Continued Progress: Engaging Citizen Solvers through Prizes


Blog post by Cristin Dorgelo: “Today OSTP released its second annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by Federal agencies to spur innovation and solve Grand Challenges. Those efforts have expanded in the last two years under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which granted all Federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.
This year’s report details the remarkable benefits the Federal Government reaped in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 from more than 45 prize competitions across 10 agencies. To date, nearly 300 prize competitions have been implemented by 45 agencies through the website Challenge.gov.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool in every agency’s toolbox. In his September 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama called on all Federal agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions. Then, in September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions.
The prize authority in COMPETES is a key piece of this effort. By giving agencies a clear legal path and expanded authority to deploy competitions and challenges, the legislation makes it dramatically easier for agencies to enlist this powerful approach to problem-solving and to pursue ambitious prizes with robust incentives…
To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration  continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation”

E-Government and Its Limitations: Assessing the True Demand Curve for Citizen Public Participation


Paper by David Karpf: “Many e-government initiatives start with promise, but end up either as digital “ghost towns” or as a venue exploited by organized interests. The problem with these initiatives is rooted in a set of common misunderstandings about the structure of citizen interest in public participation – simply put, the Internet does not create public interest, it $2 public interest. Public interest can be high or low, and governmental initiatives can be polarized or non-polarized. The paper discusses two common pitfalls (“the Field of Dreams Fallacy” and “Blessed are the Organized”) that demand alternate design choices and modified expectations. By treating public interest and public polarization as variables, the paper develops a typology of appropriate e-government initiatives that can help identify the boundary conditions for transformative digital engagement.”

The Knight Foundation: Pulling back the curtain on civic tech


The Knight Foundation: “A new report released today by Knight titled “The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field” aims to advance the movement by providing a starting place for understanding activity and investment in the sector. The report identifies more than $430 million of private and philanthropic investment directed to 102 civic tech organizations from January 2011 to May 2013. In total, the analysis identifies 209 civic tech organizations that cluster around pockets of activity such as tools that improve government data utility, community organizing platforms and online neighborhood forums. Along with the report, we’ve developed an interactive data visualization tool to explore the network of civic tech organizations and their connections to one another.
In addition to scanning civic tech organizations, the report examines investors in this growing field and implications for ongoing philanthropic support. An overwhelming 84 percent of funding to civic tech organizations has come from private capital, though philanthropic capital outpaces private investment in clusters of tech related to open government. The analysis reveals an opportunity for greater co-investment by foundations, which have rarely teamed with other types of investors to fund civic tech organizations. Finally, the report suggests a few areas—such as peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services—that have already attracted significant amounts of private capital where philanthropy could perhaps have more influence by pursuing policy changes than it could through more small grants.
Equally exciting for us has been piloting this new, data-driven approach for doing social sector research. Knight worked with Quid, a firm that specializes in data analytics and network analysis, to map the field and overlay investment data contained in Quid’s database dating back to January 2011. Our intention from the start was to make the data open and we’ve developed a civic tech data directory with all the organizations and investments included in the review.
But the real power of the review will come through continuing to update it over time. Our current analysis is certainly not exhaustive, and there have undoubtedly been investments in civic tech organizations that eluded Quid’s review of private and philanthropic reporting databases. That’s why we’re seeking feedback and suggestions for other organizations and investments to include in the analysis; we will continuously update the data directory and will refresh the analysis in 2014. We don’t see this as just an attempt to document civic tech’s past; it’s a step for building shared insights and strategies around the future of civic tech where none previously existed.”

Cinq expériences de démocratie 2.0


Le Monde: “Du 23 au 27 novembre, à Strasbourg, les participants au Forum mondial pour la démocratie examineront des initiatives de démocratie participative à l’oeuvre sur tous les continents. En voici quelques exemples. ( Lire aussi l’entretien : “Internet renforce le pouvoir de la société civile”)

  • EN FRANCE, LES ÉLECTEURS PASSENT À L’ÈRE NUMÉRIQUE

Depuis trois ans, les initiatives françaises de démocratie 2.0 se multiplient, avec pour objectif de stimuler la participation citoyenne aux instances démocratiques, qu’elles soient locales ou nationales. Dans la perspective des élections municipales de mars 2014, Questionnezvoselus.org propose ainsi aux internautes d’interroger les candidats à la mairie des 39 villes de France métropolitaine de plus de 100 000 habitants. Objectif ? Etablir la confiance entre les citoyens et leurs élus grâce à davantage de transparence, d’autonomisation et de responsabilité. La démarche rappelle celle de Voxe.org : lors de l’élection présidentielle de 2012, ce comparateur neutre et indépendant des programmes des candidats a enregistré un million de connexions. En complément, Laboxdesmunicipales.com propose des outils d’aide au vote, tandis que Candidat-et-citoyens.fr offre à ceux qui se présentent la possibilité d’associer des citoyens à la construction de leur programme.
Aux adeptes de la transparence, le collectif Democratieouverte.org propose d’interpeller les élus afin qu’ils affichent ouvertement leurs pratiques, et Regardscitoyens.org offre « un accès simplifié au fonctionnement de nos institutions démocratiques à partir des informations publiques »….

