Citymart.com is primarily considered a government to business marketplace, helping cities procure smarter by getting full exposure to all approaches to meet their needs. But Citymart.com also provides a very important asset for citizens in opening up a decision-making process typically handled behind closed doors.
This, in fact, is quite revolutionary.
If we take a look at traditional public spending in cities, we find that rules and regulations focus on the correct tendering process, which legally starts when you send out your specifications to solution providers for bidding. In most global cities, these are today published. What the citizen doesn't know, and cannot know, is how the need that this investment is to solve comes about, how the specification was determined, and whether preferences were given to certain types of providers in the process. The process of identifying the need and specifying the tender are still treated as 'discretionary', i.e. it is up to each official to do this as they please - which usually means doing it behind closed doors, constitutes a breeding ground for bad practices and wastes public resources.
Citymart.com unfolds this discretionary process into a shared methodology, today adopted by 47 cities. Each step is documented and offers new opportunities for citizens to engage:
1. Opening Needs, Opportunities as Challenges
Each city working with Citymart.com receives a methodology on how to identify needs, or as we call them: challenges. Many cities, such as Sant Cugat or Cape Town, have chosen to run challenges to find new methods to engage citizens in determining priorities. Genius!York and Mindmixer are to examples of solutions now being used by cities to engage citizens in prioritizing city needs.
Cities publish their challenge on Citymart.com, as for example the 22 partner cities of LLGA2013 did - meaning that long before specifications are done, cities share their intentions. All information is public, and cities commit to publishing local press releases to assure citizens are informed.
2. Finding Solutions, Engaging Communities
Citymart.com takes these challenges and proactively invests in a 3-month research process, to find all available solutions. Citizens can follow and interact with the research team on our Storify feed, and through our extensive social media campaigning. Not only can they see what we find, but they get access to valuable background resources to learn about the key issues.
Special emphasis is given to explore all possible approaches to solving a challenge, a key feature for a public debate on how we would like our cities to develop.
All solutions that are submitted to a city are published, meaning that citizens can see exactly what options their public leaders had when they considered their course of action. This is an unprecedented step forward.
Citymart.com is an open catalogue, meaning that any citizen can search relevant solutions for their needs and interact with providers, or share these with other members of the community.
3. Decisions & the Jury Process
Citymart.com provides cities with a jury tool, to which they can invite decision-makers, but also members of the public or civic leaders in an effort to arive at best decisions. In fact, Citymart.com provides cities recommendations on diversity and composition of juries.
Citymart.com documents the jury behaviour, and each member of the jury has clear guidelines on potential conflicts of interest. Should citizens seek information about any part of the process, the data is available and can be shared on instruction by the city.
Names of Jurors are published on Citymart.com, to provide full accountability. Each solution provider receives the original jury evaluations directly in their showcase.
Result: Citizen value becomes central
As a result of this openness, like in many other aspects of open information, cities have become more considerate in how they frame their needs and interests. In our experience of running 87 challenges, cities are increasingly moving away from technical concepts to citizen value and impact concepts. See our related article on the Rise of Citizen Engagement.
Further, Citymart.com creates opportunities for citizens to take matters into their own hand. McKinsey has shown that in Dublin, for example, Citymart.com would be a significant opportunity to create new start-ups that respond to the challenges and needs of the community. 90% of challenges on Citymart.com are won by SMEs, of which about 25% are NGOs or citizen organisations that have the most meaningful solutions to community challenges.