Article by Joe Appleton: “…many governments are implementing new and exciting ideas to try and boost citizen engagement and overcome the obstacles that prevent citizen involvement. Here are a few examples of how cities are engaging with citizens in the 21st century.
REVOLUTIONIZING CITY HALL
The city of San Francisco has been working hard to improve resident participation. To help solve city-wide problems, the city created a program called Civic Bridge. Civic Bridge is a platform that can be used to bring together residents and volunteers from the private sector with city staff. This allows city hall to work closely with private sector professionals to solve public challenges.
By enlisting the help of hundreds of otherwise unreachable residents, solutions to city problems such as homelessness, access to healthcare, and other social issues, fast and effective results could be produced.
Civy is another program that has been designed to put city officials directly in touch with residents. Civy is a cloud-based platform that gives citizens a voice, in a confidential environment, that allows citizens to add their thoughts and opinions on citywide projects, helping officials make better-informed decisions.
Physically traveling to a city hall can be an immense barrier to citizen participation. However, some innovative cities are taking steps to bring city hall into resident’s homes. To do this, they are enlisting help from platforms such as CitizenLab. CitizenLab was first launched in 2016, and it has proven itself to be a practical medium for many European cities. The platform boosts citizen engagement by sending data directly to members of the public via a user-friendly mobile interface. Officials can see the results from surveys and questionnaires in real-time, and use the data collected to make decisions based on real citizen insights.
Civocracy is a similar digital platform that has been designed to promote citizen participation, champion collaborative governance projects, and improve city hall efficiency. It focuses on direct communication between residents and officials, giving citizen’s a platform to discuss projects and allow officials to get ideas from the public. This service is currently being used in Amsterdam, Nice, Potsdam, Brussels, Lyon, and many other European cities.
Platforms like these are essential for removing the obstacles that many citizens face when interacting with city governments. As a result, cities can enjoy a more citizen-centric form of smart government.
There’s more to citizen engagement than giving and receiving feedback for ideas and projects. To boost participation, some cities have really embraced 21st century trends.
For example, two cities in the UK (London and Plymouth) have been experimenting with crowdfunding for potential city projects. Proposals for urban projects are listed on popular crowdfunding websites, in an open and transparent manner, allowing residents and investors to directly contribute funds to projects and initiatives that they’re interested in. In some cases, the local authorities will support winning proposals by matching the raised funds.
Crowdfunding can be used as a platform for citizens to show off their own ideas and initiatives, and highlight any potential problems in the community. The service can be used for a wide range of applications, from restoring derelict buildings to installing social health programs.
Allowing citizens to show their approval with their personal funding is one way to boost participation, however, there should be other ways to attract attention and allow citizens to voice their opinions too. Maptionnaire is one such way.
Maptionnaire is an online tool that creates a virtual map of a city, where residents can freely offer their advice, opinions, and feelings about areas of the city or specific projects. Users can simply leave comments that can explicitly inform city officials about their feelings.
This is a great tool that can provide widely representative data about city plans. The platform can also take votes about certain projects and garner fast results. Since it can be accessed remotely, it also allows for citizens to say what they want, without feeling intimidated by a crowd or swayed by popular opinion.
Encouraging public feedback is one way to boost participation, but some local authorities are going a step further by directly asking citizens for solutions. By allowing citizens to formulate their own solutions and give them the tools to realize those solutions, interest in city governance can grow exponentially.
For example, Lublin is the first city in Poland to adopt an initiative called the Green Citizen’s Budget. This participatory budget scheme welcomed residents to put forward ideas to improve urban greenery, and allocated a budget of PLN 2 million (450.000 €) and teamed residents up with technical experts to help realize those plans.
Turning to citizens for inspiration is a popular way of generating new ideas and seeing fresh perspectives. The city of Sydney and the New South Wales government in Australia has recently launched an innovative competition that presents an opportunity for citizens to submit daring proposals to solve public space problems….(More)”.