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Look at what the public or social sector in any major city is doing to leverage new technologies and you’re likely to find an abundance of unfinished and unused civic applications. Such graveyards of software applications are an unfortunate byproduct of of the app contests and hackathons that forward-thinking cities like to promote. Latin America has as many as any other part of the world, but it also has the Desarrollando America Latina (DAL) network. DAL is experimenting with new models for generating technology solutions to social problems. Efforts in other parts of the world - from New York to Nairobi - should study their lessons learned.


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

In the fall of 2012, we launched a knowledge innovation fund and received many entries.

Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting ideas was a submission made by the duo Katie Economidou and Dervish Baha. Together they had been trained in the early ’90s in conflict resolution and mediation along with many of their peers, who later went on to do much of the great civil society work on peacebuilding in Cyprus.

Katie and Dervish wanted to create a video depository of the experiences of themselves and their colleagues, and to create a platform where they would invite mediators and conflict resolution trainers from around the world to do the same.

In March of this year, along with the launch of Mahallae, their dream to create one of the world’s first crowdsourced video archives for mediators will start to come true.

Check out our brief interview with Katie:

Tennessee has launched a new transparency portal. Unlike a number of state offered data dumps, the portal – Transparent Tennessee includes budget information and a searchable checkbook of state transactions. The portal existed before, but was recently overhauled at the behest of Governor Haslam.

In addition to the searchable checkbook, users can get information on vendor payments, agency expenses and travel reimbursements. The data are offered in an interactive format for less technical users, and the raw data can also be downloaded.

Around the world, parliaments, governments, civil society organizations, and even individual parliamentarians, are taking measures to make the legislative process more participatory. Some are creating their own tools — often open source, which allows others to use these tools as well — that enable citizens to markup legislation or share ideas on targeted subjects. Others are purchasing and implementing tools developed by private companies to good effect. In several instances, these initiatives are being conducted through collaboration between public institutions and civil society, while many compliment online and offline experiences to help ensure that a broader population of citizens is reached.

The list below provides examples of some of the more prominent efforts to engage citizens in the legislative process.

I get asked a lot by people who are interested in helping out open source projects, but have absolutely no programming skills. What can they do? Well, here are a few ideas how non-programmers can contribute to open source projects.

Cities are playing with the idea of involving their citizens in the building and planning process, using sensors that expose and manage data to help improve services and save money. The culture of being always-on, carrying a smartphone wherever we go, makes real-time reporting and telling stories about a city so much easier, allowing the dream of citizen generated content to become a reality.

The internet is playing an ever-increasing role in how we work, play andrelate to each other. As a natural result of this, many of the most exciting new innovations that enable people to collaborate to address societal challenges are being developed online. At Nesta we call this activity digital social innovation (DSI) and it includes a diverse set of services, entrepreneurs and organisations.

However, while DSI has been around since the birth of the web (and, in fact, fits the internet's original ethos of social good), there is little collected public knowledge on what best practice looks like, how networks of innovators might work together in order to understand its potential impact, and what policies might best help to encourage a greater use of the internet for social good.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 innovative people that are driving some of the most exciting digital social innovations:

With cities seeking to involve diverse voices in city-making to get beyond “the usual suspects,” Vancouver urbanists Brent Toderian and Jillian Glover examine how cities in their region are finding new ways to increase civic participation.