Case Study: NEOS Party, Austria

The New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) was launched in 2012 as a citizen’s movement to challenge the dominance of Austria’s two major parties. Since then, NEOS has pioneered the use of policy crowdsourcing and co-design in order to engage individuals more directly in the democratic process.


NEOS emerged at a time where the idea of policy crowdsourcing was gaining momentum with political parties throughout Europe. Other movement-based parties, like the Swedish Pirate Party, had opted for a radically open policy development structure that contributed to inefficient decision-making and poor electoral performance. The challenge for NEOS has been to create a crowdsourcing strategy that balances the benefits of open involvement and co-creation with the need for organization and coherence. 


To strike a balance, NEOS innovated a crowdsourcing approach. For their initial round of policy development in 2012, NEOS’ founders launched five policy task forces: Democracy, Education, Economy, Europe, and Social Policy. Each task force employed a five-stage-process to develop their policies:

1. Arranging meetings with small groups of interested activists, experts and party members to create an initial policy proposal;

2. Having an experienced copywriter edit the policy proposal;

3. Creating a “topic forge” consisting of 15 - 50 party members to conduct a review of the policy proposal;

4. Having a group of 7 – 25 elected political leaders review and approve the policy proposal; and

5. Deciding on the policy proposal in the plenum of a general party meeting. Where necessary, policy drafts would be revised at the end of the process by the original task force and resubmitted to the review process. 


The co-development process attracted significant engagement: a total of approximately 150-200 people were directly involved in the policy meetings, and more than 1,000 people participated indirectly as consultants or contributing with ideas outside of meetings.

NEOS won their first seats in the Austrian National Council in 2013 and became an opposition party. Since publishing an initial platform and entering parliament, however, the scope for policy development has been reduced. Nevertheless, in order to maintain a collective design process, NEOS has redefined members’ participation. Among its innovations is the "Motion Forge", through which proposed motions are posted online one month prior to party conventions and assemblies. Party members then have the opportunity to suggest modifications. If the original author does not accept the suggestions, they are automatically brought up for consideration at the assembly. 
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