How to predict citizen engagement in urban innovation projects?


Blogpost by Julien Carbonnell: “Citizen engagement in decision-making has proven to be a key factor for success in a smart city project and a must-have of contemporary democratic regimes. While inhabitants are all daily internet users, they widely inform themselves about their political electives’ achievements during the mandate, interact with each other on social networks, and by word-of-mouth on messaging apps or phone calls to form an opinion.

Unfortunately, most of the smart cities’ rankings lack resources to evaluate the citizen engagement dynamic around the urban innovations deployed. Indeed this data can’t be found on official open data portals, focused instead on cities’ infrastructure and quality of life. These include the number of metro stations, the length of bike lanes, air pollution, and tap water quality. Some of them also include field investigation such as the amount of investment in this or that urban area and communication dynamics about a new smart city project.

If this kind of formal information provides a good overview of the official state of development of a city, it does not give any insight from the inhabitants themselves and sounds out the street vibes of a city.

So, I’ve been working on filling this gap for the last 3 years and share in Democracy Studio all the elements of my method and tools built for conducting such analysis. To do so, I have notably been collecting inhabitants’ participation in a survey study in three case study cities: Taipei (Taiwan), Tel Aviv (Israel), and Tallinn (Estonia). I collected 366 answers by contacting inhabitants randomly online (Facebook groups, direct messages on LinkedIn, and through messaging apps) and in-person, in events related to my field of interest (Smart-City and Urban Innovation Startups). The resulting variables have been integrated into machine learning models, which finally performed a very satisfying prediction of the citizen engagement in my case studies….(More)”.

Helsinki invites cyclists to collect data on street conditions and earn money


Article at the Mayor.eu: “From Saturday 10 July, cyclists in Helsinki will be able to earn money doing what they love whilst simultaneously helping the municipality repair damaged streets. This was announced on 28 June when the City of Helsinki shared that all residents are invited to take part in a game to map out 300 kilometres of cycling paths in the capital.

In a press release, the City of Helsinki reports that anyone can participate as long as they have a bicycle and a smartphone. To take part, one must simply download the free application Crowdchupa and attach their phone to their bicycle. The device will then record footage of the streets and Artificial Intelligence will be used to identify damage that must be repaired.

To make this even more interesting, the Crowdchupa application will allow participants to earn money. The application features a map which depicts various objects (such as coins and berries) on the streets. Cyclists must drive over these virtual objects to collect them and earn money….(More)”.

The miracle of the commons


Chapter by Michelle Nijhuis: “In December 1968, the ecologist and biologist Garrett Hardin had an essay published in the journal Science called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. His proposition was simple and unsparing: humans, when left to their own devices, compete with one another for resources until the resources run out. ‘Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest,’ he wrote. ‘Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.’ Hardin’s argument made intuitive sense, and provided a temptingly simple explanation for catastrophes of all kinds – traffic jams, dirty public toilets, species extinction. His essay, widely read and accepted, would become one of the most-cited scientific papers of all time.

Even before Hardin’s ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ was published, however, the young political scientist Elinor Ostrom had proven him wrong. While Hardin speculated that the tragedy of the commons could be avoided only through total privatisation or total government control, Ostrom had witnessed groundwater users near her native Los Angeles hammer out a system for sharing their coveted resource. Over the next several decades, as a professor at Indiana University Bloomington, she studied collaborative management systems developed by cattle herders in Switzerland, forest dwellers in Japan, and irrigators in the Philippines. These communities had found ways of both preserving a shared resource – pasture, trees, water – and providing their members with a living. Some had been deftly avoiding the tragedy of the commons for centuries; Ostrom was simply one of the first scientists to pay close attention to their traditions, and analyse how and why they worked.

The features of successful systems, Ostrom and her colleagues found, include clear boundaries (the ‘community’ doing the managing must be well-defined); reliable monitoring of the shared resource; a reasonable balance of costs and benefits for participants; a predictable process for the fast and fair resolution of conflicts; an escalating series of punishments for cheaters; and good relationships between the community and other layers of authority, from household heads to international institutions….(More)”.

Foreign Policy by Canadians: a unique national experiment


Blogpost by James Fishkin: “…Foreign Policy by Canadians was a national field experiment (with a control group that was not invited to deliberate, but which answered the same questions before and after.) The participants and the control group matched up almost perfectly before deliberation, but after deliberation, the participants had reached their considered judgments (while the control group had hardly changed at all). YouGov recruited and surveyed an excellent sample of deliberators, nationally representative in demographics and attitudes (as judged by comparison to the control groups). The project was an attempt to use social science to give an informed and representative input to policy. It was particularly challenging in that foreign policy is an area where most of the public is less engaged and informed even than it is on domestic issues (outside of times of war or severe international crises). Hence, we would argue that Deliberative Polling is particularly appropriate as a form of public input on these topics.

