Tag: citizen engagement

Why Should the Public Vote on the Ideas of Government Employees?

texas hhsThese days, it’s easy to feel apathetic and frustrated by politics and government in general. It often feels as though your voice is not heard, that special interests and corporations are more important than the citizens at large. But luckily, there are factions of the government that are realizing the futility folks are feeling, and are working to make the government work for the people again.

One of the ways this is happening is with public engagement on the ideas of government employees. A few short years ago, the state of Texas enacted legislation that requires any state agency with 1,500 or more employees to provide a process by which an employee may submit suggestions and ideas for cost savings and allow the public to vote on those ideas. Who doesn’t love cost saving? And who doesn’t love their voice being heard on cost saving ideas? What a win-win scenario.

The Texas Health and Human Services System selected IdeaScale as its platform, and has been actively promoting and engaging with citizens to find areas to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Since the program was started, there have been over 1,400 ideas, with over 1,100 citizens logging over 16,000 votes. Now that’s a response!

Initiatives such as this serve a dual purpose of not only reducing costs, but also of engaging citizens in decisions that have a real impact on their lives, and allowing them a voice. After being involved in such a process, it wouldn’t be surprising if those citizens are more likely to participate in other civic situations where they might have previously been discouraged.

To read more about the Texas Health and Human Services initiative for saving money for their citizens, click here to download the recent case study.

How Solving for Social Change is Different than Process Improvements

MAVCOne idea can change the world.

This concept is at once hard to wrap your head around and also patently obvious. While crowdsourcing and innovation challenges can be useful in a corporate or business setting, recently some of the biggest, most impactful innovation initiatives have been focused around social change. Even stepping beyond that, they have been focused on citizen engagement in enacting social change, hoping to find that one idea to change the world.

One example of this endeavor for social change is Making All Voices Count. Making All Voices Count was one of IdeaScale’s 2015 Innovation Management Award winners, working towards open government.

As may be evident by their name, Making All Voices Count is invested in ensuring that all citizens are heard when it comes to the changes and transparency that they want to see from their government. After all, our governments are meant to work for us, so we should have an opportunity to have an active role in the decisions.

The first step to accomplishing this goal was reaching out to all global citizens – with their Global Innovation Competition, anyone in the world was eligible to present an idea and apply to win the grand prize of £65,000. Unlike with process improvements where a small population is more likely to have opinions on what will work best, widespread participation is key in social change.

The moderation of ideas is the second step. For the Global Innovation Competition, Ideas are vetted by what are called Innovation Engagement Officers, who consider them for transparency and collaboration, as well as promoting inclusivity. One of the final stages before grand prize winner selection is an opportunity for finalists from all 12 Making All Voices Count countries to come together and receive mentorship and attend workshops in order to hone their ideas and to network.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that solving for social change makes lives better – even if it’s just one person, even if it’s just a small community, even if it’s just one city. Social change makes better the lives of the members of that community. While process improvements are also important, they are unlikely to have the same kind of emotional and psychological impact that social change can have.

In the first three years of the Global Innovation Competition, winning ideas have already had a humongous impact on the lives of ordinary citizens in Ghana, South Africa, Indonesia, and more, exacting changes on maternal mortality rates, delivery of government services, and government corruption.

To read more about Making All Voices Count and the Global Innovation Competition, click here to download the recent case study.

Why Are Citizens Uniquely Suited to Solve State Problems

fix california challengeAs we venture further into this Presidential election year, we will hear the old refrain more and more: my vote doesn’t matter. I’m only one person, what difference could I make?

The answer is: a big difference!

While it’s harder to make the case for a single vote in a national election, it’s easier to convince people that their opinions as citizens matter when they are presented with opportunities like Innovate Your State. Innovate Your State is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating and encouraging public participation in improving government.

Innovate Your State has realized that citizens are uniquely suited to solving state problems, and they are tapping into that resource. One of the big reasons citizens are the best for solving problems is that—much like employees often having fantastic insight into possible room for improvement—those citizens experience the problems firsthand, and more regularly than anybody else. Those citizens are also likely to have practical solutions to those problems, solutions which will benefit themselves and their neighbors.

