While Cape Town seeks communications tools to foster an innovative business environment, the Catalán city of Sant Cugat de Vallés takes a broader approach to citizen participation. In their view, it is not only businesses, but also public entities and individual citizens that create an ecosystem of creativity. It is this ecosystem that fosters innovation, not only in businesses, but also in the public sector. A story from New York City demonstrates that city officials in important cities are taking citizen participation seriously. Four city councilors there are using “participatory budgeting” to allow citizens to decide where to spend $1 million in each of their districts. New York City is relying on models used in other places, including in Africa, Asia, Canada, and Europe, as well as the US city of Chicago. Councilor Brad Lander cited one Chicago initiative where the neighbors walked every sidewalk in the district and ranked which ones were most in need of a repair – an analysis, he says, would never have been done as thoroughly left to the council or city staff. So, participatory budgeting is as much about being comprehensive as it is about fresh ideas. Transparency and voter confidence are additional benefits of involving the public in decision-making.
RedCut, a Switzerland-based gaming company, recently produced a white paper containing 17 global case studies of social media use in the government. Among these, several demonstrate methods for fostering an ecosystem of creativity and citizen participation. Private solutions such as SeeClickFix, Ushahidi, and ManorLabs are showcased alongside publicly-initiated projects in Vancouver, New York, and Minas Gerais. While not intended to be a comprehensive or ranked set of solutions, the white paper demonstrates both supply and demand for enhanced government-citizen communications.
- Terra Curtis