This project was also distinctive in some other ways. First, all the small group discussions by the 444 nationally representative deliberators were conducted via our new video based automated moderator platform. Developed here at Stanford with Professor Ashish Goel and “Crowdsourced Democracy Team” in Management Science and Engineering, it facilitates many small groups of ten or so to self-moderate their discussions. It controls access to the queue for the microphone (limiting each contribution to 45 seconds), it orchestrates the discussion to move from one policy proposal to the next on the list, it periodically asks the participants if they have covered both the arguments in favor and against the proposal, it intervenes if people are being uncivil (a rare occurrence in these dialogues) and it guides the group into formulating its questions for the plenary session experts. This was only the second national application of the online platform (the first was in Chile this past year) and it was the first as a controlled experiment.

A second distinctive aspect of Foreign Policy by Canadians is that the agenda was formulated in both a top-down and a bottom-up manner. While a distinguished advisory group offered input on what topics were worth exploring and on the balance and accuracy of the materials, those materials were also vetted by chapters of the Canadian International Council in different parts of the country. Those meetings deliberated about how the draft materials could be improved. What was left out? Were the most important arguments on either side presented? The meetings of CIC chapters agreed on recommendations for revision and those recommendations were reflected in the final documents and proposals for discussion. I think this is “deliberative crowdsourcing” because the groups had to agree on their most important recommendations based on shared discussion. These meetings were also conducted with our automated deliberation platform….(More)”.

New Study Uses Crowdsourcing to Strengthen American Democracy


Press Release: “Americans have always disagreed about politics, but now levels of anti-democratic attitudes, support for partisan violence, and partisan animosity have reached concerning levels. While there are many ideas for tackling these problems, they have never been gathered, tested, and evaluated in a unified effort. To address this gap, the Stanford Polarization and Social Change Lab is launching a major new initiative. The Strengthening Democracy Challenge will collect and rigorously test up to 25 interventions to reduce anti-democratic attitudes, support for partisan violence, and partisan animosity in one massive online experiment with up to 30,000 participants. Interventions can be contributed by academics, practitioners, or others with interest in strengthening democratic principles in the US. The researchers who organize the challenge — a multidisciplinary team with members at Stanford, MIT, Northwestern, and Columbia Universities — believe that crowdsourcing ideas, combined with the rigor of large-scale experimentation, can help address issues as substantial and complex as these….

Researchers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are invited to submit interventions. The proposed interventions must be short, doable in an online form, and follow the ethical guidelines of the challenge. Academic and practitioner experts will rate the submissions and an editorial board will narrow down the 25 best submissions to be tested, taking novelty and expected success of the ideas into account. Co-organizers of the challenge include James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University; David Rand, the Erwin H. Schell Professor and Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT; James Chu, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University; and Nick Stagnaro, Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT. The organizing team is supported by Polarization and Social Change Lab’s Chrystal RedekoppJoe Mernyk, and Sophia Pink.

The study participants will be a large sample of up to 30,000 self-identified Republicans and Democrats, nationally representative on several major demographic benchmarks….(More)”.

Identity Tethering in an Age of Symbolic Politics


Mark Dunbar at the Hedgehog Review: “Identities are dangerous and paradoxical things. They are the beginning and the end of the self. They are how we define ourselves and how we are defined by others. One is a “nerd” or a “jock” or a “know-it-all.” One is “liberal” or “conservative,” “religious” or “secular,” “white” or “black.” Identities are the means of escape and the ties that bind. They direct our thoughts. They are modes of being. They are an ingredient of the self—along with relationships, memories, and role models—and they can also destroy the self. Consume it. The Jungians are right when they say people don’t have identities, identities have people. And the Lacanians are righter still when they say that our very selves—our wishes, desires, thoughts—are constituted by other people’s wishes, desires, and thoughts. Yes, identities are dangerous and paradoxical things. They are expressions of inner selves, and a way the outside gets in.

Our contemporary politics is diseased—that much is widely acknowledged—and the problem of identity is often implicated in its pathology, mostly for the wrong reasons. When it comes to its role in our politics, identity is the chief means by which we substitute behavior for action, disposition for conviction. Everything is rendered political—from the cars we drive to the beer we drink—and this rendering lays bare a political order lacking in democratic vitality. There is an inverse relationship between the rise of identity signaling and the decline of democracy. The less power people have to influence political outcomes, the more emphasis they will put on signifying their political desires. The less politics effects change, the more politics will affect mood.

Dozens of books (and hundreds of articles and essays) have been written about the rising threat of tribalism and group thinking, identity politics, and the politics of resentment….(More)”.

