Dominik Jandl is the managing director of Decision 21 that in recent years has been at the forefront of e-participation solutions and has been able to compete in the international market. Decision 21 provides a suite of tools that facilitate public participation with a special focus on data gathering through surveys and secure e-voting that utilizes a unique voting method. The voting method allows each voter to have more than one positive vote in support of a preferred option and a minus vote per each two positive votes to cast against certain options. Dominik met with us to answer a few questions about the company’s current plans and position.
Your Decision 21 product appeared in the first global catalog of e-participation tools published by People Powered and can be considered a world leader. What does this mean for you?
For us, this means confirming that our approach to participation in general is right. It also shows that the work of the whole team, not only the current one, but also the work of our former colleagues is much appreciated. We take this as a proof of the quality of our work, and we are grateful for that. We believe that we have been reaping the benefits of many people’s long-term work since the beginning of our activity.
What sets you apart from others? What makes Decision 21 unique?
On the one hand, it is the way we use technology. The technologies we choose for our platform aim to erase limitations. They allow us to give any project its own face “from A to Z”. That is, from the domain name to the tailor-made visual, according to the customer’s needs. This means maximum flexibility towards customers.
On the other hand, it is the voting method we use that brings cities much more data than conventional voting methods. We try to see participation as a source of valuable data, the usability of which exceeds individual projects we implement for cities. Customers confirm that they use data from participatory budgeting or other projects on a long-term basis. They reuse the data in other projects or use it for planning activities, such as scheduling repairs in the city or identifying which neighborhoods they should focus on. Even project proposals that have failed in participatory budgeting are valuable data. Thanks to those, cities learn about areas that might be problematic for one reason or another.
The importance of our voting method has now been confirmed by an article published in the Slovak Journal of Political Science, where two political scientists looked into the effectiveness of voting methods in participatory processes, primarily in participatory budgeting. It turned out that in addition to providing cities with more robust feedback, our method also increases the attractiveness of processes as more people regularly participate in them in comparison to other cities where a different voting method is used.
Customers also appreciate that all the data belongs to them and we are only its processor. We consistently avoid “vendor lock-in” or building the customer’s dependence on our services. We also offer cities – as managers of primary schools – a user-friendly version of the tool for participatory budgeting in schools. So that students can learn about democracy, economic balance, and creative thinking at the same time.
Decision 21 was the first Czech tool for e-participation to take hold abroad. Where do you operate abroad now?
Yes, however, our focus is still on the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Within our foreign operations, it is Slovakia that is our main focus. There we cooperate with the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic for Civil Society, especially in the area of school participation. We would like to extend the cooperation to the regional and municipal levels.
We are currently waiting for the results of tenders in several cities abroad and have negotiated projects through the partner networks of cities in Germany. We would like to continue our cooperation with the City Hall in New York, where we are waiting to see how the composition of the City Hall will turn out. In New York, participatory processes were severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. They were suspended for almost two years. This is due to the fact that NYC places great emphasis on social inclusion. So, a lot of things used to happen offline.
In the corporate sector, our presence abroad is greater, but we are bound by confidentiality agreements, and I cannot disclose the details.
Are you preparing any new products?
We plan to launch a version of the voting tool available for the public. It should offer basic functionalities of our tool. So that, for example, schools can use it when deciding on school trips. This way various groups would have an opportunity to try out our voting method and our platform. We sense a high demand from schools and the corporate sector. It will be some kind of an additional product alongside our regular activities.
We are also preparing product packages for cities, for example, versions of the platform designed for specific projects such as participatory budgeting, urban planning projects, etc.
A big thing that many cities, especially in the Czech Republic, are looking forward to is ensuring “full verification”. We are working on a solution that will be able to guarantee to the city that only people with permanent residency can take part in the voting or submit a proposal – which was, until now, an unreachable dream of ours.
Do you want to know more about e-participation platforms? Or do you have experience using digital tools and would like to share them? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.