IPS Digital Frontiers Seminar: Citizen Participation in Policy Development and the “Democracy Machine”


Faced with an increasingly educated and active citizenry, policymakers from different parts of the world recognise the value of public engagement. Moving away from one-way channel of information, governments are adopting different methods to engage citizens in partnerships to co-create policies. For governments, besides providing input to policy formulation, citizen engagement also plays a part in strengthening the legitimacy of the resulting policies. For citizens, the process of deliberation during engagement exposes them to different viewpoints, enables them to acquire deeper knowledge of issues, and helps them to formulate more well-considered opinions. In addition, with the proliferation of digital platforms, public engagement has taken on new forms.

This two-part IPS seminar brings together policymakers, academics, and private and people sector leaders to explore the concept and practice of citizen engagement, and how they may be applicable in the context of policymaking in Singapore.

Part 1: Public Engagement in Singapore

In Singapore, public engagement has been an important element of the policy development and implementation process. With a more sophisticated citizenry, well-designed public engagement enables the government to involve them constructively in making sense of complex issues, and developing and implementing decisions and solutions. Public engagement also has the potential to create common spaces for citizens to contribute, build relationships and trust, and engage in service to one other for the common good. This sharing by Ms Melissa Tan, Deputy Director, Office of Citizen Engagement in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth paints a vision for a more resilient and cohesive society through deepening capacity for citizen participation. It seeks to discuss how the government could work in partnership with civil society to address challenges and to tap opportunities, to collectively work towards active citizen participation in Singapore. 

Part 2: “Democracy Machine” and Deliberative Engagement

Recent advances in online civic engagement tools have created a digital civic space replete with opportunities to craft and critique laws and rules or evaluate candidates, ballot measures and policy ideas. These civic spaces, however, remain largely disconnected from one another, such that tremendous energy dissipates from each civic portal. Long-term feedback loops also remain rare. Professor John Gastil proposes to address these limitations by building an integrative online commons that links together the best existing tools by making them components in a larger “Democracy Machine.” Drawing on gamification principles, this integrative platform provides incentives for drawing new people into the civic sphere, encouraging more sustained and deliberative engagement, and feedback to government and citizens alike, to improve how the public interacts with the public sector. After describing this proposed platform, Professor Gastil will consider the most challenging problems it faces and how to address them.

About the IPS Digital Frontiers Seminar:

This series of seminars is based on the idea that new technologies have reached a point that has suddenly opened the doors for novel ways of doing things, be it in the social, political, economic and even research arenas. The seminars in the series are:



By invitation only.


If you have any enquiries, please contact Ms Choo Kia Ming at tel: 6516-8391 or via email:

Thursday, 22 June 2017
2.45 pm – 5.00 pm