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FAQ – What is the ‘What do you think, Finland’ experiment all about?


What is the ‘What do you think, Finland’ campaign all about?

Sitra’s ‘What do you think of Finland?’ campaign is testing a new kind of online platform, Polis, that can be used to survey people’s opinions in a consensus-building way. For four weeks, Sitra will be collecting citizens’ views on the sort of direction Finland should take.

The Polis platform enables a constructive exchange of views on a given topic. It provides real-time information on what participants agree and disagree on. In this way, consensus can be sought rather than getting bogged down in disagreement. The experiment allows everyone to contribute to the debate on Finland’s overall future direction by responding to the arguments of others and by adding their own viewpoints for others to vote on.

To strengthen our democracy, we need agile ways to participate in common issues. Finns want to be able to influence society and decision-making online easily. But in social media, only the voices of a few voices are heard. This experiment offers an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard in a constructive way.

Polis is an internationally tested online platform developed for the needs of democracy. In Taiwan, it was used to determine the conditions under which Uber, the ride-hailing company, could operate on the island. 

Sitra is working with DigiFinland, which promotes the digitalisation of public administration, to deploy and test the Polis platform. Sitra carefully collects and analyses the results and will present them in a format that is easy for decision-makers to understand. We will send the results to parties, ministries and the media by the end of 2023. The results will be communicated to everyone on the campaign website.

The aim is that the Polis platform could be used in the future to help municipalities, well-being services counties and businesses to address a variety of issues. 

Sitra’s ‘What do you think, Finland?’ campaign was launched on International Democracy Day on 15 September and will end on 13 October 2023.

Why is Sitra running this experiment?

According to a survey conducted by Sitra, many people in Finland would like to have more influence on decision-making and to do so in a flexible way using digital methods. However, the political debate on social media is fractious and unrelated to the decision-making system. Moreover, our survey shows that decision-makers do not trust the public’s ability to participate in political debate.

This is why we need new platforms for participation, of which Polis is a good, internationally tested example. In this experiment, we want to create a new way for everyone to make their voice heard on issues that affect us all. The aim is that the platform could be used in the future to support the resolution of different issues in municipalities, well-being services counties and businesses.

Sitra’s goal is a successful Finland for the future. We want to reform democracy by increasing the transparency of decision-making, developing opportunities for participation and using new technologies.

What is the Polis platform?

Polis is a new kind of open source citizen discussion platform developed for democracy. It allows a large number of people to engage in constructive, low-threshold debate.

Polis is not like social media or internet forums. The platform presents arguments on a given topic, to which participants can respond by agreeing or disagreeing. Polis differs from conventional polling tools in that participants themselves can add statements on the topic for others to vote on.

Polis is a real-time, statistical, machine-learning system for collecting data and analysing what large numbers of people think about issues in their own words.

Polis produces a visualised report showing where participants and different opinion groups agree and disagree. It can be used to gain a better understanding of where decision-making can be speeded up and where further consideration of different perspectives is needed.

Originally developed by the Computational Democracy Project in the US, Polis has been used to good effect both globally and in Sitra-funded trials in well-being services counties. In Taiwan, it was used to determine the conditions under which Uber could operate on the island. 

Sitra is the first organisation in Finland to implement the platform. The aim is to use it in the future to help municipalities, well-being services counties and businesses solve various problems.

How can I participate in the experiment?

On the Polis platform, you will be presented with statements that you can vote on by agreeing, disagreeing or skipping a statement. You can add your own views so that the issues that matter to you are included in the discussion. The Polis platform is anonymous. You do not have to log in and other participants cannot see how you voted or what contributions you added to the discussion.

Once you have voted on arguments and perhaps added your own to the debate, you can see the opinion groups that are forming in real time below the debate. The opinion group participant icon represents you and the ranking of your opinions in relation to the opinion groups in the debate. You can see how your ideas compare to the other opinion groups. Which arguments make your opinion group unique? And which statements reflect another opinion group? You can also look at other opinion groups and think about why they see the issue the way they do.

The debate is open until 13 October. You can return to the debate several times to respond to new contributions or add your own. The debate can be held in Finnish, Swedish and English. The language of the discussion is always determined by your browser’s language settings.

How do opinion groups work?

