As we adopt Societal Platform Thinking towards working with the ecosystem to achieve the mission, there is a wide and diverse range of interactions that happen and generate value. Interactions that could be around programmes, solutions, infrastructure, and resources. Thus, it becomes important to establish governance mechanisms for balanced evolution of such interactions and their outcomes. Societal Platform partnered with Aapti Institute with the aim to articulate a set of principles that could guide in governing Societal Platforms. The attempt is to identify principles that account for societal values, and aspire to maximise societal impact with a focus on the agency of individuals and institutions.
The report and the included principles have emerged from desk research along with a set of interviews and a brief round table with a few societal missions.
What you’ll find inside:
The principles articulated in this document aim to provide a framework for thinking about infusing societal values into governance.
In this presentation, you will find the 11 principles with a ‘pillar and lever’ framework. These principles seek to embed societal values – drawn from constitutionalism, democratic values and individual liberties.
A societal platform is a development mission in a specific focus area (such as, but not limited to, education, healthcare or economic opportunity). It aims to catalyse systemic change at population scale (extending services to all affected people). It leverages an open digital infrastructure to share the ability to develop contextual solutions with an ecosystem of cocreation partners (e.g. Social Enterprises, Governmental Institutions or Private Sector). It amplifies, by orchestrating and enabling, the diverse developmental initiatives taken up by a network of key actors across the society, including the state, civil society and private sector.
These societal platforms aim for impact with deliberation—impact is the mission, and the platform is the means, (Unlike the other way round for commercial platforms). The impact and mission are rooted in rights, equity and freedom, and additionally democratic values. These translate into enabling choice, nurturing dignity, and restoring agency for all.
So, for these societal platforms, technology architectures, data governance, programs and partnerships must all line up to serve a mission to deliver impact for the communities of interest. EkStep is a Societal Platform mission that leverages a core digital infrastructure, a network of developers, to enable learners across India access learning opportunities material generated by experts and their peers, as well as capabilities and means to conduct their core activities more effectively and efficiently. For EkStep, assets, governance practices and engagement with the ecosystem must serve the aim of enabling learners.
While a clear mission statement is critical to get started—it is not enough. Values and principles, established through relational approaches (embedding, not enforcing) become critical to ensure continued impact and amplification of rights, equity and freedom.
The mission, which articulates the desired social impact, is a distinguishing feature of Societal Platforms. Accordingly, any set of values and principles that aim to frame governance or design must centre the mission. In centering the mission, it is critical to watch out for mission creep, which is a situation where the platform begins to serve a different mission. Accordingly, paying attention to the limits of the mission itself is important.
None of this is to say, however, that Societal Platforms must adopt a rigid and unyielding approach to their mission. Missions must evolve—but, when they require different value systems, such as rejection of democratic values, or the (replication of the) platform becomes an end in itself, then there must be due reconsideration.
The principles articulated in this document aim to provide a framework for thinking about infusing societal values into governance. In the current form, they do not do more than provide a guiding value framework for governance. They are meant to stimulate thought (and, hopefully action) bearing in mind the stage of platform evolution and the context. Specific governance approaches must necessarily be evolved in context—keeping in mind the nature of the platform, its stage of evolution and importantly, the social and political environment within which it operates.
We recognise that any articulation of values or principles raise important questions about who framed them, and who gets to make decisions around them. Why should individuals and institutions of privilege have a disproportionate say in setting the agenda, as it were? We have no easy answers to offer here—but we hope the fundamental principles of accessible co-creation and accountability pave the way for wider and deeper engagement, and critiques around these principles. And that governance evolvability enables and drives for accommodation of wider voices in this area.