Informer, débattre et donner le pouvoir d’agir », tel est le slogan de Puzzled by Policy (PBP, « perplexe quant à la politique »), une plate-forme Internet lancée en octobre 2010 afin d’aider chacun à mieux comprendre les décisions politiques prises au niveau européen et à améliorer ainsi la qualité du débat public….

  • A PORTO ALEGRE,  UN WIKI RELIE HABITANTS ET ÉDILES

Cartographier le territoire et identifier les problèmes que rencontrent les habitants de la ville en utilisant un système « wiki » (c’est-à-dire un site Internet qui s’enrichit des contributions des internautes), telle est la vocation de Porto Alegre.cc.
Conçu pour donner de la visibilité aux causes défendues par les habitants, ce site s’inscrit dans le cadre de la plate-forme « wikicity » (Wikicidade.cc). Un concept dondé sur la méthode de l’intelligence collective, qui s’articule autour de quatre axes : culture de la citoyenneté, éthique de l’attention, responsabilité partagée et engagement civique….

  • EN FINLANDE,  CHACUN LÉGIFÈRE EN LIGNE

Depuis mars 2012, la Constitution finlandaise laisse à tout citoyen ayant atteint la majorité la possibilité d’inscrire des propositions de loi sur l’agenda parlementaire. Ces dernières sont examinées par les élus à condition de recevoir le soutien de 50 000 autres Finlandais (soit 1 % de la population).
Afin d’optimiser l’usage et l’impact de ce dispositif de participation citoyenne, l’ONG Open Ministry a lancé en octobre 2012 une plate-forme facilitant l’implication de tout un chacun. Participation en ligne, ateliers de travail ouverts ou tables rondes sont autant de techniques utilisées à cette fin….

  • AUX ETATS-UNIS, LA FINANCE PARTICIPATIVE GAGNE LES PROJETS PUBLICS

Citizinvestor.com propose aux citoyens américains de participer au financement d’infrastructures publiques. « L’administration n’a jamais assez d’argent pour financer tous les projets et services dont rêvent les citoyens », observent Tony De Sisto et Jordan Tyler Raynor, les cofondateurs du projet, conscients des choix difficiles opérés lors de l’allocation des budgets municipaux et de l’envie des habitants d’avoir leur voix dans ce choix….”

Google's Civic Information API: now connecting US users with their representatives


Jonathan Tomer, Software Engineer at Google Blog: “Many applications track and map governmental data, but few help their users identify the relevant local public officials. Too often local problems are divorced from the government institutions designed to help. Today, we’re launching new functionality in the Google Civic Information API that lets developers connect constituents to their federal, state, county and municipal elected officials—right down to the city council district.
The Civic Information API has already helped developers create apps for US elections that incorporate polling place and ballot information, from helping those affected by Superstorm Sandy find updated polling locations over SMS to learning more about local races through social networks. We want to support these developers in their work beyond elections, including everyday civic engagement.
In addition to elected representatives, the API also returns your political jurisdictions using Open Civic Data Identifiers. We worked with the Sunlight Foundation and other civic technology groups to create this new open standard to make it easier for developers to combine the Civic Information API with their datasets. For example, once you look up districts and representatives in the Civic Information API, you can match the districts up to historical election results published by Open Elections.
Developers can head over to the documentation to get started; be sure to check out the “Map Your Reps” sample application from Bow & Arrow to get a sense of what the API can do. You can also see the API in action today through new features from some of our partners, for example:

  • Change.org has implemented a new Decision Makers feature which allows users to direct a petition to their elected representative and lists that petition publicly on the representative’s profile page. As a result, the leader has better insight into the issues being discussed in their district, and a new channel to respond to constituents.
  • PopVox helps users share their opinions on bills with their Congressional Representatives in a meaningful format. PopVox uses the API to connect the user to the correct Congressional District. Because PopVox verifies that users are real constituents, the opinions shared with elected officials have more impact on the political process.

Over time, we will expand beyond US elected representatives and elections to other data types and places. We can’t grow without your help. As you use the API, please visit our Developer Forum to share your experiences and tell us how we can help you build the next generation of civic apps and services.”