Polis provides real-time information on what participants agree and disagree on. Participants can also see which groups of respondents are formed based on their differences of opinion. These features can be used to find common ground. Participants can see which issues they are surprisingly similar on and can, for example, try to formulate statements that the majority could agree with.

You can read more about the developers’ thinking here: Polis: Scaling Deliberation by Mapping High Dimensional Opinion Spaces (

How can I see the debate results report?

The results report is available here. The visual report gives participants, organisers and decision-makers an overall picture of the debate. The report, produced by the Polis platform, is currently only available in English.

Key elements of the report:

1. Number of participants and arguments

2. Line of consensus

The Polis platform groups contributions according to how unifying or divisive they are. For example, in the consensus line presented for the report, one point represents one claim. To view the contributions and the support they receive, click on a point.

3. Opinion groups

The similarities and differences within and between the groups are illustrated by highlighting the key statements on which the groupings were based.

Would you like to contribute to the interpretation of the report?

You can use this open feedback form to send the organisers a summary of your findings, interpretations and conclusions from the report.

Why can’t I access the Polis platform?

The Polis platform is still in a development phase, where its functionality and suitability is being tested through trials in different well-being services counties and at national level. The accessibility of the Polis platform and the user interface, which is visible to the participant, are currently being developed. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

How can I change the platform language?

You can respond in Finnish, Swedish or English. The language of the platform is determined by the language settings of your web browser. The platform will also translate the claims entered by others into the language of your choice.

How has the platform taken security issues into account?

Polis Conversation is a low-threshold discussion platform. Therefore, participation is anonymous and does not require you to log in.

The only personal data collected is the participants’ IP address, which is deleted from the system at the end of the survey. Responses and personal data are organised on the Polis platform so that they cannot be combined and thus hacked. The debate data is stored in the DigiFinland cloud (on the Google Cloud Platform, Europe-North1, the data centre in Hamina). The IP address is collected so that the Polis platform can identify the participant voting on the same device, and so that the participant returning to the debate will always have new contributions added to vote on.

Polis is an open source platform. This means that its technology is publicly available and can be evaluated. In this experiment, the risk of influence is countered by a collaboration between Sitra and DigiFinland, as well as by pre-moderation of the debate.

DigiFinland is responsible for the technical implementation of the platform. Sitra will act as the platform’s data controller, which is processed by DigiFinland on its behalf.

Can I participate in the Polis debate even if I am not a Finnish citizen?

Yes, anyone living in Finland can take part in the debate.

Since the start of the campaign, there have been several debates on the Polis platform. How did Sitra choose the topics for debate?

The Polis debate is started by feeding the so-called ‘seed arguments’ at the beginning of the debate to get the discussion going. Sitra’s experts have selected and formulated the arguments to initiate the debate.  The seed arguments are topical, appear in the government programme or have been raised in citizens’ initiatives. They do not represent Sitra’s views.

DigiFinland is responsible for the technical implementation of the platform. Sitra will act as the platform’s data controller, which is processed by DigiFinland on its behalf.

Why can’t I add a contribution to the debate? 

In a situation where more contributions have been added to the debate than votes cast, the debate may be temporarily suspended. This allows the contributions to the debate to receive an equal number of votes, which in turn improves the information provided by the debate.

When can I participate? 

The debate opens at 15:00 on 15 September 2023 and closes at 15:00 on 13 October

Where can I read the results of the debate and what will the results be used for?

Sitra carefully collects and analyses the results and presents them in an easy-to-understand format for decision-makers. We will send the results to political parties, government ministries and the media by the end of 2023. The results will be available to everyone on the campaign website 

You can view the results via a visual report that is updated in real time via this link. If you are inspired to interpret the results, you can send your own observations, analyses and conclusions through the results report via the open feedback form to Sitra’s experts.

How is the debate moderated?

The ‘What do you think, Finland?’ campaign uses manual pre-moderation of the debate by Sitra experts. Pre-moderation means that all contributions are checked in advance and then either accepted or rejected. Debate moderators can then edit statements that are difficult to understand to make them clearer. A comment left in a debate is only visible once it has been approved by the debate moderator. 

Debate moderation takes place mainly between 8:00 and 16:00. The aim is to post comments as quickly as possible. Moderation may be slower in the evenings and at weekends.

Moderation ensures that time is used efficiently and the discussion is meaningful for participants.

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