The Themis project is an ongoing enquiry into emergent democracy and other innovations in collective decision-making.

When the first city states emerged in southern Mesopotamia around 3500BC they seem to have been governed via an assembly in which all adult male citizens were able to participate. Meanwhile less formal systems to make collective decisions for the common benefit have existed since the beginning of human social evolution. So there is a somewhat longer history for what we might call “democracy” than is typically acknowledged. Throughout human history democracy has taken a myriad different forms, each instance adapted to the particular environment and needs that prompted its emergence.

Depending on who you listen to we’re either on the brink of an explosion of new democratic models or the wholesale abandonment of democracy in favour of more tyrannical structures. Factors as diverse as the internet, climate change, single-issue politics and the dawning of the age of aquarius are all cited as decisive factors. Some of the most intriguing suggestions relate to so-called “emergent democracy” where clusters of opinion materialise and align themselves in a completely fluid and decentralised fashion (the Wikipedia article is hopeless and needs rewriting).

If you’d like to present your project or participate in a future workshop write to


The third Themis workshop was held on Tuesday 17th March. There were four presentations:


The second Themis workshop was held on Tuesday 28th October at the Trampery. There were two presentations:

Charles Armstrong presented preliminary drafts of four Themis Constitutions and proposed the development of an open-source platform to create and run organisations using Emergent Democratic techniques.


On 19th August the foundation held a workshop in London to launch its Themis project. Discussion covered the historical development of democratic systems, current initiatives to “patch” democratic systems and the possible development of more emergent systems. The workshop included five presentations:

  • Aaron Swartz ( on remedying defects in the current democratic system.
  • Edward Andersson ( on extending participation.
  • Charles Armstrong (CIRCUS foundation) on technological innovation and social change.
  • Sannse ( on emergent decision-making in wikipedia
  • Mako Hill ( on electronic decision-making for the masses.