Understanding crowdsourcing projects: A review on the key design elements of a crowdsourcing initiative


Paper by Rea Karachiwalla and Felix Pinkow: “Crowdsourcing has gained considerable traction over the past decade and has emerged as a powerful tool in the innovation process of organizations. Given its growing significance in practice, a profound understanding of the concept is crucial. The goal of this study is to develop a comprehensive understanding of designing crowdsourcing projects for innovation by identifying and analyzing critical design elements of crowdsourcing contests. Through synthesizing the principles of the social exchange theory and absorptive capacity, this study provides a novel conceptual configuration that accounts for both the attraction of solvers and the ability of the crowdsourcer to capture value from crowdsourcing contests. Therefore, this paper adopts a morphological approach to structure the four dimensions, namely, (i) task, (ii) crowd, (iii) platform and (iv) crowdsourcer, into a conceptual framework to present an integrated overview of the various crowdsourcing design options. The morphological analysis allows the possibility of identifying relevant interdependencies between design elements, based on the goals of the problem to be crowdsourced. In doing so, the paper aims to enrich the extant literature by providing a comprehensive overview of crowdsourcing and to serve as a blueprint for practitioners to make more informed decisions when designing and executing crowdsourcing projects….(More)”.

New knowledge environments. On the possibility of a citizen social science.


Article by Joseph Perelló: “Citizen science is in a process of consolidation, with a wide variety of practices and perspectives. Social sciences and humanities occupy a small space despite the obvious social dimension of citizen science. In this sense, citizen social science can enrich the concept of citizen science both because the research objective can also be of a social nature and because it provides greater reflection on the active participation of individuals, groups, or communities in research projects. Based on different experiences, this paper proposes that citizen social science should have the capacity to empower participants and provide them with skills to promote collective actions or public policies based on a co-created knowledge.

Citizen science is commonly recognised as the participation of the public in scientific research (Vohland et al., 2021). It has been promoted as a way to collect massive amounts of data and accelerate its processing, while also raising awareness and spreading knowledge and a better understanding of both scientific methods and the social relevance of results (Parrish et al., 2019). Some researchers support the idea of maintaining the generality and vagueness of the term citizen science (Auerbach et al., 2019), due to the youth of the discipline and the different ways it can be understood (Haklay et al., 2020). Such diversity can be considered positively, as a way to enrich citizen science and, more generally, as a catalyst for the emergence of trans-disciplinary and transformative science.

The sociologist Alan Irwin, one of the authors to whom we owe the concept, already said over 25 years ago: «Citizen Science evokes a science which assists the needs and concerns of citizens» (Irwin, 1995, p. xi). The book argues that citizens can create reliable knowledge. However, decades later, the number of contributions using the term citizen science in social sciences and humanities is scarce, smaller than the number of items published in environmental sciences or biology, which predominate in the field (Kullenberg & Kasperowski, 2016). Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that social sciences and humanities are necessary for citizen science to reach maturity, both so that the object of study can also be of a social nature, and also so that these disciplines can provide a more elaborate reflection on participation in citizen science projects (Tauginienė et al., 2020)….(More)”.

Why don’t they ask us? The role of communities in levelling up


Report by the Institute of Community Studies: “We are delighted to unveil a landmark research report, Why don’t they ask us? The role of communities in levelling up. The new report reveals that current approaches to regeneration and economic transformation are not working for the majority of local communities and their economies.

Its key findings are that:

  • Interventions have consistently failed to address the most deprived communities, contributing to a 0% average change in the relative spatial deprivation of the most deprived local authorities areas;
  • The majority of ‘macro funds’ and economic interventions over the last two decades have not involved communities in a meaningful nor sustainable way;
  • The focus of interventions to build local economic resilience typically concentrate on a relatively small number of approaches, which risks missing crucial dimensions of local need, opportunity and agency, and reinforcing gaps between the national and the hyper-local;
  • Interventions have tended to concentrate on ‘between-place’ spatial disparities in economic growth at the expense of ‘within-place’ inequalities that exist inside local authority boundaries, which is where the economic strength or weakness of a place is most keenly felt by communities.
  • Where funds and interventions have had higher levels of community involvement, these have typically been disconnected from the structures where decisions are taken, undermining their aim of building community power into local economic solutions…(More)”.

Seek diversity to solve complexity


Katrin Prager at Nature: “As a social scientist, I know that one person cannot solve a societal problem on their own — and even a group of very intelligent people will struggle to do it. But we can boost our chances of success if we ensure not only that the team members are intelligent, but also that the team itself is highly diverse.

By ‘diverse’ I mean demographic diversity encompassing things such as race, gender identity, class, ethnicity, career stage and age, and cognitive diversity, including differences in thoughts, insights, disciplines, perspectives, frames of reference and thinking styles. And the team needs to be purposely diverse instead of arbitrarily diverse.

In my work I focus on complex world problems, such as how to sustainably manage our natural resources and landscapes, and I’ve found that it helps to deliberately assemble diverse teams. This effort requires me to be aware of the different ways in which people can be diverse, and to reflect on my own preferences and biases. Sometimes the teams might not be as diverse as I’d like. But I’ve found that making the effort not only to encourage diversity, but also to foster better understanding between team members reaps dividends….(more)”