Richard White on Leveraging Your Community: San Francisco startup UserVoice allows governments, politicians, nonprofits and businesses small and large to harness the ideas and feedback of their employees, communities and citizens online. Gov 2.0 Radio host Adriel Hampton talks with CEO Richard White about best practices for local government use of this kind of feedback tool, and some of the best and worst examples of the platform in action.
I recently began reading The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good and felt compelled to highlight more people building business models around better government. The role of business and the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to government is at times under-played or discredited (sometimes, rightfully so), but it’s the backbone of a democratic society.
Consider this the first in a series. For starters, here are 10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works:
What we do:
FedScoop is a New Media and Events company serving key decision makers in the government IT community. We bring C-level executives from the federal government and IT community together via VIP events, video interviews and articles and blogs to collaborate, exchange best practices and identify ways to work together to solve common goals.
What we do:
UserVoice helps all types of organizations involved in government reach out to their constituents. Here are a few examples:
Political Campaigns – Inform your platform; uncover grassroots interest.
Civic Engagement – Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to improve government.
Internal Brainstorming – Tap the collective knowledge inside your organization to improve government.
What we do:
DotGov, Inc., is developing a mobile platform that will dramatically change how citizens interact with their local government. DotGov combines the power of Mobile Devices with Social Media and Open Data. It provides citizens with tools to directly interact with their city and benefit from all information and services local governments offer in an unprecedented way.
Conor White-Sullivan & Aaron Soules
- CEO/Co-founder (left)/CTO/Co-founder (right), Localocracy
- Founded: September 2008
- Open gov motto: All politics is Local
What we do:
Localocracy partners with local government and media to help citizens learn about local issues and influence their community. We confirm that participants are registered voters in the community and provide a space where they can ask questions, vote on issues, and rank the best reasons for supporting their side.
What we do:
Socrata is a socially enriched data-sharing platform optimized for data comprehension by non-technically trained audiences, without excluding technical audiences. Socrata empowers organizations to transform their data assets into hubs for social and civic engagement and interaction, on their own websites and also in mainstream media websites and social media sites.
- CEO, SeeClickFix
- Founded: September 2008
- Open gov motto: Participation Accountability Community
What we do:
SeeClickFix is an international tool enabled in 83 languages that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti or a littered parks to those accountable for the public space including local governments and community groups. SeeClickFix is available via the web where you can post issues and have your neighbors comment or vote on their resolution. Anybody can receive alerts via easy to create free-formed geographical alerting areas that we call watch areas. Also, If you have a blackberry, android or iPhone you can download our app and report a problem in your community with your gps location and a photo. 40% of the issues on SeeClickFix have already been fixed. From Argentina to Philadelphia citizens are using SeeClickFix to improve their communities.
- Co-Founder, FreedomSpeaks
- Founded: 2006
- Open gov motto: Transforming Civic Engagement
What we do:
FreedomSpeaks is a technology company focused on delivering interactive civic engagement platforms. Our mission is to transform civic engagement.
Our Core Values are shaping our culture and defining the character of our company, guiding how we behave and make decisions:
Stewardship: Building a heritage for future generations, acting with an owner mentality, and meeting our commitments to all internal and external stakeholders.
Best People: Attracting and developing the best talent for our business, stretching our people and developing a “can do” attitude.
Integrity: Inspiring trust by taking responsibility, acting ethically, and encouraging honest and open debate.
We deliver an interlocking product suite that includes:
- FreedomSpeaks.com (The first non-partisan political social network & largest database of politicians)
- FreedomSpeaks Pro (Lobby in a box SaaS product)
- CitySourced (Mobile civic engagement platform)
Alan W. Silberberg
What we do:
Path-breaking Gov 2.0 company that innovates and creates Government 2.0 + 3.0 Technology using custom Joomla based Social Networking/ SCRM and Advocacy. Consulting to Federal, State, Local Governments; International Corporations on: best media use; technology weaving to create maximum impact websites, tools, videos and conversations at highest strategic level.
What we do:
CiviGuard is the world’s most advanced civilian emergency communications platform. It promotes contextual messaging over information saturation. CiviGuard is location-aware, smartphone optimized and cloud-based – making near real-time civilian outreach during a crisis, a reality.
By Dustin Haisler, Manor, and Margarita Quihuis, Researcher at Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab
Today, more than ever, there has been lots of talk about open innovation, idea collection, ideation and many other terms used to describe the collection of citizen feedback. Most idea collection platforms have been lumped together and only compared on the basis of price alone. Based upon our research at Manor Labs, in collaboration with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, we have come to the conclusion that there are two distinctly different platforms for idea collection.
