Tag Archives: citizen engagement

Introducing…CauseTech!

introducing causetechEver wanted to change the world from the comfort of your own home? You may have a chance to do just that.

A new global innovation ecosystem will soon make its debut. Utilizing a dedicated community site CauseTech.Net, powered by IdeaScale, the “Succeed Where There’s a Need” campaign promotes social entrepreneurship and aims to aggregate the world’s best and brightest. The focus is specifically on helping UNICEF scale its efforts to meet the ever-growing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and excluded children across 150 countries.

CauseTech.net suggests five big challenges that the campaign is trying to address: lack of access to water, lack of access to education, lack of access to electricity, lack of access to sanitation, and lack of access to health care. You can also see examples of innovations that are already working to improve these situations, including a self-powered streetlight and a water generator that produces drinking water from air.

UNICEF is joined in partnership by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network and the Global Renewable Energy & Environmental Network (GREEN), as well as a number of other esteemed partners and affiliates. At every level—from an individual who might have an innovative idea to private sector partners who can help fund the scaling of projects—there is an opportunity to support the initiative.

Dr. Sharad Sapra, the director of the UNICEF Global Innovation Center, said of the campaign, “Our development strategy is to be the connector between all the relevant actors in the value chain, to ensure innovative solutions can be successfully implemented and scaled across regions and contexts. Achieving our goal of reaching every child requires disrupting ‘business as usual.’ New ways of thinking have to be developed. Assumptions and strategies must change. That’s why innovation is so important.”

Dr. Sapra talks about CauseTech in this video about the program:

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The platform will allow for ongoing ideation, but will also run timed contests curated by UNICEF Innovation teams. The first official contest will focus on alternative energy solutions for Burundi, a country where only three percent of the population is connected to the electricity grid.

You can find out more by visiting CauseTech.Net.

Citizen City Planning

citizen city planningHave you ever had an idea that would make the city you live in better? Chances are you have. Did you have the opportunity to share your idea with the decision makers of your city, and feel like you were heard? Chances are you haven’t, which is kind of strange given that citizen city planning is one of the most effective, useful, advantageous options for city planning.

In an IdeaScale study, three particular advantages to crowdsourced planning were surfaced: quicker changes, less risky changes, and appreciated improvements.

In December, we looked more in depth at a government agency that exemplified the two latter advantages. The Fairfax County Parks Authority recently entered a multiple-stage campaign to acquire ideas, evaluate, and enact improvements to the parks. This campaign will allow for the Parks Authority to be sure that changes are appreciated; after all, if the changes were suggested by citizens, those citizens are likely to appreciate them! Further, if citizens have the opportunity to examine the ideas put forth by the Parks Authority itself, those citizens are more prepared for the potential outcomes and are able to provide input along the way.

While the Fairfax County Parks Authority is moving slowly and steadily through the process, there are definitely instances where the “quicker changes” advantage applies. For example, the planning initiative in Huntsville, Alabama served to affirm some changes which were already in the pipeline, and could be accelerated as a result of confirmation from the population that the ideas were on the right track.

The big question is, seeing evidence of these positive outcomes, why would governments NOT crowdsource with their citizens to make community improvements?

To read more about the benefits of citizen city planning, including specific city examples, download Citizen City Planning: Collaborating with Citizens for a Better City.

IdeaScale and the NYPD

nypdIn early April, IdeaScale added another organization to its storied ranks: the New York Police Department.

In an article in The New York Times, the NYPD shared their plans to start a pilot program of IdeaScale as an avenue of citizens sharing concerns. The plan is to implement the program in a few neighborhoods in the 109th Precinct in Queens, using the platform specifically for reporting on quality of life issues, at least at the beginning.

The NYPD has successfully built campaigns aimed at connecting with the citizens of New York, specifically via social media. IdeaScale enhances the possibilities further, because it is highly interactive and dynamic. Not only can citizens recommend quality of life improvements around their neighborhoods, they will also be able to vote and collaborate with their neighbors, working together with police as well to present ideas innovate.

Further, it provides folks the opportunity to participate in an easy, low-impact way: they can contribute without having to leave home, which ultimately means they will be more likely to participate.

Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti of the NYPD, in response to concerns that IdeaScale may just be used to reinforce police priorities, said that was not the intention. The NYPD plans to utilize the platform not only responsively, but also by presenting questions about specific topics for feedback from the population.

The introduction of IdeaScale to these communities began on April 8. We look forward to observing how the NYPD’s use of IdeaScale will grow and develop, as well as how they will choose to moderate and interact with the citizens who utilize the platform.

