IDEASCALE BLOG

Tag: open government

A Brief History of Open Government

history of open government

Open government is based upon the idea that governments function better when citizens play an active role in creating policy. Crucial to this type of engagement is the availability and accessibility of government data. When citizens have access to what’s happening in their town, state, or country, they can hold elected officials accountable for their actions — an essential principle of democracy. But increased transparency is not the entire solution for an effort to gain widespread input from citizens. True dedication to an open government is demonstrated in a country’s effort to engage citizens when they appear to lose interest or grow weary of participating.

Several initiatives during the Obama Administration proved fruitful in furthering the goal of an open government. On his first day in office in 2009, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government through transparency, public participation, and collaboration.

Let’s take glance at the history of open government to see how those objectives have been strengthened over recent years:

Increased transparency:

  • The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 gave US citizens the right to access federal information and in recent history, Obama made information about government operations even more accessible through an executive order that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information.
  • The future of transparency: With the rise of the internet, public data can be accessed easier than ever before. The question now becomes: how committed are governments to using this powerful tool to empower citizens, and how will they work to close the digital divide in order to hear voices from all citizens?

Increased Participation:

  • One component of open government is voting and the 19th and 15th Amendments of 1920 and 1965 increased the amount of US citizens eligible to participate in this process. 
  • The future of participation: Eligibility doesn’t necessarily correlate with engagement.  How will governments encourage participation from all citizens?

Increased collaboration:

  • Collaborative tools like IdeaScale have helped to crowdsource innovation in government in recent years. Using crowdsourcing, Innovate Your State ran a challenge to come up with ideas to innovate California. The winning idea became a funded initiative (Prop 54) that was put on the November 2016 ballot and passed. This process utilized open innovation practices to arrive at the best idea, and the chosen initiative was one that furthered the goals of open government by prohibiting the legislature from passing any bill until it has been published for 72 hours prior to the vote.
  • The future of collaboration: Moving forward, why shouldn’t all ballot initiatives be crowdsourced from citizens?

Open government has a long journey ahead to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration. Widespread use of modern tools like the internet and crowdsourcing have made these three objectives a greater reality but that doesn’t mean that governments will jump at the opportunity to engage citizens. It is up to supporters of open government to push these agenda items to reach an ideal of a truly participatory government that responds to and thrives upon the feedback of the people it serves.

Want a more in depth look at the history of open government? Download our infographic here

 

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.

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?

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?

Tomorrow is the Final Day to Submit to the Open Innovation Awards!

image curtesy of nicolas will via flickr
image courtesy of nicolas will via flickr

If you’re part of an IdeaScale community you’ve probably already heard about our second annual Open Innovation Awards. Over the past few months we’ve been asking all of you to share your success stories. We’ll be selecting a Best Moderation Strategy, Best Engagement Strategy, and a Best Innovation – all of which come with prizes… and some serious bragging rights. But the submission deadline is tomorrow Friday the 14th, and we want to hear your unique, inspiring, exceptional innovation story.

At IdeaScale we love this time of year. Hearing about the struggles and accomplishments in your innovation communities is always educational and helpful, but it’s also fun. It won’t be easy to decide who will win the titles, and the prizes that go with them, this year!

For all of you who have already submitted, or are routing for a community you know and love, finalists will be notified on December 5th, and the winners will be announced on December 19th! Can’t wait another five weeks to get your fix of innovation? You can read up on all of last year’s winners!

•   Yale

•   Marriott

•   UNCW

•   State of Minnesota

•   The Cerebral Palsy Alliance


So what are you waiting for? Submit today!

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.

Innovating with COSTAR: Converting Ideas Into Business Plans

image curtesy of mike linksvayer via flickr
image courtesy of mike linksvayer via flickr

What happens when you have an idea, but what you need is a value proposition?

The process of nurturing an idea from its first inspiration into something that can be pitched in Silicon Valley requires planning, refinement, and careful consideration. Thankfully, the Enterprise Development Group is a team of expert thinkers, facilitators and trainers who have been consulting since 1986 who have also developed a template for businesses to refine their ideas. The template is called CO-STAR.

