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Articles in "Research"

A 10-nation study finds Singapore, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates do a better job of providing citizens with online and mobile services.

Power isn’t about knowledge – it’s about doubt.  The questions that people ask themselves – and ask of each other – are more influential on power relationships than what people actually know.

In politically sensitive situations, it can be useful to actively not-know about certain things.  By not-knowing, and making it clear that things are not your business – you can frame yourself as a neutral player without vested interests.  From that position it’s easier to work around conflicts and manoeuvre the conflicts themselves to get ahead of your rivals.

“A Review of the Evidence on Open Budgeting” is a recent report by the World Bank Institute’sCapacity Development and Results team. It explores key questions and existing evidence around the impact of open budgeting. Despite the growing body of literature, there remains limited substantiation for whether and how open budgeting contributes to reductions in poverty and improvements in the lives of the poor. This report pieces together

The examples of collaboration which get most attention are the big, the bold, the game changing.

Which can be a bit off-putting. If I collaborate, will I be expected to do something as hard and all-consuming?

Actually, most collaborative work is much more modest. And even the big and bold began as something doable.

So what kind of work might collaborators do together?

Can citizens be fruitfully engaged in solving civic problems? Recent initiatives in cities such as Boston (Citizens Connect), Chicago (Smart Chicago Collaborative), San Francisco (ImproveSF) and New York (NYC BigApps) indicate that citizens can be involved in not just identifying and reporting civic problems but in conceptualizing, designing and developing, and implementing solutions as well.

The availability of new technologies (e.g. social media) has radically lowered the cost of collaboration and the "distance" between government agencies and the citizens they serve. Further involving citizens — who are often closest to and possess unique knowledge about the problems they face — makes a lot of sense given the increasing complexity of the problems that need to be addressed.

A recent research report that I wrote highlights four distinct roles that citizens can play in civic innovation and problem-solving.


 

Some recent audits have revealed that many states and localities (along with the federal government) continue to struggle with how to build an online service that lets citizens and businesses transact with government in a simple and effective manner, and they lack a strategic plan for developing new services. The result can be confusion for many who want to interact with government online and lost opportunities for governments that are looking for new ways to deliver services at the lowest cost possible.

I’ve been wanting to post about this paper for a while. At the intersection of technology and citizen participation this is probably one of the best studies produced in 2013 and I’m surprised I haven’t heard a lot about it outside the scholarly circle.

For industry proponents who have been early adopters of online consultation, they have encountered problems and learned important lessons that have shaped their desires for future use of online platforms. As with any new technology, online engagement can be seen as a big change and for many early adopters, attempts at online consultation have been problematic or less successful... A secure platform is extremely valuable for industry proponents.

An interesting finding is the weak link between the duty to “keep a watch on the actions of government” and most types of participation (i.e. political activism and electoral participation). I cannot help but speculate about the extent to which these findings may help to explain why generally it is relatively easier to engage citizens in participatory processes (e.g. participatory budgeting) than have them monitor the outcomes of these same processes (e.g. oversight of budget execution).