What do you think about the NYPD’s use of IdeaScale?

How Mageneti Marelli Used Open Innovation to Find the Competitive Edge

magneti marelliWhat can happen when you invite open, global innovation into your organization? International company Magneti Marelli found out when they partnered with Open Knowledge to create their Laptime Club.

Magneti Marelli was founded in Italy in 1919. It is committed to the design and production of hi-tech systems and components for the automotive industry.  As an organization, the group’s presence stretches across 19 countries, and is a supplier for the most important car makers in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Structured to be a community for motorsport engineers and experts, but also for technology and electronics enthusiasts, the Laptime Club was designed specifically to stimulate creativity and innovation in racing. It was open to the entire global community, and 85% of the ideas that Magneti Marelli ended up receiving were from sources external to their company.

As a result of the group’s large-scale invitation, they received nearly 100 ideas across 6 months of innovation. From these, twenty ideas rose to the surface as idea finalists, and then were further winnowed to two winning ideas to be considered for development.

Two of the most powerful strategies that Magneti Marelli used during the innovation period were their social media outreach and their regular innovation team meetings. The group used the entire digital toolkit in order to promote the innovation community, including blogging, email announcements, and campaigns on social media platforms like Facebook and Google. This allowed them to do the absolute most digital promotion possible. Magneti Marelli also utilized regular innovation team meetings, gathering once a month to look at and respond to new ideas, including reaching out to idea authors for more details about their ideas. Imagine how encouraging it would be as an idea author to not have to wait until the end of the six-month to hear anything about your idea. It likely made idea authors more apt to want to contribute in the future, even if their first ideas were not implemented.

Read more about Magneti Marelli and the Laptime Club in this recent case study.

Help NASA Save the World from Asteroids

nasaOne of the many awesome things to come out of South by Southwest a couple of weeks ago was NASA’s release of a new app, Asteroid Data Tracker, which allows the average citizen to crowdsource the presence of asteroids. Well, the average citizen with a telescope and the asteroid tracker desktop software.

The app and software were created during a crowdsourced competition produced by NASA and asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, the goal of which was to surface a better asteroid tracking algorithm. With this new software, users will be able to take images from their telescopes and use the algorithm to determine whether or not the bodies present in those images are asteroids.

According to NASA, this new algorithm is able to identify asteroids with a 15 percent higher rate than previous algorithms. The reported asteroids that are surfaced by common folks are useful for both NASA and Planetary Resources. NASA tries to keep an eye on all near-earth asteroids, hopefully to avoid any Armageddon-type situations, as well as considering candidates for potential asteroid missions. Their partner, Planetary Resources, would be interested in that as well, since it’s much easier to mine an asteroid if you can get to it.

Click here for more information about Asteroid Data Tracker, and to download.

What other kind of agencies might benefit from engaging in crowdsourcing of this nature?

Best 2015 SXSW Sessions

sxswThis Friday begins SXSW 2015 in Austin. The annual festival—which includes a focus on music, film, and interactive technologies—was designed as an opportunity for creative people and the companies they work with to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today, and more and more, SXSW Interactive sessions specifically highlight innovation and crowdsourcing.

As these are two of IdeaScale’s favorite things, here are five suggestions for sessions to check out if you are attending SXSW:

1. City 2.0: Why Local Government Bets on Civic Innovation
This session explores the usefulness of civic innovation (a.k.a. utilizing citizen ideas to tackle real urban problems). We love this idea, as we have many local governments doing exactly this with our platform!

2. Innovation Through Impact Filmmaking
Exploring the connection between filmmaking and the growing ability for international communities to be connected to causes that drive impact, this session features Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela.

3. NASA Prizes: Dream It, Make It, Win It
Representatives of the NASA Prizes and Challenges Program will share how some of their best ideas come from “citizen inventors” and how you can get involved, get innovating, and win prizes!

4. Innovating Diversity and Inclusion in Tech
Presented by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, this session explores and expands on how innovation is served by emphasizing diversity and inclusion in tech fields.

5. Innovation Around the World
This is not one particular session, but rather a noticeable trend during the festival. From Turkey to L.A., from Sweden to Ecuador, if you want to hear about how a certain country or global area is innovating, you can find it here.

Of course, in addition to these great sessions, you won’t want to miss our session on the Global Innovation Competition and best practices for hosting global competitions on Tuesday, March 17 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Click here for more information about that session.

SXSW 2015 Panel: Global Competitions that Change the World

sxsw panelLife these days can sometimes seem hopeless.  Turn on the news and you see negative story after negative story.

