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A Global Nation for Global Problems

Shared Nation is a new, fun, effective form of civic engagement, a global collective of people who pool their resources to have a big impact

Photo of Keith Farrell
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We all know that the world is facing massive problems, like climate change, extreme poverty and refugee crises. As individuals, we often look on and feel helpless to do anything in response. But history teaches us that large numbers of people acting together can achieve amazing things. With the Internet and other advances, collective action is possible at a scale and speed never dreamed of before.

The idea of Shared Nation ( is to create a process that will bring together lots of people to pool their money and time in support of projects that address global commons problems (e.g., climate change, refugee crises, destruction of biodiversity, etc.). We think that if we can make the experience fun and meaningful it could have a big impact, which is so urgently needed right now. The way it works is for people to donate their money and/or time and then vote every day between two different projects. Over time, using our major innovation - a unique approach to group voting -- the group will narrow down its choices and select a winner who will get a very big boost for their important work.

Our innovative approach to group decision making is called “pairwise voting.” What this means in practice is that - once individuals sign up for the site and make a pledge of either time or money - they vote between two projects each day and, through our innovative approach, that allows the group to make a smart choice fast.

We’re going to grow big, and grow fast. And yes, we’re serious about creating a new, intensely democratic, virtual country of people from around the world.  As fellow citizens with a common cause, we can become an important alternative to existing power structures that are too entrenched in the status quo to enact the change we need to save our planet and create an equitable world.

Governments, market-forces, and even well-meaning billionaires are not equipped to solve many of the world's greatest problems. We're launching Shared Nation because we believe large-scale, digitally-coordinated, collective action can achieve more than these institutions. We can have wisdom without ego. We can act swiftly, yet with tremendous deliberation. Most importantly, we can apply massive resources while being immune from special interests. In our system, nobody has enough power to be worth lobbying.

To date, we've run five prototype tests with 100+ individuals. Of those who completed our summative survey, 83% rated the experience either "good" or "very good" which we've taken as encouraging feedback at this early stage of our development.    

Explain your idea

We are launching Shared Nation so that people around the world can join forces and combine their money, time, and wisdom to identify and accelerate the best solutions to our biggest problems. We've designed an approach to collective decision making that is quick, engaging, and satisfying. It works as follows. Every quarter, participants (citizens of Shared Nation) donate their money and time to a shared pool. Simultaneously, organizations submit promising solutions to global commons problems (climate change, habitat destruction, population displacement, etc.) for consideration by citizens. Solutions should be rooted in some evidence, seeking to expand an innovation or a practice that is known to work and proposing an action that will have significant and/or rapid impact on the world. Petitions and rallies are not allowed. The nation seeks to support concrete solutions and direct action, not clicktivism. The kinds of solutions we’ll vote on will vary from quarter to quarter – climate change problems, refugee dislocations, human slavery and biodiversity destruction are all under consideration for future rounds. At the end of very quarter, a two-week voting period occurs, which requires every citizen to make a few quick votes each day between choices that are randomly introduced to them. Through a fun and interactive process, citizens vote to select a winning solution and several runners up. They have the opportunity to interact with others in making their decision, asking questions and sharing opinions. Over time all ideas are voted on the same number of times and eight finalist ideas are selected. Citizens vote on each finalist and ultimately choose a winning idea and three runners up. Whoever wins gets a lot of money - and a lot of time - to help them accomplish their aims. We - the nation - cheer them on, contribute as we're able with sweat equity, and check in on their progress. Like any nation, citizens also have the right to weigh in on how the system works and specifically the voting process. Between each round, there will be open discussions and decisions about how to make Shared Nation work more effectively. Importantly, Shared Nation is not: A crowdfunding site where individuals can select many options for investment; it is a nation that seeks to aggregate its wealth and power to support powerful solutions to shared problems. A lobbying or advocacy site where people try to influence elected officials. We believe that too much debate and contemplation is ineffective, that direct action is needed and that advocacy alone won't suffice.

Who Benefits?

Should Shared Nation reach its full potential, lots and lots of people stand to benefit from the technology. First, and perhaps most obviously, the winning organization of each Shared Nation round stands to win significant financial backing. With our backing, they will have the resources necessary to create the change they want to see in the world. The runner-up candidates also stand to gain; at minimum, they will garner lots of exposure from participating in Shared Nation. Additionally, the citizens of Shared Nation also benefit. Through the SN process, they learn about emerging solutions to global problems and they become a part of a supportive network of change-agents. Additionally, they get the satisfaction of seeing their contribution go farther, through combining funds, thereby having a more direct, rapid impact on global events. And once Shared Nation scales, it will start to make tangible progress on global problems, ensuring that everyone stands to benefit.

How is your idea unique?

Several groups are experimenting with new forms of civic engagement but we feel our voting approach, which allows a large group to decide between many options very quickly, is especially powerful. We're seeking to be the first viable, large, truly democratic virtual country to succeed in having a large financial impact on issues affecting the global commons.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

Shared Nation is a registered LLC organization. We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Should Shared Nation win the Bridge Builder challenge, we would be willing to dedicate a majority of our time to the project. We'd also bring aboard additional technical expertise. JOE MCCANNON: Joe served as Senior Advisor to the Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). There he rolled out major pieces of the Affordable Care Act and was part of the founding leadership team at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), directing its Learning and Diffusion Group. Before this, he was Vice President and faculty on large-scale improvement at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, leading the organization’s major domestic initiative to improve patient safety, the 100,000 Lives Campaign, and starting its work in Africa. He has supported large-scale transformation in several nations, including Canada, Denmark, England, Japan and South Africa, and consulted on the topic for a number of organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and Community Solutions (100,000 Homes Campaign). He started his career in the publishing industry with roles at Fast Company, The Atlantic Monthly, and Outside magazine. He is a graduate of Harvard University and was a Reuters Fellow at Stanford University. NEAL LESH Neal Lesh is a computer scientist with field experience in applying information technologies to help organizations address poverty in low-income regions. He has published and lectured extensively in data visualization, data mining, and automated planning and logistics. He has developed medical record and analysis systems for Partners in Health, the government of Rwanda, and a large AIDS treatment program in Tanzania, and worked with many other Universities and NGOs. He is coordinating a Harvard-funded research project in South Africa. Neal holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Washington and a masters degree in global health from the Harvard School of Public Health. KEITH FARRELL: Keith Farrell is a project manager at Shared Nation and the Billions Institute. Keith has a background in education and political organizing. He started his career with Teach for America working as a high school mathematics teacher at a charter school in inner city New Orleans, where he taught from 2009 – 2012. Most recently, he has worked as a field director and regional field director on a number of political campaigns, notably the campaign to update the Massachusetts’ bottle bill, Don Berwick’s 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign, and Ed Markey’s 2013 initial Senate campaign. Keith is currently pursuing an MPA degree from Northeastern University and has a BA in mathematics and political science from Connecticut College

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Brian Powell

Hi Keith,

Thanks for posting your idea! I just signed up on your website and made my $3 contribution, so looking forward to experiencing your first round of voting to experience how it works.


Photo of Keith Farrell

That's very kind and generous of you Brian. Thank you so much! I'll be very curious to hear your take on the whole experience, and if you have any feedback for us at any point, please have a low-threshold for reaching out to me. You can reach me at

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