Wietse Van Ransbeeck at CitizensLab: “Citizensourcing is the crowdsourcing practice applied by governments with the goal of tapping into the collective intelligence of the citizens. Through citizensourcing, governments can collect ideas, suggestions and opinions from their citizens — thereby creating a permanent feedback loop of communication.
The current means of engaging citizens in public policy are in place since the 18th century: town hall meetings, in-person visits, phone calls or bureaucratic forms that allowed you to submit an idea. All of those ways of engagement are time-consuming, ineffective and expensive.
Great ideas and valuable feedback get lost, because those forms of engagement take too much effort for both citizens and cities. And next to that, communication happens in private between city government and citizens. Citizens cannot communicate with each other about how they want to improve their city.
Advances in technology have restructured the way societies are organised; we’re living a digital age in which citizens are connected over networks. This creates unseen opportunities for cities to get closer to their citizens and serve them better. In the last years, we’ve seen several cities trying to build a strong online presence on social media channels.
Yet, they have discovered that communicating with their citizens over Twitter and Facebook is far from optimal. Messages get lost in the information overload that characterises those platforms, resulting in a lack of structured communication.
Imagine that your town hall meetings could be held online… but then 24/7, accessible from every possible device. Citizensourcing on a dedicated platform is an inexpensive way for cities to get valuable input in the form of ideas, feedback and opinions from their citizens.
Whereas only a very small proportion of citizens engage in the time-consuming offline participation, an online platform allows you to multiply your reach by tenfolds. You reach an audience of citizens that you couldn’t reach before, which makes an online platform a well-needed complement for the already existing offline channels in every city.
When citizens can share their ideas in an easy and fun way and get rewarded for their valuable input, that’s when the wisdom of the crowd gets truly unlocked.
The most direct benefit for cities is clear: crowdsourcing new urban ideas drives superior innovations. At least as important as the fact that you offer a new channel for proposals, is that engagement leads to a better understanding of the different needs citizens have…..
There are several early success stories that show the gigantic potential though:
- The Colombian city Medellín has its own crowdsourcing platform MiMedellín on which citizens share their urban solutions for problems the city faces. It turned out to be a big success: having collected more than 2,300 (!) posted ideas, the government is already developing policies with help from the creativity of citizens.
- In the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, the city council succeeded in having their citizensourcing website Better Reykjavik used by over 60% of the citizens. Since Reykjavik implemented their city platform, they have spent €1.9 million on developing more than 200 projectsbased on ideas from citizens..
- Paris held a participatory budgeting process, called ‘Madame Mayor, I have an idea’, that brought forward wonderful proejcts. To name one, after having received well over 20,000 votes, the city government announced to invest €2 million in vertical garden projects. Other popular ideas included gardens in schools, neighbourhood recycling centers and co-working spaces for students and entrepreneurs….(More)”