NEW: The Open Governance Knowledge Base


In its continued efforts to organize and disseminate learnings in the field of technology-enabled governance innovation, today, The Governance Lab is introducing a collaborative, wiki-style repository of information and research at the nexus of technology, governance and citizenship. Right now we’re calling it the Open Governance Knowledge Base, and it goes live today.
Our goal in creating this collaborative platform is to provide a single source of research and insights related to the broad, interdiscplinary field of open governance for the benefit of: 1) decision-makers in governing institutions seeking information and inspiration to guide their efforts to increase openness; 2) academics seeking to enrich and expand their scholarly pursuits in this field; 3) technology practitioners seeking insights and examples of familiar tools being used to solve public problems; and 4) average citizens simply seeking interesting information on a complex, evolving topic area.
While you can already find some pre-populated information and research on the platform, we need your help! The field of open governance is too vast, complex and interdisciplinary to meaningfully document without broad collaboration.
Here’s how you can help to ensure this shared resource is as useful and engaging as possible:

  • What should we call the platform? We want your title suggestions. Leave your ideas in the comments or tweet them to us @TheGovLab.
  • And more importantly: Share your knowledge and research. Take a look at what we’ve posted, create an account, refer to this MediaWiki formatting guide as needed and start editing!

E-Government and Its Limitations: Assessing the True Demand Curve for Citizen Public Participation


Paper by David Karpf:  “Many e-government initiatives start with promise, but end up either as digital “ghost towns” or as a venue exploited by organized interests.  The problem with these initiatives is rooted in a set of common misunderstandings about the structure of citizen interest in public participation – simply put, the Internet does not create public interest, it reveals public interest.  Public interest can be high or low, and governmental initiatives can be polarized or non-polarized.  The paper discusses two common pitfalls (“the Field of Dreams Fallacy” and “Blessed are the Organized”) that demand alternate design choices and modified expectations.  By treating public interest and public polarization as variables, the paper develops a typology of appropriate e-government initiatives that can help identify the boundary conditions for transformative digital engagement….

 Typology

Figure 1: Typology of Appropriate E-government Projects”

7 Tactics for 21st-Century Cities


Abhi Nemani, co-director of Code for America: “Be it the burden placed on them by shrinking federal support, or the opportunity presented by modern technology, 21st-century cities are finding new ways to do things. For four years, Code for America has worked with dozens of cities, each finding creative ways to solve neighborhood problems, build local capacity and steward a national network. These aren’t one-offs. Cities are championing fundamental, institutional reforms to commit to an ongoing innovation agenda.
Here are a few of the ways how:

  1. …Create an office of new urban mechanics or appoint a chief innovation officer…
  2. …Appoint a chief data officer or create an office of performance management/enhancement…
  3. …Adopt the Gov.UK Design Principles, and require plain, human language on every interface….
  4. …Share open source technology with a sister city or change procurement rules to make it easier to redeploy civic tech….
  5. …Work with the local civic tech community and engage citizens for their feedback on city policy through events, tech and existing forums…
  6. …Create an open data policy and adopt open data specifications…
  7. …Attract tech talent into city leadership, and create training opportunities citywide to level up the tech literacy for city staff…”

NEW Publication: “Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts”


Over the last few years, the Government of British Columbia (BC), Canada has initiated a variety of practices and policies aimed at providing more legitimate and effective governance. Leveraging advances in technology, the BC Government has focused on changing how it engages with its citizens with the goal of optimizing the way it seeks input and develops and implements policy. The efforts are part of a broader trend among a wide variety of democratic governments to re-imagine public service and governance.
At the beginning of 2013, BC’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services and Open Government, now the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, partnered with the GovLab to produce “Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts.” The GovLab’s May 2013 report, made public today, makes clear that BC’s current practices to create a more open government, leverage citizen engagement to inform policy decisions, create new innovations, and provide improved public monitoring­—though in many cases relatively new—are consistently among the strongest examples at either the provincial or national level.
According to Stefaan Verhulst, Chief of Research at the GovLab: “Our benchmarking study found that British Columbia’s various initiatives and experiments to create a more open and participatory governance culture has made it a leader in how to re-imagine governance. Leadership, along with the elimination of imperatives that may limit further experimentation, will be critical moving forward. And perhaps even more important, as with all initiatives to re-imaging governance worldwide, much more evaluation of what works, and why, will be needed to keep strengthening the value proposition behind the new practices and polices and provide proof-of-concept.”
See also our TheGovLab Blog.

Creating Networked Cities


New Report by Alissa Black and Rachel Burstein, New America Foundation: “In April 2013 the California Civic Innovation Project released a report, The Case for Strengthening Personal Networks in California Local Governments, highlighting the important role of knowledge sharing in the diffusion of innovations from one city or county to another, and identifying personal connections as a significant source of information when it comes to learning about and implementing innovations.
Based on findings from CCIP’s previous study, Creating Networked Cities makes recommendations on how local government leaders, professional associations, and foundation professionals might promote and improve knowledge sharing through developing, strengthening and leveraging their networks. Strong local government networks support the continual sharing and advancement of projects, emerging practices, and civic innovation…Download CCIP’s recommendations for strengthening local government networks and diffusing innovation here.”