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Crowdsourcing global governance: sustainable development goals, civil society, and the pursuit of democratic legitimacy


  • Joshua C. Gellers

    () (University of North Florida)


To what extent can crowdsourcing help members of civil society overcome the democratic deficit in global environmental governance? In this paper, I evaluate the utility of crowdsourcing as a tool for participatory agenda-setting in the realm of post-2015 sustainable development policy. In particular, I analyze the descriptive representativeness (e.g., the degree to which participation mirrors the demographic attributes of non-state actors comprising global civil society) of participants in two United Nations orchestrated crowdsourcing processes—the MY World survey and e-discussions regarding environmental sustainability. I find that there exists a perceptible demographic imbalance among contributors to the MY World survey and considerable dissonance between the characteristics of participants in the e-discussions and those whose voices were included in the resulting summary report. The results suggest that although crowdsourcing may present an attractive technological approach to expand participation in global governance, ultimately the representativeness of that participation and the legitimacy of policy outputs depend on the manner in which contributions are solicited and filtered by international institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua C. Gellers, 2016. "Crowdsourcing global governance: sustainable development goals, civil society, and the pursuit of democratic legitimacy," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 415-432, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:ieaple:v:16:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1007_s10784-016-9322-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s10784-016-9322-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Prpić, John & Shukla, Prashant P. & Kietzmann, Jan H. & McCarthy, Ian P., 2015. "How to work a crowd: Developing crowd capital through crowdsourcing," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 77-85.
    2. Dana R. Fisher & Jessica F. Green, 2004. "Understanding Disenfranchisement: Civil Society and Developing Countries' Influence and Participation in Global Governance for Sustainable Development," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 4(3), pages 65-84, August.
    3. Aarti Gupta, 2010. "Transparency in Global Environmental Governance: A Coming of Age?," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 10(3), pages 1-9, August.
    4. Lucy H. Ford, 2003. "Challenging Global Environmental Governance: Social Movement Agency and Global Civil Society," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 3(2), pages 120-134, May.
    5. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong Wha, 2013. "A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 184-198.
    6. Peter M. Haas, 2004. "Addressing the Global Governance Deficit," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 4(4), pages 1-15, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan Pickering & Robin Davies & Annalisa Prizzon, 2017. "Development co-operation: New perspectives from developing countries – Introduction for special issue of Development Policy Review," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 35, pages 1-9, July.
    2. Michelle Scobie, 0. "International aid, trade and investment and access and allocation," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-16.
    3. Carole-Anne Sénit, 2020. "Transforming our world? Discursive representation in the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 411-429, September.
    4. Olivera Kostoska & Ljupco Kocarev, 2019. "A Novel ICT Framework for Sustainable Development Goals," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(7), pages 1-31, April.
    5. Michelle Scobie, 2020. "International aid, trade and investment and access and allocation," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 239-254, June.
    6. Araz Taeihagh, 2017. "Crowdsourcing: a new tool for policy-making?," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 50(4), pages 629-647, December.


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