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Full Title 

Collective Applied Intelligence & Analytics for Social Innovation

Started on 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Sigma Orionis
Embedded thumbnail for CATALYST
Embedded thumbnail for CATALYST
Embedded thumbnail for CATALYST
Supporting Collaborative Decision Making in Online Communities

CATALYST aims to improve collective sensemaking and creative ideation for the common good in large scale online debates for social innovation. CATALYST will undertake technological developments aimed at radically improving collaborative knowledge creation through ground-breaking functionalities intended to mobilize collective intelligence for the public good, and will test these next generation solutions in authentic, real world settings. Within a Collective Intelligence (CI) Spectrum ranging from Sensing to Collective Action, CATALYST focuses on Contested CI (Sensemaking and Ideation), which recognises the centrality of deliberation, argumentation and public debate.

Why is our project important? 

Online communities have been playing an increasingly important role in supporting grassroots initiatives in the area of social innovation and sustainability. However, as such platforms grow larger and larger, it is more and more difficult for community managers to ensure efficient debates among citizens, i.e. to ensure collective ideation, decision and action. Public deliberation in complex debates is thus critical, but poorly supported by today’s social media and debate platforms.
End of 2013, major community networks and leading research institutes have teamed up to tackle this issue with the support of the European Commission’s research funding programme. Over 2 years, through the CATALYST project, we will develop and test collective intelligence tools and make them available, as open source solutions, to any interested communities.
CATALYST will deliver an ecosystem of CI services that will augment current and future partners’ platforms with • Web-based annotation tools • Recommenders to help users prioritise attention • Online creativity triggers • Interactive visualizations of debates • Social Network and Deliberation Analytics. A coherent user experience will be delivered through a CI Analytics Dashboard.
The CATALYST project does not require partners and users to drop their existing tools, but provides CI tools that add new value to existing web platforms. All developments will be made available under Creative Commons (for methods) and open source / free license (for software). All the specific services provided should be accessible by any module, over the internet, using technology-neutral, lightweight open data formats and protocols. Data will not be locked into any part of the system.
Through several use cases and community tests we demonstrate how CATALYST developments can boost local initiatives in the area of social innovation, increase awareness on new sustainable lifestyles and support eGovernance efforts of European cities. 

What are our goals? 

  • To radically improve the experience of using the social media and online debate platforms for making sense of the information out there
  • Ensure efficient online debates among citizens
  • Boost initiatives in the area of social innovation and support eGovernance efforts
  • Improve the role and efficacy of harvesters and community managers

Initiatives, tools and services we have already launched 

  • Assembl is a software application that allows hundreds or thousands of people to work together productively. It reduces the chaos of working in a large group and makes it possible to come up with new and innovative ideas. The purpose of this tool is to organize your debate forum, transforming it into something more interactive, which could stimulate creativity on the participants.
  • LiteMap’s objective is to help you improve community discussion of complex societal challenges. Say you want to understand what the global view of Climate Change is but it is difficult for you to grasp the different opinions of the causes, the urgency, the actions we can take to mitigate it and also the effects of climate change. With LiteMap, you can recollect issues, ideas, pros and cons of the issue and connect them in meaningful network graphs, which will give you a summary of the main arguments from different websites and forums quickly and help you to better explain your stance on the subject. See the video about LiteMap.
  • Edgesense provides real-time social network analysis of a conversation. This means that community managers of social networks are able to detect disconnected individuals and emerging clusters of conversation. The vision behind all this is to contribute to building a format for participatory democracy that works at a global scale. With this tool, community managers can check all the actors and interactions into the debate and determine which users carry more validity. Individual users can find themselves in the graph and get an idea of their position in the conversation. See the video about Edgesense.
  • Deliberatorium is a tool created by Mark Klein (ETH Zürich, CATALYST Partner) as part of his attributions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alongside with his colleagues of the department of Collective Intelligence. It was used as a comparison and benchmark tool in the creation process of all five other CATALYST tools. It was further developed in course of the project and tackles the problems that are nowadays seen on deliberation tools (forums, blogs, email, etc). The fact that content is organized by time, creates problems. First, the content that you see is often incomplete as discussions can be scattered under different posts with only like-minded people following it. It is hard to make sure your voice gets heard because as soon as someone else comments/posts, their input is made most visible due to organization by time. Finally, because discussions can be had in separate threads at different times completely independent from each other, the really interesting discussions get ignored. Our technology organizes contributions by topic rather than time. These are further broken up into issues, ideas and arguments. Our tool makes it manageable for large numbers of people, distributed in space and time, to combine their insights to make sense of complex problems (e.g. sustainability, climate change policy) and find solutions to them. You can watch a video on Deliberatorium here.
  • DebateHub helps communities to identify the most robust ideas in the noise of the social media platforms where it is hardly possible for citizens and community managers to quickly grasp the state of a public debate, know where they might best contribute to advance understanding, and effectively identify and pursue socially innovative ideas. It is a tool for online communities to raise issues, share ideas, debate the pros and cons, and prioritise contributions in order to collectively organise and progress good ideas forward. DebateHub is distinctive in its use of advanced analytics to show the best argued ideas, and visualisations of a community. See the video about DebateHub.
  • The Collective Intelligence Dashboard is a tool aiming at monitoring, measuring and understanding the nature and quality of the collective intelligence processes emerging with the community debate. In other words, it is the place in which advanced analytics on social and conversational dynamics can be made visible and fed back to the community for further awareness and reflection on the state and outcomes of a public debate.
  • Tools’ Tests: In addition to the testing periods of its tools by its community consortium partner and as part of its improvement and validation processes, CATALYST conducted tests of its Collective Intelligence developments on real online communities from the Open-Call it launched in 2014. The work performed by successful proposals started in February 2015 and finished during the summer of the same year. The tests allowed the testing of:
    o Assembl by Ashoka, Edgeryders, the OECD and Loomio
    o LiteMap by Loomio, OuiShare and AutoConsulta Ciudadana
    o DebateHub by The University of Naples and AutoConsulta Ciudadana;
    o Edgesense by Edgeryders
    o The Collective Intelligence Dashboard by The University of Naples.
    All tests, which reports are available on CATALYST website, allowed the project partners to fine-tune their tools
    Events: CATALYST organized its first annual event within CAPS2014 (July 1-2, 2014, Brussels) and its final event within CAPS2015 (July 7-8, 2015, Brussels), which both attracted approximately 350 attendees each day. The first annual event lasted a whole day and was made of a mix of presentations, demo and poster sessions. The project final event was structured to have CATALYST sessions during the whole CAPS2015 including a demo session on July 7, a panel on July 8 AM and a World Café workshop on July 8 PM. All CATALYST sessions proved to be successful and allowed real exchanges with the audience leading to improvements of the tools developed by the project.

Initiatives, tools and services we are still working on 

The project ended in September 2015

Who will benefit from our project? 

  • Community managers and moderators who will be able to moderate and handle the discussions on online communities better and to grasp the state of a public debate quicker.
  • Researchers working on crowdsourcing and collective knowledge who will be able to understand and evaluate the nature and quality of the collective intelligence processes emerging with the community debate.  
  • Citizens who will benefit from the better organized and more clear debates on the platforms when wanting to contribute to societal issues or topics.

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