Agencies Urged to Engage More Citizens in Government Problem-Solving

On the local level, the city of Boston for seven years has used a mobile app called Citizens Connect to improve reporting of potholes, damaged signs and graffiti. On the local level, the city of Boston for seven years has used a mobile app called Citizens Connect to improve reporting of potholes, damaged signs and graffiti. Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock.com

The federal government could move far beyond its current challenge.gov website in enlisting citizen help in policy problem-solving, says a new report  from the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

A convergence of budget austerity, more complex policy problems and the prevalence of digital technology ripens the current era for all government agencies to adopt more of the private-sector’s techniques for taking advantage of “customers’” thoughts and communications tools, according to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee business and health information professors Satish Nambisan and Priya Nambisan.

From e-petitions to open-source databases, new resources in the digital era are spawning a shift in the potential role of a citizen from “that of a passive service beneficiary to that of an active, informed partner or co-creator in public service innovation and problem-solving,” they write in Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation in Public Services, part of the IBM Washington center’s series titled “Collaborating Across Boundaries.”

For example, “in the online and offline customer communities of companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Harley-Davidson, individual customers assume the role of a product evangelist and influence peers’ perceptions of new products, thereby facilitating their rapid diffusion,” the professors write. “Such a role is increasingly relevant for citizens in diffusing public sector innovation.”

This approach enables citizens to play four basic roles, the report says: as explorers of problems, ideators of solutions, designers of implementation and diffusers of innovation “among well-defined target populations.”

Some current administration initiatives demonstrate the government’s adoption of the strategy, including the General Services Administration’s online suggestion box at challenge.gov and the White House “We the People” petitions.

On the local level, the city of Boston for seven years has used a mobile app called Citizens Connect to improve reporting of potholes, damaged signs and graffiti. Overseas, the report notes, e-petitions have been implemented by governments in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and South Korea to refine programs in such areas as public transportation and senior living.

The IBM report offers insights on tapping citizen engagement while tailoring the approach to duration and scale of innovation; managing citizen expectations; linking the agency’s internal organization with external partners, and embedding citizen engagement more broadly within the agency’s goals. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.