Recently, Innovate Your State hosted its first online challenge to put the citizens of California to the test. The Fix California Challenge surfaced over four hundred diverse ideas, which were then whittled down to two winning ideas for funding and implementation.

While the final two ideas were ultimately the winners, the Innovate Your State team considers one of the greatest successes to be the surfacing of issues that were of the highest importance for members of the public. In fact, some of the other ideas are currently under consideration for the future! Innovate Your State hopes to replicate this challenge in other states in the future as well, giving citizens a more active, actionable way of participating in the governing of their daily lives.

To find out more about Innovate Your State’s Fix California Challenge, click here to download our recent case study.

Why the Crowd is a Great Resource for Travel and Transportation Organizations

transportationAre you a public transit user? Or an airline traveler? Or a train rider? Travel and transportation organizations want to hear from you! Why are they so interested in what you have to say? Because they have realized that the crowd is one of the best resources available to them.

Following a series of drastic cuts in funding, public transportation in Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh was a mess.  Public transit riders understandably responded with frustration and anger when routes were changed and reliability of remaining routes descended rapidly.

In response, a crowdsourcing app called Tiramisu was born, helping public transit riders answer the question, “When is the bus coming?” Riders themselves helped to keep their fellows informed by providing live updates about arrival and departure times, and capacity information. This is just one of the many ways that organizations are working on getting their communities and constituents involved.

One of the biggest reasons for involving the crowd in transportation is that the crowd can often give on-the-ground information that even those at the organization may not immediately know. The accessibility and availability of many organizations through social media platforms has allowed the crowd to provide that on-the-ground information, and for that information to then be quickly disseminated to other interested parties (namely, other travelers).

This has had positive and negative impacts for organizations like airlines, which have experienced both glowing recommendations, but far more often, vilifying communications about bad experiences, which are then spread widely among other travelers and have had strong implications for those airlines. It pays to focus on customer service and experience these days.

Users of transportation services are also a unique resource for open innovation. They are often able to see potential solutions or updates which those within the company would never be able to see because they are so entrenched in the organization.

To find out more about ways in which using the crowd is helping travel and transportation organizations, click here to download and read our recent white paper on Innovation in Transportation.

How Citizens Can Help Police Improve Quality of Life

NYPD-coverOne of the commonalities for our Innovation Management Awards winners this year was the focus on quality of life. The improvement of quality of life is also a key focus for the New York Police Department (NYPD), and they’re using IdeaScale to do it.

Following years of declining support for the NYPD, the police department felt they needed to make a concerted effort to regain the trust of the people of New York; so those people would have faith in the NYPD’s ability to do their jobs, and so the people would feel comfortable with the police officers who are meant to be serving their communities.

As part of this effort, the NYPD partnered with IdeaScale beginning in April 2015 in order to increase engagement among citizens, specifically hoping to learn about issues that will help improve the quality of life for their neighborhoods. Targeting social media as a method of communication, essentially crowd-sourcing priorities based on the needs and suggestions of neighborhood residents. One way that IdeaScale was uniquely suited to help the NYPD reach their goals was its ability to restrict access to those who live in a particular area.

This pilot program was deployed in six model precincts, and has been a smashing success. The NYPD has received and addressed over 300 quality of life issues, ranging from noise complaints to graffiti to traffic.

Perhaps the best impact, though, is the positive relationships that have been built as a result. Citizens are feeling better, and cops feel like they’re doing good work. Increased quality of life all around!

To find out more about IdeaScale’s partnership with the NYPD, click here to read the recent case study.

Innovation Management Awards Focus on Inclusivity, Quality of Life

IM Awards 2015Although it may be difficult to remember, try to think back to last year—a whole month ago—when we announced our 2015 Innovation Management Award winners. Back then, we pointed out two commonalities between our three winners, two things that they focused on when engaging in their crowdsourcing campaigns: inclusivity and transparency, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Inclusivity and Transparency

Inclusivity and transparency were important to our winners this year. Whether it was working to ensure that everyone is able to participate in a system that directly impacts them, or endeavoring to make systems transparent and accountable to their participants, all three of our winners found them imperative.