Specific-Task Motivated Idea Platforms
These platforms (like Ideascale, Uservoice, etc.) are great a gathering ideas for a specific purpose. For instance, many online voting challenges have adopted these platforms to gather votes for a set period of time. After a user expends their vote or votes they are no longer motivated to return to the platform aside from seeing what ideas are on top.
- Pros: Less Expensive Upfront Cost/ Great For Small Scale Challenges & Polls
- Cons: Poor Idea Management / Poor Analytics
How Manor Uses: We currently employee a specific-task motivated platform for our website error pages. The voting mechanism is built into our standard error page (e404) so that if someone receives an error trying to access content on our website, they have the ability to make a suggestion at the point of failure, thus embracing specific-task motivated idea collection.
How Ideas4Haiti.org Uses: Manor and Stanford’s Persuasive Technology team have teamed up to create Ideas4Haiti.org, a public-facing idea generation platform. We chose IdeaScale to run the back-end because of its Web 2.0 characteristics such as single sign-ons via Facebook Connect and Open ID logins and extreme ease of use. In this particular implementation, the ideas are broken out into different categories but the focus is on Haiti disaster relief and recovery. In this kind of idea crowdsourcing where people are primed and motivated to help for altruistic reasons, elaborate game mechanics and reward systems such as found on platforms like Spigit aren’t necessary. One area where IdeaScale could improve is to allow idea contributors to auto-post to their Facebook Wall and Twitter accounts to provide social proof of their activities and thus persuade friends in their social networks to participate as well.
Structured-Idea Collection Platforms
This type of platform (like Spigit) collects and manages ideas on a board scale within multiple departments of an agency. Unlike the Specific-Task Motivated Platforms, users are free to submit ideas at any time within multiple departments. Since users are not motivated by specific-tasks, they must be motivated by a game-mechanics (ranking & rewarding of actions). In this type of platform, ideas are driven by the participants through an idea funnel.
- Pros: Broad Idea Collection / Great Idea Management & Analytics / Less Expensive Over
- Cons: More Expensive Upfront Costs
How Manor Uses: We currently use this platform to manage internal and external idea collection for our agency. Participants are ranked and rewarded for their participation in the platform, which provides the needed motivation to make the platform sustainable (leaderboard below). Users receive “Innobucks” for different elements of participation, such as idea submission, voting, commenting, etc. These “Innobucks” can be traded in for products or honors that offer participant a tangible benefit to participating. This mechanism of reward is vital to the sustainability of idea collection over extended periods of time.
Both platforms are great; however, focused toward corporate and internal audiences. The user interface and engagement mechanisms are sorely lacking for public-facing innovation. In the future we hope that these platforms will incorporate elements that are as engaging and persuasive as Facebook or many of the social games produced by Zynga. In the future, ideation platforms will need to have a much more social and game feel to them in order to get wide public participation. Indeed, future platforms may be built on top of Facebook because that’s where the public is. Likewise we can imagine Zynga created a new game called Cityville (ala Farmville, etc) where part of the play is ideation.
We’re at the very beginning of open innovation – comparable to where social networks were 10 years ago. There were many attempts – 6 Degrees of Separation, Ryze, Multiply, Tribe.net and Friendster before we began to see breakthrough applications like MySpace and then the dominant player Facebook.
Although there is significant progress to be made with open innovation in government, there are great tools currently out there for agencies to experiment and incorporation within their internal and external innovation processes. The benefits and insights gained from using these tools can only accelerate everyone’s learning curve on what works.
Local governments and federal agencies are leveraging crowdsourcing feedback tools such as UserVoice to gauge citizen feedback. Here are 6 examples.
What other agencies are doing the same?
On behalf of Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn, welcome to Ideas for Seattle. The strength of our city comes from our talented citizens. We need your input during this transition so that we can work together to make Seattle a better place for all of us.
This is your city. Though these challenges are shared with a nation and indeed the world, we need to come up with our own solutions. How would you like to see the city handle these trying times?
What are your ideas to prepare our city for the 21st century economy?
Welcome to the official openNASA feedback and ideas forum. Do you have an idea? Do you recognize a good idea when you see one? We want to hear from you!
Welcome to the official feedback forum for the St Louis County Crime Incident Map. Do you have an idea to improve our site? Do you recognize a good idea when you see one? We want to hear from you!
UserVoice CEO Richard White answers the question ‘What does Gov 2.0 mean to you?’