Three ways that governments are engaging citizens

Learn from how India, Singapore and Brazil have done it.

It’s not you, it’s them. That should be the mantra of governments around the world. As populism increases, and citizens seem to lose trust in public bodies, it’s vital that officials include people in their work. GovInsider has gathered together three ways that governments can work with civil society, and ensure that people feel that their views matter to the bodies that serve them. 1. Using social media for social change Modi Clean India India has launched a dedicated social network to let citizens and businesses propose ideas to government. Called MyGov, the site works by launching challenges that citizens can respond to with ideas. These include big issues like cleaning up the Ganga, and smaller challenges like helping with tourism campaigns. Some challenges even award a cash prize. The site also allows Indians to submit questions and problems directly to the Prime Minister. He addresses these in a monthly radio show called ‘Mann Ki Baat’. India also engaged citizens in a nationwide movement called Clean India. It used social media to build a viral campaign, sharing photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sweeping the streets of Delhi. He was soon joined by movie stars, sportsmen, celebrities and civil servants. Modi’s use of technology allowed ordinary people to join in. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, it allowed personal shares, roped in celebrities and shared an important message - that sanitation is everyone’s responsibility. 2. Hacking for public good Singapore Air Force F16 Singapore’s Ministry of Defence has used hackathons to involve citizens in tech procurement. The Ministry’s business units worked directly with shortlisted teams on ways to use data analytics, for instance. In another hackathon, participants were asked to think of ways to use Internet of Things in areas ranging from ammunition tracking to medical services. In the weeks leading up to the hackathon, participants received met with the business teams and received training from tech companies. Apart from winning cash prizes, participants showcased their solutions to the defence community. Hackathons like these help broaden the government’s supplier base. They allow agencies to get ideas and support directly from the tech community, without a middleman or a tedious procurement process in between. 3. When citizens share skills with the government Sao Paulo The city of São Paulo, Brazil, has launched the Agents of Open Government programme, which allows private citizens to share in-demand skills with the government. The city invited residents to volunteer to train public servants in one of four areas: collaborative technology; transparency and open data; networked communication; and mapping and collaborative management. In 2016, the city held 1,200 workshops. This has resulted in a much more diverse pool of advisers than the government selects for itself. Of those people chosen to become citizen teachers, 42% are women and 40% from minority backgrounds. The skills governments need often come from unexpected sources, says Beth Simone Noveck who was Obama’s open government guru. “Expertise is not synonymous with credentials and status,” she says. “In many cases it’s about skills and lived experience.” The São Paulo example shows how governments can go beyond their local think tanks to get advice.