Heading into the second decade of the 21st century, we constantly hear about how social media, geolocation, mobile apps and similar technological innovations are changing the way we interact with each other. But how are they changing the way we interact with our governments (particularly local governments)? Are they offering new opportunities for civic engagement? Are they changing the way residents view their role in local government, creating new opportunities for citizen involvement? Or are they cementing old ideas of citizens as customers by facilitating the delivery of government services?

These questions are of particular interest to those of us at the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership as we seek to help solve public problems by promoting citizen's participation in governance. We have created this blog to provide up-to-date information relating to what is being called "Government 2.0." We hope what you find here will help local governments and their residents make the most of the technology available for genuine citizen engagement.

New to Gov 2.0? Check out our foundational documents »

Engaging the Engaged

This article from govexec.com is a few months old, but raises a great point about increasing users for government apps and platforms:

A few years back, I was having a conversation with a very successful social entrepreneur. She ran a nonprofit that builds technology to boost engagement and participation, and her organization had done a remarkable job attracting and retaining users. We were sharing war stories, and I was keen on her input on civic technology, and in particular, how we might learn from her experience to boost usage levels on the tools we were building. She asked me an interesting question: “When someone signs up for one app, do you recommend they try out another?”

Keep reading here.

An Engagement Platform for Scotland

With the recent referendum, citizen engagement has been a hot topic in Scotland. Now the government has launched an online platform to facilitate citizen engagement across the country:

The Delib platform provides numerous options, including a variety of question formats, the ability to embed all sorts of media and a powerful search tool.

The new hub also makes it easy for residents to access public responses and succinct responses for consultations under a ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ tab. . .

Before launching Citizen Hub, the Digital Engagement Team and a representative from Delib worked alongside central and local government to ensure the system was one both employees and users could get behind.

You can read more here.

Planning for Technology

One of the challenges to cities adopting civic technology is that the pace of traditional planning is often far behind the pace of technological development.  Strategically planning for technology needs a different sort of roadmap.  That’s what the City of New York is seeking through its “Council 2.0″ digital strategy:

Council 2.0 was developed by an internal Working Group on Public Technology and Civic Engagement in consultation with a range of experts in building open digital platforms and tools for civic engagement. The working group will continue to meet regularly to evaluate progress around the outlined objectives. Staff will also study web and social media analytics to help study the type and substance of digital interaction.

The plan already includes a call for the creation of a public technology team within the city council to drive tech initiatives, as well as a partnership with Civic Hall, a local hub for the tech community in New York City. “Council Labs” an experimental mobile friendly website is also on deck for fall of this year.

You can read more here.

Orland Park, IL: Community Rewards

We’ve highlighted techniques for “gamifying” civic engagement before on this blog.  The city of Orland Park, IL, is seeking to incorporate some of these ideas through their new community incentives site.  In a recent article in the local paper, freelance columnist Laura Hinderman describes her own experience with the new platform:

Having registered at http://www.inour.community/orlandpark, I find it both fun and alluring. Whether I was “checking in” at places in the community or earning points for promoting events via Facebook or sharing community happenings over Twitter, I genuinely felt engaged.

Most of us are members of some kind of loyalty program; many of which are not interactive. InOur.Community takes the idea of a loyalty program to the next level, feeling somewhat like a game. Users are amassing points to use toward experiences, discounts, or online auction items. In some instances, you will automatically be enrolled in sweepstakes for area gift cards or show tickets. Not bad for a free program that ultimately benefits the community!

You can read more here.

Mapping Public Spaces with Instagram

A recent piece by Eric Scharnhorst on Next City looks at how location stamps on photo sharing tools like Instagram can provide insight into public space:

Building upon Eric’s work, my colleagues at Gehl Studio and I recently experimented with using photos to learn about the mixture of people at different places in San Francisco. We looked at Union Square, a central plaza in downtown surrounded by shopping and hotels; and Patricia’s Green, a grassy neighborhood park with benches and a playground. We were curious about the social life and demographic mixing at each of these public spaces.

The data captured in this way has some interesting and compelling applications in planning as well as service allocation and community resources based on demographic information, etc.:

If we scale this tool up, we can imagine a whole new map of the city – a place diversity map. A better understanding of how different places invite different mixtures of people can help us make places that are inviting for everyone. Instead of experts picking sites from the top-down, the photo-posting-public can collectively build their own grassroots map. And their photos can be cast like votes that represent people in the places that bubble up to the map’s surface.

You can read more here. Scharnhorst calls this an untapped tool for public engagement, and while he does distinguish between passive and active engagement, and while he acknowledges the limits to the former, it is important to keep this distinction in focus.  For a deeper discussion of some of the concerns surrounding passive public engagement, take a look at an article from TechPresident we posted here a few months ago.