However, there is cause for hope. More and more, amidst all of the negativity, we see global citizens coming together to remind us all that the things which bring us together are larger than those which divide us.

Opportunities like the 2nd Annual Global Innovation Competition showcase ideas from those global citizens. The competition is an initiative operating in 8 African and 4 Asian countries specifically to support innovators and entrepreneurs in realizing projects that improve the relationship between citizens and governments.

Once submitted to the competition, ideas are voted upon by members of the communities where they will have an impact, with 75% of votes coming from the global south. and winnowed down to fifty big ideas which advance to the next stage.

The competition has even gone to special lengths to ensure inclusivity, including giving four ideas “wildcards” into the final 50 from countries that are enabled with less information and communications technology. You can read more about this year’s finalists here.

There are many lessons to be learned and best practices to glean from the experiences of the Global Innovation Competition for those who might be interested in hosting their own global competition aimed at changing the world. To that end, we will be discussing those best practices at our SXSW panel on Tuesday, March 17, and would love for you to join us. Click here for more information.

Community Feature—Fairfax County Park Authority

FCPAJust southwest of Washington, D.C., across the Potomac River, is the County of Fairfax in Virginia. Home to the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, not to mention Mount Vernon, estate of one George Washington, Fairfax County is also home to a thriving parks department known officially as the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The FCPA recently concluded a two-month long call to arms for Fairfax County residents to voice their opinions on their parks, as part of a long-standing commitment to evaluate the needs and interests of community members. In summer of 2014, the FCPA started their IdeaScale community out with several park authority generated prompts as conversation points about improvements, prompts like how trials are used and “I would use parks more if…” From those initial starting points, citizens added their own topics.

This seems to have been perhaps the best choice that the FCPA has made: allowing residents to collaborate on ideas that are proposed by other residents, with little or no interjection from the parks authority. For example, when somebody suggested that the county was in need of some baseball complexes to help ease the load on school baseball fields, other members jumped in with suggestions of where potential baseball complexes might fit.

Ultimately the FCPA will have to assess whether those suggestions are realistic or doable with their resources, but it surely shows the strength of crowdsourcing within a community, as all members are entirely invested in the result. It allows those ideas that are the most impactful to the most people to rise to the top based solely on the concerns of those within the community. It also illustrates the FCPA’s commitment to serving their population’s needs, that they would observe the process and not interject with naysaying and impossibilities.

Now that the information gathering stage of the evaluation is complete, the FCPA is honoring and considering the contributions of the populous by developing a survey which will be sent to 15,000 residences in early 2015. From there, the results will be tabulated and action items will be shared, with development of ideas beginning in late 2015. In the meantime, the parks authority is keeping everyone apprised with updates of the process via their website. We look forward to seeing what improvements are most essential to the Fairfax County Park Authority. What kind of changes would you like to see in your community?

Before Citizen Engagement

image curtesy of opensource.com via flickr

image courtesy of opensource.com via flickr

The most effective governments are those that built for and with the citizens. This requires that the government be in tune with the needs and opinions of its citizens, but also that the citizens be well-informed and granted easy access to the decisions of their government. Citizen Engagement is more than a trend, it’s the modern means of keeping the citizenry and the the state in tune.

In early democracies, states were small enough to allow for direct democracy. One of the three branches of Ancient Athenian government was made entirely of citizens. The Assembly held the power to make decisions on the function of its government. When the United States was a younger nation, meetings were held in New England town halls for the citizens to get up and speak their mind before decisions were made. To attend was a choice, and to speak was not required, but in both of these examples citizens willingly participated.

The label of democracy or republic is less significant than the line of communication between the government and the people. For a government to run smoothly, voting cannot occur as frequently as decisions are made, and most modern governments are too large for all of their citizens to gather in a town hall. Creating a channel from decision makers to the citizens they represent allows for transparency and builds trust, and serves as a real-time measure of public opinion.

Transparency and trust are crucial to maintaining a strong government. It’s no surprise that the establishment of a free press tends to coincide with large jumps in functionality and innovation within governments’ history. A free press represents an engaged citizenry. These knowledgeable members of society have more realistic impressions of what their government can do for them. They are more inclined to lend their time, resources, and knowledge to their government.

Citizen Engagement is a necessary tool in government innovation. Engaged, citizens who see their government clearly are most able to make the best decisions regarding policy and process. If you’d like to find out more about how to develop a citizen engagement program for your agency or department, join us on September 30th for a complimentary webinar, register now.