A Call to Action: Supporting the Collaborative Governance Movement

There is an incredible movement happening right now in civic engagement. Digital platforms are transforming the relationship between citizens and their governments. To borrow an analogy from former Minneapolis mayor, R. T. Rybak, digital technology is shifting the role of government in citizens’ lives from a one-way broadcast experience to that of government as a conversation. Human-centered design already tells us that people are their own experts, so why shouldn’t we design for more direct collaboration between community members and public officials?

We believe this trend of civic engagement, transparency and collaborative governance in the digital age is just beginning. We’ve been gathering examples from all over the world and are excited to share a few highlights below:

  • Capitol Hound: an audio archive and alert system for the North Carolina General Assembly. The audio footage is paired with transcripts, both of which are fully searchable and publicly available.

  • eCitizens.org: a subcription service that sends residents email alerts when their local government is working on selected issues.

  • CivicIQ: a web-based deliberation tool to drive consensus among diverse strangers. CivicIQ uses design strategies to encourage group problem solving and collaboration.

  • Littlesis: maps that describe that social and political connections between officials and organizations. Littlesis provides citizens with the ability to track relationships, follow money and increase awareness of connections that might influence important political decisions.

  • MuckRock: a collection of government documents. MuckRock works to ensure that official documents remain available to the public for education and accountability. Most of the documents are free and the site will help you file up to five Freedom of Information Act requests for a small fee.

  • TurboVote: a service dedicated to making voting as simple as possible. The website notifies voters through text and email of any rules, deadlines, and forms they need to be able to vote.

  • Code for America: a nonprofit that combines civic coders and open data to solve community problems through technology. Code for America projects have included Textizen, a digital citizen feedback tool, RecordTrac, a simple way to track and submit public requests and StreetMix, an interactive, collaborative urban planning application.

  • RegulationRoom: an experimental forum for public agencies engage in dialogue with citizens about proposed rules. Issues previously discussed through the service include: consumer protections for home mortgages and debt collection practices.

Whether they connect stakeholders, information or both, all of these technologies represent an empowering shift for citizens in their ability to influence decision-makers. Officials will need to be receptive to these conversations and robust, effective infrastructure will necessary to support them. While this challenge is daunting, there is great potential for societal benefit. We see these projects as a call-to-action for creatives, developers, makers, citizens and public officials to ensure this awesome opportunity is not wasted.

“[Y]ou have to have confidence in your citizens, and the exchange of information builds respect and signals that you have confidence in one another. It forms the foundation for a successful infrastructure project—one that brings people together, rather than dividing them.” – Madeleine Albright, “Building Societies

Look out for Part 2 of our Digital Civic Engagement discussion featuring digital platforms for volunteerism and social good. To learn more about our work developing impact communities and awareness campaigns to encourage citizens to engage public services and become experts in their own communities, visit our portfolio at http://bureaublank.com/work.

Photo by WhatMattDoes.

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