IPU Policy Collaboratory 

Civic Participation in the Global South

The global South consists of more than 85% of the worlds recognized states, including the entire continents of Africa and South America, most of Asia and all of Central America.  Unfortunately, nearly 100% of the global South faces a disproportionate amount of poverty, human and civil rights abuses, environmental degradation,  “brain drain,” hunger, and disease.  With governments of the global South facing such problems, economic and otherwise, participation in the traditional spheres of power and influence is limited.  Often times, only high ranking government officials and their corresponding constituencies are represented, thus marginalizing civic society.  Consequently, in arenas such as policy formation at global conferences, where participation can have an immediate and direct positive impact on people’s lives, the people of the global South further suffer. Alas, the advances of the Information Age and Information Society present us with a digital opportunity.  The opportunity to bring the marginalized of the marginalized in to the development process now exist with the advent of digital technologies.   The technologies of the Global Information Society can minimize the existing barriers of location, time, and money and will allow communities, formerly excluded, to interact with much larger social and political networks (Resnick, 2000), particularly those that influence policy formation.


The collaboratory, a concatenation of the words “collaboration” and “laboratory,” is a “center without walls in which researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location—interacting with colleagues, accessing instrumentation, sharing data and computational resources, and accessing information in digital libraries” (p.19, Wulf, 1989).  Using information and communication technologies (ICTs) physical scientists have been developing collaboratories to control and operate instrumentation, distribute, access, and manipulate data, and conveniently interact with colleagues, while minimizing the barriers created by space and time.  Researchers like Dr. Derrick Cogburn, at the University of Michigan , have suggested that it may be possible to successfully apply explicit collaboratory principles developed for use in traditional science research environments to build mechanisms of a similar organizational form in non-scientific environments.  This networked organizational form is more than a cluster of ICTs.  It includes social processes, collaboration techniques, formal and informal communication, and agreement on norms, principles, values and rules within the network (p.3, Cogburn, in press).  The digital opportunity is to form a policy collaboratory, “a center without walls,” where civic society can participate, “without regard to physical location” in the decision making processes of the international development community.

Steps Toward Civic Inclusion

The aim of International Possibilities Unlimited (IPU) is to develop a policy formation collaboratory that will foster civic participation by the global South in the decision making processes of the international development community. This project is aligned with the principles and actions presented at Prepcom I regarding the participation of professional NGOs and of civil society at large.  By minimizing the barriers of money, time, and space, the collaboratory is a viable mean toward accomplishing the goal of civic inclusion in development decision-making.

Long Term Goal

Develop a self-sustaining policy formation collaboratory where civic participation in development processes can occur regardless of geographic and temporal separation among the individual participants.

Policy Collaboratory Concept

Using distributed, media-rich network connections to link people to each other, to facilities, and to information.

Questions about the Collaboratory Email Walter Mosley
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