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Citizensourcing

Collaborate and create value together like never before.

Wietse van Ransbeeck is the CEO and founder of CitizenLab, a civic engagement platform on which citizens co-create their city. Wietse explains the innovative practice of ‘citizensourcing’ which lies at the very core of his newly developed software.

The practice of crowdsourcing is a well-known phenomenon to most, engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal — often innovation, problem solving, or efficiency. Ever growing internet connectivity means that it is now easier than ever for individuals to contribute collectively. The Internet and social media have brought organizations closer to their stakeholders, laying the groundwork for new ways of collaborating and creating value together like never before. Citizensourcing is quite possibly the best example.

Citizensourcing

Citizensourcing is the practice of crowdsourcing used by governments looking to tap into the collective intelligence of the citizens. Citizensourcing allows governments to collect ideas, suggestions and opinions from their citizens — thereby creating a permanent feedback loop of communication.

“Cities are a powerhouse of collective intelligence. Thanks to modern technologies, time has come to unlock the wisdom of the crowd”.

Yesterday

Current citizen engagement in public policy stem from 18th-century practices: town hall meetings, in-person visits, phone calls or bureaucratic forms that allowed citizens to submit an idea. All rather time-consuming, ineffective and expensive options.

Great ideas and valuable feedback get lost, as these forms of engagement take too much effort for both citizens and cities. Furthermore, communication happens in private between city government and citizens. Citizens are restricted in communication about ways to improve their city.

Today

Technological advances have restructured societal organization; we’re living a digital age in which citizens are connected through networks. This creates unseen opportunities for cities to get closer to their citizens and serve them better. Recently we have seen several cities trying to build a strong online presence on social media channels.

Yet, they have discovered that communicating with their citizens over Twitter and Facebook is far from optimal. Messages get lost in the information overload that characterises those platforms, resulting in a lack of structured communication.

Tomorrow

Imagine your town hall meetings moving from a stuffy conference room to an online platform… but then 24/7, accessible from every possible device. Citizensourcing on a dedicated platform is an inexpensive way for cities to get valuable input in the form of ideas, feedback and opinions from their citizens.

Whereas only a very small proportion of citizens engage in the time-consuming offline participation, an online platform allows you to multiply your reach by tenfolds. You reach an audience of citizens that you couldn’t reach before, which makes an online platform a well-needed addition to existing off-line channels in every city.

“When citizens are given a platform to share their ideas in an easy and fun way and get rewarded for their valuable input, that’s when the wisdom of the crowd is truly unlocked.”

The most immediate benefit to cities is evident: crowdsourcing new urban ideas drives advanced innovations. At least as important as offering a new channel for proposals, is that engagement leads to a better understanding of the different needs citizens have.

Citizenlab

And yes, it works

Fortunately, we witness more and more cities leveraging technology to co-create with their citizens. Whereas crowdsourcing has been successfully by several companies (world’s biggest companies like Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, Unilever and P&G apply crowdsourcing extensively), citizensourcing is still waiting for mass adoption by cities. However, there are several early success stories that show the gigantic potential:

  • The Colombian city Medellín has its own crowdsourcing platform MiMedellín on which citizens share their urban solutions for problems the city faces. It turned out to be a big success: having collected more than 2,300 (!) posted ideas, the government is already developing policies with help from the creativity of citizens.
  • In the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, the city council succeeded in attracting over 60% of the citizens to the citizensourcing website Better Reykjavik. Since Reykjavik implemented their city platform, they have spent €1.9 million on developing more than 200 projects based on ideas from citizens.
  • Paris held a participatory budgeting process, called ‘Madame Mayor, I have an idea’, that brought forward wonderful projects. For example, receiving well over 20,000 votes, a vertical garden project earned a€2 million from the city government. Other popular ideas included school gardens, neighbourhood recycling centers and co-working spaces for students and entrepreneurs.

Citizenlab, Vertical Gardens in Paris

About CitizenLab

Citizenlab wants to help your city with tapping into citizen brainpower in order to create similar success stories. Our citizensourcing software is designed in a way that makes it easy and rewarding for your citizens to co-create their city, which leads to a maximum online civic engagement. CitizenLab allows you thereby to keep track of your citizens’ engagement and to reward them accordingly.

Wanted: your city

We are currently looking for partner cities to roll out pilot projects. In case your city could be interested, click here to ask for more information. We’ll get back to you in max. 4-5 hours.

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Involved city makers
Wietse Van Ransbeeck
Founder & CEO Citizenlab
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