For the people by the people: Co- for a more engaging democracy beyond voting

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 22 / 05 / 2015

Nowadays, if anything all kinds of companies coincide to yearn for is engagement. Organizations of all sizes and sectors want more engagement from their customers, their members, their employees, their partners and providers, etc. Everyone seems to want to engage you…. except most governments.

Governments, of course, want you to pay your taxes. Beyond that, it’s for political parties to engage you every four years to vote them. But even if you don’t do it… it’s OK. As long as such a low percentage as 40-50% (or even less) citizens vote, parliaments are going to fill up with the exact same number of political representatives anyway.

Too bad for democracy. Decreasing participation rates in elections showed in most western democracies it’s not a trifle not to worry about. Even when still voting, an increasing number of people feel a growing disengagement from public administration affairs that, on the other hand, so deeply affects them many times. More and more citizens see themselves as mere spectators of government projects while methods and ways for participation are so scarce and limited and have not essentially changed in many decades.

We think more collaboration and co-innovation between governments and governed will be a key component for a new type of more engaging democracy. New technologies and digital tools allow today to harness the problem-solving prowess of citizens better than never before. Business are already learning that unlocking the wisdom of the crowds can lead to better solutions. Governments should likewise be more active in engaging citizens as strategic partners in solving problems, creating solutions, and innovating in all kinds of matters related to collective affairs.

The key concept is, of course, Open Government, an idea turned too often more of a buzzword with a propagandistic aim than an honest attempt to increase citizen participation in innovative and more engaging ways. Still, a growing number of Co- initiatives from public administrations are getting closer to a truly efficient and democratic way to leverage crowdsourcing from people.

Here you have some few examples of many, selected to show the diversity of matters and countries where being applied.

Open Government Camps

‘Open Government Camp’ is an Open Government initiative in Norway consisting on a series of workshops which tackled current challenges and issues to find new solutions. Danish citizens, businesses, NGOs and public authorities rolled up their sleeves and set to work together to develop new ideas, to learn from each other, and to come up with innovative solutions to tough challenges. The camp dealt with issues as citizenship and citizen initiatives, democracy and collaborative decision making, open government data, open source development, social media, relationships, networks and crowdsourcing, collaborative innovation, innovation culture and leadership and public-private partnerships and ecosystems.

National Open Government Camp Denmark


Bottom-up Budgeting

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which local people directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Advocates of Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), also known as Bottom-up Budgeting, insist empowering people to decide together how to spend public money deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective. GPBP changes how people can engage in democracy by crafting processes that build individuals’ skills and knowledge to develop new community leaders, bring neighbors together across divides to build stronger communities, and connect residents, experts, and officials to make better decisions together.

Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process Brings Potable Water to 53 Barangays in Northern Mindanao


Monitoring Open Data

Open Data is worthless if not turned into useful insights. Government transparency initiatives are sterile if nobody is looking through the glass wall. As it happens in some other countries, the Italian government releases as open data the information on the projects funded and on the beneficiaries of the subsidies. All the data is integrated with interactive visualizations on the national portal of OpenCoesione. The OpenCoesione Monithon initiative takes this transparency further: it asks citizens to actively engage with open government data and to produce valuable information through it.

Monithon, a Government “Monitoring Marathon” in Italy


How do you like our new national flag?

The New Zealand Flag Consideration Project is a crowdsourcing effort for the public to have a say in the national flag’s design. The flag has been changed before, but this is the first time New Zealanders will have a say about it. The project has a number of facets to it, including discussion groups, public workshops and a roadshow for people to express what they, as New Zealanders stand for.

The New Zealand Flag Consideration Project


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