Enabling the civic social layer

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing different models of ‘digital’ or ‘smart’ cities. Many of these models are heavily centered on the re-engineering of technical or physical layers of infrastructure.

In addition, these layers and their supporting processes are re-engineered through a top-to-bottom approach. After each layer has been ‘digitized’ and re-engineered, there are a series of business intelligence functions that are performed to validate that the fix is performing as designed.

There’s one thing missing from this approach: People

The best way to tap the social layer is by not just listening to the collective wisdom of people, but enabling them to act upon it. In order to enable the collective wisdom of people, we must create a (case-by-case) strategy for people to be actors and sensor of change.

People can be actors of sustainable change

Background: Sustainable change is driven by bottoms-up participation and collaboration. We use bottoms up approaches to elect our representatives, why not use the same model to enact change. Depending on the situation, this could leverage mechanism of crowd labor or funding. Sustainable change is not driven by empowering voices- it’s all about action.

What’s needed: Historically, challenges are shaped from the top-down, which provides the crowd a flawed view of the real issue. As a result, we need to empower people (citizens) to identify and shape community challenges. Next, we need to give them the ability to help lead change, whether through crowd-labor or crowd-funding; people yearn for a way to do more than just go to a website.

People can be sensors to validate change

Background: Business intelligence tools are helpful at giving us a big-picture overview; however, people provide a more accurate view of change on the ground. We can invest lots of money in fancy dashboards that give us the ‘big-picture’ or we can have a conversation with real people that are effected by the change.

What’s needed: We need online & offline components to collect, measure and analyze feedback from people. If something’s not working, we need do more than just collect complaints – we need to collected structure feedback on what can be improved. People, in themselves, can create adaptive business processes.


Enabling the civic social layer is about doing more than listening – it’s about action. We’re now at a point within the Government 2.0 movement where we must empower and enable the wisdom of the crowds to drive action. People are the most important aspect of a conversation, but what they say is only valuable if it can be acted upon.

About Dustin Haisler

Dustin Haisler is Director of Government Innovation at Spigit. He can be reached at dhaisler@spigit.com or on Twitter at @dustinhaisler.

1 Response

  1. @kurtyD

    Dustin- I agree 110% The work you are doing a Spigit speaks to bottoms up change. I know that Spigit is helping to transform ATT by unleashing their employees to contribute ideas. 

    We at CitySourced are interested in this public commenting space as well. We recently colloborated with Fehr & Peers as a subcontractor on their Washoe County NV Regional Transportation project to collect community feedback on bike & ped planning. Check the link http://renosparksbpp.com/



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