This facet was nowhere more true than with Making All Voices Count. Their Global Innovation Competition challenged a global audience to design a solution that would improve governments’ responsiveness and accountability. Anyone in the world was welcome to apply, both companies and average citizens. By casting a wide net, and aiming to include everyone regardless of circumstance, the competition is already having a huge impact, including helping to reduce maternal mortality and flag corruption through citizen feedback.

Innovate Your State has a similar goal, focusing instead on the citizens of a smaller, localized government. Through the initiative, two big ideas were implemented, but perhaps the greatest impact was that the effort identified numerous issues that were important to the public—issues that may not have been on the radar of governing bodies without the focus on inclusivity and hearing all voices.

For the Western Australia Police (WAPOL), they found that transparency throughout the innovation process increased participation, and thus increased the pool of great ideas for implementation. After trying other processes for managing ideas, WAPOL made it a point to respond to every single idea, even if those ideas were not quite ready to move forward. As a result, the team noticed new users, more ideas, and more comments and votes.

Improved Quality of Life

Another important focus for our winners this year was on improving the quality of life, both for those organizations who were managing the initiatives and for those who the initiatives impacted. Not surprisingly, people are going to be more interested and invested in participating if they know that it’s going to help someone, perhaps even themselves, live a happier, better life.

The Western Australia Police took this to heart, hoping to improve the quality of life for their officers, as well as the citizens in their community. Thus far, the innovations which were generated and implemented are saving over 46,000 frontline hours each year, saving 8,000 hours annually in reporting, and saving thousands of hours in travel time. As we all know, time is money, and time can also be happiness.

Through citizen engagement and open government, both Making All Voices Count and Innovate Your State also had goals of improving the quality of life for average community members.


How might your organization work to make your crowdsourcing and innovation more inclusive and transparent? How might you improve quality of life all around through open innovation?

Engaging All Voices in the City of Minneapolis

minneapolisWhen speaking at a town hall meeting in Iowa recently, President Obama spoke against politically biased colleges which put restrictions on the guests and speakers that they invite to their campuses. He said, “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way to learn.”

Listening and responding to the loudest voice in the room is sometimes tempting and easy to do. But what kind of growth will any of us have if we continue along that same track? Perhaps one of the most important functions of government especially is to listen to the unheard.

The City of Minneapolis doesn’t want to take the easy path. The City wants to listen to the unheard. They are actively working to stimulate and acknowledge the voices of their typically underrepresented communities. They’re so committed to the idea that they’ve explicated it as one of five of their “Goals and Strategic Directions,” aiming for “One Minneapolis” where “disparities are eliminated so all Minneapolis residents can participate and prosper.”

The City developed the Community Indicators Project specifically as a means of identifying benchmarks to measure the City’s progress in achieving those goals. One of the methods of doing so this year was the opening of an IdeaScale community to gather ideas and receive public commentary. The site was open for one month in 2015, and received over 199 unique ideas.

While the City welcomed input from all community members, they placed a priority on outreach to previously underrepresented communities; some of these communities that the City identified included Asian-Americans, Somalis, LGBTQA, seniors, and youth. In an attempt to provide every opportunity for these groups to participate, the City also solicited ideas offline in conjunction with their online presence, including talking circles and interactive arts engagements.

This outreach to underrepresented groups is a lesson we could all learn from when making decisions. In this digital age especially, it can get so easy to cherry pick the opinions that make it through to us, just as it is easy for government to listen only to the loudest voices. But the points in history when we have truly made progress have always been those when we finally start listening to the silenced.

Click here to download and read the case study on the City of Minneapolis.


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. 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:

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 tried other campaigns aimed at connecting with the citizens of New York, specifically via social media, which have not been as successful as they had hoped. Many individual officers have taken to pushing out information and responding to concerns via Twitter, but the possibilities are exponentially wider with IdeaScale because it is so much more 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 and 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?