How Parta empowers communities with OCI Blockchain, Kubernetes, and more

May 24, 2023 | 6 minute read
Philip Wilkins
Cloud Developer Evangelist at OCI
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For organizations to make the best and most effective decisions and execute them, they need the following things:

  • The best achievable ideas
  • Engagement and buy-in from people impacted by the decision
  • Transparency in both decision-making and execution

In this post, we show you how Vennster, an Oracle partner, has revisited research that informs these points, developed a business change management model, and built a solution using OCI to enable the processes to work efficiently. The change management processes and software together are known as Parta. The kernel of the challenges addressed revolve around the security of an individual’s identity, communication, and how to ensure the process and associated generated content can’t be tampered with. Before we look at the practicalities, let’s look at the innovation.

Parta and how it works

The three needs hold true whether an organization is a social community, business, or regional or national government. The more effective the process for finding and capturing ideas, the more powerful the later engagement. This idea is elegantly captured by the expression, “The wisdom of crowds,” and illustrated by James Surowiecki in his book of the same name. The theory draws its foundations from work by researchers such as Francis Galton, Oinas-Kukkonen, and others. For more information of these subjects, see MoreInCommon and the paper, Overcoming Polarization in Local Government through Strategic Community Engagement.

These ideas also relate to the well-known Linus’ law—“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”— and have a part to play in crowdsourcing Q&A sites like Quora and Stack Exchange.

For Parta, the underlying idea is that the best solution to a problem comes from the biggest pool of participants and contributors, who are also ideally the impacted community and beneficiaries of the change. The process is designed to enable community engagement, and the process of deliberation is as transparent as possible. This aim, in turn, addresses the potential harm caused by sideline opinions and polarizing viewpoints. The impact of improved engagement, contributions, decisions, and reduction in polarization can start a flywheel effect—when wins accumulate over time, creating momentum that keeps—with more participation, better ideas, and so on.

We must address one final aspect of engagement and transparency. The audience today can be highly distributed and have demands that prevent the traditional in-person town hall approach from achieving the necessary reach. This does also raise the demand for transparency because the audience might not be able to observe the decision processes as they occur.

Parta’s success and delivery

Parta’s process has proven itself with a diverse set of use cases, from helping a Montessori College in the Dutch town of Nijmegen to restructure their teaching approaches with parental involvement, to Keen Design reworking their annual review process with full employee engagement, to helping municipalities, such as Sliedrecht in the Netherlands, engage with future energy strategies.

Parta, the business model, is foremost a change management model. But to enable organizations to maximize the value of the Parta model, Vennster has built the Parta software-as-a-service (SaaS) and  mobile application to enable organizations to leverage and maximize the value of this model easily.

Challenges and solutions for the Parta process

Because the Parta process needs the community to contribute freely and without fear of consequence, handling how people are identified and authorized safely is essential. Additionally, they must ensure that the process or data aren’t manipulated. Parta addresses these issues by inviting and managing the authorization of the relevant community members to participate and contribute ideas, primarily using a mobile app, although other channels can also be used. If we establish trust through a device, we no longer need details of an individual, which makes it possible to protect individual identities, just like using a security pass. The security system knows the pass, not the individual.

Making the mechanisms work using easily accessible everyday tools that fit around people’s everyday life brings the wisdom of the broadest crowds. To protect the integrity of the process, Vennster turned to blockchain hyper ledgers. Its immutability means that anything recorded can’t be changed or tampered with. It can only be built upon with the trail of additions automatically recorded.

Vennster chose to use the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service. The use of the Blockchain service offers several benefits to their customers and their own operational efficiency, including considerations such as if Vennster’s customers want to have their own blockchain node (their own infrastructure maintaining their own copy of data and working with the other nodes to approve an update to the data through a consensus algorithm) as part of the process for transparency, that can be configured into the environment very easily.

While smaller customers are unlikely to want or need their own node, for larger customers, such as national governments, large businesses, or where data residency considerations are an issue, node deployment is a consideration. For Vennster, the cloud service model minimized operational effort, ideal for a startup focusing on customers, not IT tasks.

Parta - Idea sorting - when performed manually

After suggestions on addressing a particular issue are collected from the community they must be sorted and grouped. Today, this is a manual process, and Parta provides the option for this process to be streamed, both live and for convenient later playback. This option enables the community to see and hear how the process arrives at decisions, ensuring decision transparency and letting the community understand how the suggestions were handled. This phase of the process is labor-intensive, and Vennster is starting to look at how they may be able to apply AI, such as Oracle’s AI Language service, to help the process without impacting the transparency goal. Parta also enables the community to review the trail of discussions and see submissions in the process at any time.

With the suggestions examined, the community is collectively engaged to determine the priorities of the different identified groupings. The prioritization focuses on which ideas and options are investigated further to fully understand the constraints on the proposals and any consequences of adopting a solution, such as legal, economic, and physical. This extra investigative stage uses appropriate subject matter expertise. Combining the priorities and any constraints provides the means for people to make a fully informed decision.

The fact that the Blockchain holds individuals’ inputs immutable protects prioritization and voting processes. The Parta app then helps communicate the outcomes. This process can be cyclical or used to facilitate looking at the next best option processes.

Parta differentiates itself from other tools by offering a more cohesive end-to-end solution that provides visibility of the resources both contributed and supplemented, such as specialists sharing documents about ideas and engagement without risking integrity.

Why Oracle and what Oracle technologies are supporting Parta

Aside from using blockchain, Parta’s backend application logic is built with microservices using Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes (OKE). Their continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) process is supported by Visual Builder Studio with a view to eventually moving over to the DevOps service.

Because Vennster’s stack is comprised of technologies that are freely available and supported by standards, they had a choice of cloud hyperscalers to work with. Discussing this point with two of Vennster’s founding partners, Lonneke Dikmans and Mathijs Kemp, it became clear that they had considered all the big players but had chosen Oracle for two key reasons: The cloud costs are good without compromising on capability. The cost dimension is important to Vennster because they want to offer their customers a pricing model reflecting fair use that supports both big and small clients. Also, the Blockchain cloud service is a fully managed service, so Vennster doesn’t have to invest time and resources in managing and maintaining the blockchain platform. They can focus on delivering value using the platform.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about Parta and how it has helped deliver change for a diverse set of organizations, check out their website or connect directly with Mathijs Kemp.

For more information on the concepts in this post, see the following resources:

Philip Wilkins

Cloud Developer Evangelist at OCI

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