citizen participation

Recent News on Gov – Public Communication

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhT3co2qNAA&w=440&h=253]

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.

Check out the showcases already coming in to see new ideas on this subject, or submit one of your own here!

-          Terra Curtis

Station Location

Credit: New York Times New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working for years to bring a bicycle share program to the city.  Two weeks ago, they announced they had chosen Alta Bicycle Share (of Boston’s Hubway and Washington, DC’s Capital Bike Share, among others) to implement the system in NYC.

While Alta announced that they would be placing stations in Manhattan south of 79th Street and in some parts of Brooklyn, the DOT is also moving forward with a campaign to gather station location suggestions from the citizens at large. As you may be able to see from the map, stations suggestions are pretty much evenly distributed throughout Manhattan and most of Brooklyn, and even some as far away as JFK airport.

What this means to me is that this citizen engagement request may not be effective for station location, which has been done previously with fairly technical analyses, but that it could be effective at raising citizens awareness of the new program, building momentum and expectation before the launch.  Ultimately, this may be a better determinant of its success that particular station locations anyway.

­- Terra Curtis

 

Iceland’s Crowd-sourced Constitution

Iceland flagI’ve been writing a lot recently about wish-lists and solutions that are needed but not yet created.  I wanted to shift gears and highlight a project that’s actually happening right now in Iceland – a crowd-sourced constitution! From what I can tell from the translated version of the Constitutional Council’s website, after the collapse of Iceland’s economy, the citizens demanded and parliamentary groups decided that a new “baseline” was needed.  This implicated a re-written constitution through which the country could get a fresh start. It appears they’ve embodied new beginnings whole-heartedly by publishing drafts of the document online and inviting citizens to comment.  The page essentially links to their Facebook page where many people have contributed comments and ideas so far (I wish I could translate them to understand the content).  According to the GOOD article linked above, these comments are actively being incorporated into the document, which is perhaps the most liberal constitution simply because of the process by which it’s being created.

I’m curious about how they’re dealing with comments from non-Icelandic citizens, and if they’re even able to identify these comments.  Perhaps they’ve agreed to take these outsiders’ comments to heart, as well?  If anyone reading our blog is from Iceland, we’d love to hear your perspective on the project.

- Terra Curtis

 

Iceland’s Crowd-sourced Constitution

Iceland flagI’ve been writing a lot recently about wish-lists and solutions that are needed but not yet created.  I wanted to shift gears and highlight a project that’s actually happening right now in Iceland – a crowd-sourced constitution! From what I can tell from the translated version of the Constitutional Council’s website, after the collapse of Iceland’s economy, the citizens demanded and parliamentary groups decided that a new “baseline” was needed.  This implicated a re-written constitution through which the country could get a fresh start. It appears they’ve embodied new beginnings whole-heartedly by publishing drafts of the document online and inviting citizens to comment.  The page essentially links to their Facebook page where many people have contributed comments and ideas so far (I wish I could translate them to understand the content).  According to the GOOD article linked above, these comments are actively being incorporated into the document, which is perhaps the most liberal constitution simply because of the process by which it’s being created.

I’m curious about how they’re dealing with comments from non-Icelandic citizens, and if they’re even able to identify these comments.  Perhaps they’ve agreed to take these outsiders’ comments to heart, as well?  If anyone reading our blog is from Iceland, we’d love to hear your perspective on the project.

- Terra Curtis