The Future of Civic Engagement and Innovation

Numerous leaders and community organizers have been talking about public service lately, especially in the US - mostly encouraging the public to take place in ongoing dialogues and to volunteer in their communities in order to create positive change at local and national levels.

But what does civic engagement look like in an increasingly globalized and technologically-powered community? And when it comes to building the future of our cities, are governments doing enough to leverage collective intelligence?

The fact of the matter is that government has a lot of work to do and they don’t always have sufficient resources to do it. Sometimes, even when they have a team of great people serving the public, great ideas don’t gain traction because they don’t enjoy enough visibility or enough connectivity or transparency to help get them implemented. For this reason, many government organizations are turning to the practices of open innovation that have long been used by enterprise companies to find new ideas that fuel research (citizen science), volunteering (micro-tasking), and ideation (crowdsourced ideas).

In less than a year they had gathered hundreds of new ideas that would help them meet their goals.

The City of Calgary recently won an Innovation Management Award for their work leveraging crowd power to create measurable change that helps both government organizations and the citizens that they serve. They started by asking their employees for ideas that would help them improve city services and in less than a year had gathered hundreds of new ideas that would help them meet their goals.

To do that, they had to conduct an extensive internal outreach campaign that allowed those ideas to emerge and combine cross-departmentally in ways that they hadn’t before. That outreach strategy included a nine-channel outreach push and moderation from the system administrators to start routing ideas and identifying value. And not only did they receive many new ideas, the community also saw a great deal of proactive discussion that would help get those ideas implemented and those discussions crossed department boundaries and helped maximize the resources dedicated to problem solving.

This flattening of government organizations to allow for organic idea generation and refinement is definitely one of the key ways to maximize resources in government workplaces. In the coming year, the City of Calgary plans to open up this program to engage citizens as well.  To learn more about the City of Calgary and their employee innovation program, download the case study here.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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