How does it work?

The e-LIberate / openDCN tool supports synchronous online deliberation with the goal of making decisions. It can be seen as an advanced chat where the times and modes of interaction are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, a set of meeting rules that were designed to support equitable decision-making. This tool is intended to support groups of people who work together synchronously on specific issues or bound domains.

The idea and the design of this tool were heavily inspired by the earlier work of Douglas Schuler and his team, who conceived and implemented e-Liberate, that uses Robert’s Rules of Order as the basis for structuring online deliberative meetings. The rules were designed to support a basic property of democratic debate: while while the minority is guaranteed the right to express its opinions, the majority is guaranteed the right to make decisions.

Every meeting session is based on an order of business that contains all matters to be taken up by the participants. Each item is debated through a sequence of specific motions containing participants’ proposals.

Only one main motion at a time is allowed, and it may be elaborated through succeeding secondary motions (e.g. amend, vote, postpone, and the like). A participant must take the floor to make a motion, and requests to take the floor are managed with a "first-in-first-out" (or FIFO) queue.

In order to make the online deliberation tool easier and more flexible to use – and following an application principle of Robert’s Rules of Order – two subsets of motions have been identified: the first, simpler, is suited to participants who are less skilled and less familiar with Robert’s Rules; the second is the complete set of rules that can be used in other cases.

The tool supports also free debate phases (i.e. a simple chat regulated by a queue for getting the floor) to allow unregulated debate among participants at certain moments in the meeting.

The standard configuration of the tool supports three main roles: chair, participant, and observer.

The e-Liberate interface

   The figure shows the tool’s user interface:

  • the main box displays the discussion thread (different colours represent different kinds of motions);
  • the actions (second a motion, vote on a motion, request the floor, and release the floor) and the most commonly used motions (like main motion, amend, and put to vote) are accessible via buttons displayed in the “Available Actions” and “Available Motions” boxes (other motions are displayed in a combo box).
  • Another box lists the meeting’s participants; this same box is used in case there is no secret ballot on a motion, one vote per participant.

Every participant always knows the current state of the meeting because the main motion and the motion currently under consideration are displayed in dedicated boxes. Moreover, an info box guides participants in the use of the tool.

Organize a meeting

If you want to use the tool and set-up a meeting, please send us an e-mail to eliberate@opendcn.org with:

  • the title of your meeting
  • the starting and ending dates
  • the list of participants specifying name, family name and e-mail (every participant need to be registered)
In this way we will provide for creating your meeting. So you will be able to set-up the order of business and open the meeting, that you and the other participants will attend.

We propose you to start to use e-Liberate with a subsets of Robert's Rules of Order:

  • main motion
  • postpone indefinitely
  • amend

The more advanced Robert's Rules of Order can be configured on demand, so please if you need more rules ask them to us within the e-mail.


Thank you very much for your interest!

And don't forget to register!