“I tried everything to try to get people more engaged in the life of their city: I did online town halls, I tried to digitize them through America Speaks so people could do voting on their top priorities, we did traditional town halls, but all this was remarkably disconnected to the vast majority of people whose voices weren’t heard,” said California’s Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom. In his new book, Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, Newsom attempts to reconcile that disconnect.
The District of North Saanich has built more trust with their community by providing transparency in a way that makes sense to most people in this digital age: through their mobile devices. While the district previously had recordings of their meetings available on audio tapes (what are those?), residents would have to go to city hall to request to listen to the tape there. Today, North Saanich residents have access to all meetings, agendas, and minutes right from the comfort of their own home.
During yesterday’s launch webinar, I presented the positive effect of putting public feedback at the fingertips of government staff and elected officials with our new version of iLegislate. Based on the quantity and quality of the questions that were asked, it seems government innovators are eager to make mobility and community engagement work together.
For me, Newsom’s book Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, can be summed up in one word: inspiring. On a professional level, this subject hit really close to home as I’m part of the team working on our citizen engagement tool: CivicIdeasSM. We want to make it easier for the public to get involved with their government and help improve processes — as is noted in this book, ”two-way is the future.”
Innovation is nothing new. Certainly, we create new methods or tools to achieve our goals, but these creations are always based on the tools and materials we already have before us. Real innovation is often simply asking the question, “what if,” and answering how it can happen with spectacular results. Granicus’ most recent innovation came from the question: What if government leaders always understood what their community is thinking?
When creating an online digital government, the tools we select to achieve success are just as important a decision as choosing to start the initiative. In the case of Commerce City, CO, finding the right tools ended up being a five-year process of trial and error.
Loaded with interesting stories ranging from plastic bag bans to manhunts, yesterday’s hugely successful online presentation, Smart Government: the Top Six Ways to Harness Innovation, featured a trio of presenters who laid out what they collaboratively identified as the most important qualities needed for an effective innovation framework. Hidden in the presentation’s awesome body of insight was an understated common thread: Civic engagement tools create a model environment for innovation.