Are we already at the end of 2011? Every year around this time we are all saying how quickly the year flew by. I went back and took a look at interesting citizen engagement initiatives launched in 2011. There were a lot of great examples to choose from, so it was tough to narrow the list down to five.
It’s my hope that 2012 builds on the success of 2011, and we keep making progress how technology can impact citizen engagement. What I hope to see more of in 2012 is really good case studies and examples of how technology has been used to produce innovation in government. It’s no longer enough to have a cool new app or platform, what we want to see is that the new platforms are producing a change in government. I think we are moving in that direction. This year there were countless examples of citizen engagement initiatives. I went back and looked through the best of 2012.
Change By Us is a great initiative by Code for America. The Change By Us project is based on a project called Give a Minute, which has been implemented in Chicago and Memphis. Change by Us allows citizens a platform to share ideas on how to improve their cities and then connects their ideas to like minded-invididuals and resources to implement their ideas. I picked them because I like how a few cities across America have picked up the Change By Us platform. New York, Seattle and Philadelphia all have set up a Change By Us site.
We the People is an initiative by the Obama Administration to bring the petition process online. The platform can be used to develop and sign petitions that call for the federal government to take action on issues which citizens are passionate about. If a petition reaches a certain threshold, the Obama Administration will respond and potentially act on the petitions requests. The platform is still fairly new, so there are still kinks and bugs to work out, but I think this is step in the right direction by bringing this process digital. We’ll see what 2012 holds for We the People.
This year there were a lot of great app challenges. One that caught my eye was from the EPA, Apps for the Environment Challenge. The cool thing about apps competitions like this is that it proves that many people understand that government alone cannot solve problems, and reaching out to citizens and tapping into the collective knowledge and skills of citizens is one way to produce solutions to complex challenges. Kudos to all agencies who posted challenges on challenge.gov or ran their own competitions, I was feeling especially green today, so went with the EPA. The winners this year where Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of Eco Hatchery and Runner Up, Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet. The EPA also awarded prizes to students, with the winner being EarthFriend by Will Fry and Ali Hasan of Fry Development Company and Differential Apps and Runner Up,Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University. The winner of the Popular Choice Award was CG Search by Rajasekaran Bala of Cognizant Technology Solutions.
The New York Public library had a pretty interesting event earlier this year to promote the New York Public Library. The library invited 500 people to attend a smart-phone based challenge taking place overnight at the library. The challenge was called “Find the Future: The Game,” participants were given a series of quests delivered to their smartphone. What was cool about the event was once the quests where unlocked by the players at the museum, they also became available to people playing in the online version, which started a few weeks after the event. This a really cool example of getting citizens excited about public libraries, and participating in a unique event.
So, this one comes from our friends across the pond - but it is a bold idea in citizen engagement and an effort to streamline information for the public. Alpha.gov.uk is an experimental site with the goal of creating one central hub for the UK Government. The site aims to be as simple as possible and to quickly serves the needs of the citizens of the UK. The site is still currently a prototype, but it is a cool concept and something to keep an eye on for 2012.
As I previously mentioned, there were a lot of great choices this year. I would love to hear what some of your selections for top citizen engagements initiatives were in 2011.