Last week I attend The Public Sector Show in London, an event designed specifically to address the challenges and issues of the public sector.

With 6 simultaneous seminars they covered a wide range of topics and there was a floor full of stands of suppliers.

The highlights of the event:

1- A “therapy session” with Ellis Pitt from the Design Council. I found him standing on a corner by a wall filled with post its. I had to wait for him to be free like an hour; two ladies seemed to be really engaged in the discussion. When it was my time, I sat down by the table and I started telling him what we do in Citymart.com and what is my research about and so on. He was was listening carefully and taking notes, drawing circles and connecting the dotes. At the end he was able to have a clear picture of our complex work and it was useful for me to spot new insights, new drivers for tackling our issues. I value his approach: stop for a moment, think, visualize, reflect…what do you see now?

photo (2)

2- The Escher Group and some  partners were announced to shared their insights into community engagement, digital inclusion, and how a collaborative community approach is the future for communicating with local citizens. I was fist on the line.

As far as I understood the Escher group has developed devices that can collect data from citizens. They share a case study in which some interactive screens were placed around the city (e.g. post office) with questionnaires. I really don’t see much collaboration as the title was promising but I recognize that the “touch” technology brings new opportunities to reach the mass.

It was shocking to know that “16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still don’t have Basic Online Skills – yet 90% of all jobs will require ICT skills by 2015” This statement was given by a representative of  GO-ON UK, an organization with the aim of making the UK the most digitally skilled nation in the world.

3-  A super enthusiastic Open Data fan and Director for Transparency and Open Data. Paul Maltby talked about new opportunities to improve public services through governmental data. Check out the Open Data Institute (ODI); it’s a “first-of-its-kind” incubator environment for individuals and organisations to research and exploit the potential of ‘open data’

4- The building: the Business Design Center dates from 1861; it used to be the Agricultural Hall.


I’m thrilled with this initiative; it makes me believe in the future of my country 🙂

The Net Party was founded in 2012 by a group of entrepreneurs working on establishing a collaborative democracy. The political party is based on an open source software platform that will allow citizens to have a say on the congress decisions. If they get seats at the congress they will act based on the citizen’s votes on each decision. The platform is still under development but the team is growing and they intend to run in the upcoming elections in October 2013.

Find them here.

A rough translation of the video:

It has changed how we communicate each other. It has changed how we connect each other; the way we read; the way we create have changed.

The way in which we communicate each other has changed. The way we connect each other has changed; the way we read; the way we create have changed. Our relationships have changed.

But democracy is still the same.
Democracy is not solving our current problems.
We need to re-think democracy.
How can we build a participatory democracy, horizontal and connected?

A peer Network?
The Net Party
A simple idea
It’s a platform in which citizens vote and their authorities respect the vote.
A participatory democracy network.
Literally a bridge in between your “click” and the authority.
We have developed an open source prototype, and we want to take it to the next stage, to hack the system and open the band with of democracy.
We are going to run our candidature on next elections in 2013, and we need your support.


Vamos La Red!

A couple of weeks ago I visited MindLab, a cross-ministerial innovation unit from Danish government. The multidisciplinary team is helping the ministries’ decision-makers and employees to improve public services with a citizen-center approach.

I’m quite impressed with their work, and office! Just to mention a few of their initiatives, they have helped the tax office to improve their communication; a clinic, to improve the patient experience; and the Labor Market to explore opportunities of matching unemployed with mentors.

Check their website, it’s possible to download the MinLab method cards; a set of tools to work with user-centered innovation. http://www.mind-lab.dk/en/methods


…deliberation is expected to lead to empathy with the other and a broadened sense of people’s own interests through an egalitarian, open-minded and reciprocal process of reasoned argumentation. Following from this result are other benefits: citizens are more enlightened about their own and others’ needs and experiences, can better resolve deep conflict, are more engaged in politics, place their faith in the basic tenets of democracy, perceive their political system as legitimate, and lead a healthier civic life. Carpini, Michael X. Delli


The Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is an innovative way of publicly evaluating ballot measures so voters have easy access to clear, useful, and trustworthy information at election time.

During each five-day review, two panels of 24 randomly selected and demographically balanced Oregonians heard arguments for and against the measure and call upon subject-area experts

Oregon is now the first state in the nation to adopt this innovative policy into law.

I think this initiative is needed mostly because politicians and policymakers don’t speak our language. It’s the same that happens when doctors use medical terms to explain our condition. How we are supposed to take an informed decision if we don’t understand their terminology?

I think I’m in the right moment to work on citizen engagement.  Now more that ever this could be a reality thanks to the Internet and the ongoing innovation in information and communication technology. However, it’s a major challenge to create engaging platforms for government purposes.

The task requires advanced expertise in software design accompanied by sensitivity to the human/machine interactions that must be manages. Its goal is development of citizen-friendly software ordinary people can use both individually and in a group setting. The best products will allow citizens to clarify their objectives, explore solutions and accurately project their likely or possible consequences, understand the perspectives and interest of others, widen the array of alternatives considered  make rational informed choices, and work toward consensus.

This is what Redburn & Buss wrote in “Modernizing Democracy” about Design and Develop IT Decision Support. But let’s see what people say. The following video by Thinkpublic is a manifesto for designing online public services

Citizen sourcing is the government adoption of crowdsourcing techniques for the purposes of (1) enlisting citizens in the design and execution of government services and to (2) tapping into the citizenry’s collective intelligence for solutions and situational awareness. Applications of citizen sourcing include:

  • The use of ideation tools by government agencies to collect ideas and suggestions from the public
  • The adoption of citizen reporting platforms, such as for crime or emergency response information
  • The government monitoring of social media, such as Twitter, for situational awareness, such as with regard to natural disasters

I bring today one of the many services that can be used by governments to engage citizens in civic duties.

SeeClickFix is an online platform for citizens to report issues to their local government (similar to FixMyStreet and CitySourced). For example, somebody in San Francisco posted yesterday that a street news paper box was broken. He added a picture and a short description of the event. Today, that issue has the status of “acknowledge”, which means it has been seen by a local authority and hopefully they will do something about it. Isn’t it great?

It combines two things we do all the time: complaining and taking pictures with the mobile phone!


They claim that this service empower citizens because it enables anyone to report an issue, and engages citizens, because: “Citizens who take the time to report even minor issues and see them fixed are likely to get more engaged in their local communities. It’s called a self-reinforcing loop. This also makes people happy and everyone benefits from that.”

Well, there are many levels of citizen participation and I think this service is not bringing much empowerment. I’ll probably review theses levels on a future post. But, I’ll start by sharing the Wheel of Participation by  Scott Davidson – that helps to support my argument. According to this model, SeeClickFix offers a service that improves consultation among the government and citizens.

wheel of participation