Ethelo Decisions

September 22, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
May 14, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby

Founded by Ashoka fellow, John Richardson, Ethelo started as a non-profit organization in 2011 with a vision to improve democratic policy-making using Internet technology. The company's online engagement platform is used by numerous public and private organizations.

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Mission and Purpose

Ethelo takes the tried and true process of representative democracy and brings it into the 21st century by using a powerful algorithm to arrive at a solution that is optimized for success. It enables people to engage with each other on their own time and their own terms. Everyone’s input is considered and included in the final outcome.

Ethelo’s platform allows for real-time feedback and iterative processes that harness the power of collective wisdom for governance and group decisions. Broad consensus in the decision-making process leads to better execution and fewer roadblocks in the long run.

Origins and Development 

Ethelo Decisions has its roots in PartyX, a nonpartisan activist group created to advance new ways of doing democracy using internet technology. Ethelo founder and CEO John Richardson created Party X after leaving Pivot Legal Society, which he also founded.

Richardson created Ethelo to develop technology that could advance the goals of PartyX. He saw the internet, specifically eDemocracy, as a way to increase participation in politics and other aspects of civic life. The Ethelo algorithm was developed by Richardson to enable fair outcomes in complex multi-stakeholder negotiations.

Ethelo’s first major use case was PartyX’s BC Mandate campaign, during British Columbia election in April 2013. Ethelo evaluated more than 200,000 combinations of policy positions to create a consistent platform that would receive the fairest distribution of support from voters across the political spectrum.

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

Ethelo is comprised of two entities: Ethelo Decisions - a technology company dedicated to helping organizations focus collective intelligence to make the best decisions more quickly - and Ethelo Democracy - a non-profit society dedicated to a more effective, citizen-engaged democracy. Ethelo Decisions undertakes commercial projects to fund the development of the Ethelo technology, which is provided to Ethelo Democracy and its partners for the cost of hardware. 

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Ethelo uses an algorithm to combine decision parameters such as options, issues, criteria, constraints, influence, and fairness from there build a space of potential outcomes that are are evaluated and ranked according to aggregated analysis of the participants. It finds outcomes with high average support and low variance in satisfaction among participants

Ethelo is an extension of morphological analysis. It is compatible with and a complement to processes such as conjoint analysis, the Monte Carlo Method and decision trees. It incorporates a novel approach to liquid democracy using trust networks

Ethelo was granted the U.S. patent for the underlying algorithms in 2017. Ethelo plans to release the algorithm under an Affero Copyleft GPL with a public Application Programming Interface.

Major Projects and Events

Ethelo’s largest client is the Canadian government, which uses the platform for making internal decisions, gathering constituent feedback, and assessing risk. 

Other uses include:

In 2014, the South Surrey-White Rock electoral district in British Columbia used Ethelo to gather input from residents about how to make the community a better place to live.

The Springtide Collective 9 partnered with Ethelo in 2015 on the Make Democracy Better project, an effort to increase voter turnout and engagement in Nova Scotia.

In 2015, Canadian credit union Vancity used Ethelo to collect input on from its members about how to achieve social and economic goals.

Roslyn Fuller used Ethelo as part of her 2016 Irish General Election campaign. She ran a month long project to capture voter priorities in advance of the election

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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"eDemocracy: An Emerging Force for Change" Stanford Social Innovation Review 

See Also

Online Deliberation


“Pivot founder John Richardson leaves legal profession behind”. The Georgia Straight

“Video: Vancouver-developed democracy software aims to inform B.C. election”. Toronto Metro.

“Party X to bring new platform to BC election”. Techvibes

“Ethelo bets on ‘collective intelligence’ with mass decision-making software”. Toronto Metro

“Techno push to empower Surrey and White Rock”. Peace Arch News

Springtide Collective website

“New Politics? Up to you, Nova Scotia”. The Chronicle Herald

External Links

Official website: 


Lead image: The OCMX,