Join IdeaScale in this exclusive webinar that explores the CO-STAR approach from concept to execution with guest speakers from EDG and the BBC. The webinar will include

•  An overview of CO-STAR and its use in developing market-worthy ventures

•  A demonstration of CO-STAR within an innovation management program

•  A summary of how CO-STAR was applied at BBC

The webinar will include a live Q&A with the speakers. Join us and register for this complimentary webinar set to take place on Tuesday, October 21st at 9 a.m. PST today!

Speakers Include:

Herman Gyr, Founding Partner, EDG

Rob Hoehn, CEO, IdeaScale

Pat Younge, Former Chief Creative Officer, BBC

Successful Citizen Engagement: How to Scale “Town Hall”

image curtesy of lee wright via flickr
image courtesy of lee wright via flickr

There is a growing trend of involving the crowd in public decision making. This practice has already been proven out in the private sector, where crowdsourcing has been used to solve longstanding issues, ranging from suggested feature improvements for mobile applications to reducing maternal mortality with technology.

The idea of involving the public isn’t new, But with the changing role of a public town hall, one has to ask “How can the engagement of the town meeting scale up from a couple thousand people standing in one location to many more than that?” or “How do you hear from the many people who can’t show up for meetings, but will show up to vote on election day and decide who’s doing a good job?”

To answer these questions, IdeaScale is offering a webinar on September 30, featuring Norm Jacknis, Director of Program Development, to review:

8 key reasons to engage citizens:

• Strategic things to consider to ensure a successful citizen dialogue
• Some interesting and thought provoking examples of citizen engagement
• The webinar will be followed by a live question and answer session.

Join us and register for this complimentary webinar today!

The City of Atlanta Leveraging Its Most Valuable Resource – Its Employees

image curtesy of terence s. jones
image courtesy of terence s. jones

When Barack Obama took office five years ago, he launched the White House SAVE Award – a program that sought ideas from federal employees about how to make the government not only more effective, but also more efficient when it came to spending (hence its name: “Securing Americans Value and Efficiency”).

Every year, the President issues a call to employees asking them to share their ideas using IdeaScale technology. Every branch across the US participates in the conversation and votes on one another’s ideas. Then, the Office of Management and Budget narrows down the best ideas to a “final four” which can be viewed and voted on by the American public. The winner is granted the honor of presenting his or her idea to the President in Washington. It has been a hugely successful program that has generated millions of dollars of savings on an ongoing basis.

In 2013, the City of Atlanta followed suit and instituted a city-wide campaign that engaged all Atlantian employees in generating ideas that could reduce waste, cut red tape and save money on operations. The city launched the program with a gala celebration that instructed employees on how to use the tool followed by ongoing, city-wide communications to all employees via email that encouraged them to submit ideas. They even had an offline option for employees who didn’t have access to a computer as part of their daily routine at work.

The campaign was celebrated as a success. They generated hundreds of ideas and from those hundreds, twelve were flagged for implementation, and the top three alone were evaluated to amount to a potential cost savings of $7.1 million annually.

If you want to learn more about the City of Atlanta’s crowdsourcing success, download the case study here.

Announcing the Second Annual Open Innovation Awards

For the second year in a row IdeaScale is hosting a competition among innovators: The Open Innovation Awards. This annual contest is a way to honor the IdeaScale communities that demonstrate their exceptional innovation best practices.

The specific rules and eligibility are posted at ideascale.com/innovation-award, but the contest is open to IdeaScale members, administrators, and moderators that can demonstrate a community’s expertise in the areas of engagement, moderation, or delivery.

All entrees are due by November 14th, 2014 and must be submitted online with the application completed in a single sitting. For an advance copy of all application questions, contact [email protected]. Finalists will be selected by December. Final winners will be announced before the holidays in mid-December.

Winners will receive an Apple iPad Mini, a discount on their 2015 IdeaScale subscription and a stylized and shareable press packet. All winners will also have the ability to fast track an IdeaScale feature for 2015 and be able to activate one of the higher-end features free of charge.

And if you’re interested in seeing more from last year’s winners, check out their stories here:

    •  Yale
    •  Marriott
    •  UNCW
    •  State of Minnesota
    •  The Cerebral Palsy Alliance

If you’d like to nominate a community to become a winner in this year’s IdeaScale Open Innovation Awards, please visit our site!