform 2050.  Generally, the People’s Assembly process demonstrated that people want to and do participate in public policy making, especially when they are being provided with a reason and supported with knowledge. The process also smoothened preceding conflicts between the public and those who govern, helping to stabilize the political situation in Estonia. 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Rahvakogu process clearly showed that when the right conditions are created, many people are willing and capable of participating in the policy making process. Crowd-sourcing mechanisms provide a useful tool for engaging large numbers of individuals in public decision-making processes. Face-to-face deliberative events, like the ‘Deliberation Day’ component of this project, provide a smaller number of individuals with opportunities to closely examine legislative recommendations in an information rich environment. Overall, crowd-sourcing mechanisms combined with smaller face-to-face deliberations can provide a valuable tool for implementing the principles of open government and bridging the gap between government and the public. It is important to emphasize that the Rahvakogu model is the starting point of a much larger policy-making process. Any legislative changes that might result from this process must be made by Parliament itself, and this can take time. Some have expressed concern that the preferences and recommendations produced in the Rahvakogu process may be reworded or even ‘watered down’ in the legislative process.
 Paulis, Emilien; Pilet, Jean-Benoit; Panel, Sophie; Vittori, Davide; Close, Caroline, 2020, "POLITICIZE Dataset", https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/Z7X6GT, Harvard Dataverse, V1
 The Estonian Cooperation Assembly, 'People’s Assembly', https://www.kogu.ee/en/activity/peoples-assembly/
 Eesti Koostöö Kogu. Pension 2050 (2014-2017). https://www.kogu.ee/pension2050/
Eesti Koostöö Kogu. Uue eakuse rahvakogu. https://www.kogu.ee/pension2050/uue-eakuse-rahvakogu/