Citizen OS Foundation

January 25, 2022 liina
January 16, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
January 14, 2020 anett

Citizen OS Foundation offers an open source e-democracy platform and education on how to run online civic engagement projects. The platform is used by communities and member-led organisations for collective decision-making: public discussions, custom voting, private groups, etc.

Mission and Purpose

Its mission is "to empower as many people as possible to participate in respectful, meaningful discussions in order to collaboratively decide on issues that affect their wellbeing."

They develop a vision of a more collaborative world and the technologies to make it happen, deliver the product and client service, disseminate what they have learned from international projects and collaborations.

Their vision is that together with partners and communities they start numerous globally known participatory e-democracy solutions, which prove the value of collaborative decision making.

Origins and Development

Citizen OS was established in 2014 by the people of Let's Do It Foundation. After organizing cleanups for several years they had come to realize that it is not enough to cleanup the country every year but it is also important to keep it clean. 

That meant changing waste management laws and that in turn meant going against powerful corporate interests of global utility companies and their lobby. So they came up with a system that would decentralise power. No center of power means noone to lobby. Or more precisely, if everyone has power, it means everyone has to be lobbied for a decision, but that makes it much more transparent and can be publicly countered.

So they dreamt up an information system for making collaborative decisions, based on good arguments where everyone's word carried equal weight. Where votes could be delegated in swift and smart ways. A system that would decentralise power, taking it away from political parties and institutions and sharing it with all members of a community, city or country. That system came to be known as Toru (Pipeline in the beginning) and Citizen OS later. 

2013 -- Idea is born at the Let's Do It! Foundation

Sept 2015 -- Citizen OS platform was launched

May 2016 -- Estonian Citizens Initiative portal Rahvaalgatus is using the open source code

Nov 2018 -- 10 Island Pilot Project in Indonesia is launched 

Aug 2019 -- Estonian Opinion Festival is using COS widget for online discussions

Dec 2020 -- COS India chapter is kicked off 

Feb 2021- Indonesia Opinion Festival was launched and start the discussion to gather the ideas using COS Platform

May 2021 -- Over 100 000 votes on platform, 58 000 users, 470 private groups, 3600 discussions

Jan 2021 -- Winter School with Tallinn University is co-created and co-delivered

Jul 2021 -- First Global Volunteers Gathering was held

Nov 2021 -- Platform is translated into 16 languages

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

Citizen OS is a mission-based organisation and it follows democratic and participatory leadership principles. That means that all the most important decisions are being discussed and decided democratically together with the whole team.

They have defined 8 important values that leads our decisions in platform development, partnerships and organizational development field: 

  1. Argumentation / evidence-based
  2. Transparency / openness
  3. Innovation / creativity
  4. Engagement / equality / community /inclusivity
  5. Effectiveness
  6. Adequacy / forethought
  7. Purposefulness / usefulness
  8. Caring / humane / respectful

How does Citizen OS fund itself if the platform is free?

In the seven years since its inception, Citizen OS's sources of revenue have been project-based grants and private donations.

The majority of our running costs so far have been covered by a private philanthropist who is well-known in the Estonian technology field.

Looking ahead, revenues from service fees, additional private donations and some additional paid features on the platform are possibilities we are exploring for the future.

However, Citizen OS is and will always remain a social enterprise, meaning that it will remain non-profit oriented, and should profits ever be generated they will be reinvested into the organisation and the pursuit of our mission.

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Major Projects and Events

Citizen OS Foundation developed Citizen OS, an argument-based discussions and collaborative decision-making platform for civic initiatives. The e-democracy platform allows individuals to initiate petitions on societal issues.

Analysis and Lessons Learned


See Also

Information and communication technologies


External Links