How to reimagine citizen engagement? – Kapu City

Hackathon team | Mar 2017

Project: Garage48 Mobile Lviv 2017 Hackathon

Project Background

Garage48 Mobile Lviv 2017  is a weekend long intensive development event to turn innovative ideas into working prototypes in 48 hours.

This time Garage48 is focusing on the opportunities of mobile development. During the 48 hours, teams consisting of programmers, designers, marketers, visionary entrepreneurs, project managers and other cool people will develop creative ideas to working prototypes. (Description from Garage48)

The project was comprised of 7 individuals. My role was research and UX.

Existing Conditions

Having had success with Future Dialog, a platform for governments to source ideas from citizens, Erno Launo wanted to continue to explore the potential of ‘smart cities’ at the hackathon. The initial idea centered around data, and how access to it, could allow cities to reinvent themselves.

Research Considerations

  • How are cities currently using data?
  • What datasets are available?
  • What datasets can be created?
  • Do residents have a desire to better their communities?
  • Are there reasons residents don’t engage more?
  • Are there preferred forms of interaction?
  • How does trust for the Government affect citizen engagement?

Process

We started off by identifying the stakeholders, their existing habits, and their needs. Doing this allowed us to generate a list of initial assumptions to test.

The team decided that rather than looking at existing data sets, there was more interest in re-imagining engagement. The thought was that it could lead to more active engagement overall and create new non-existent data sets, ultimately leading to more empathetic cities.

The critical assumption to test was resident desire to engage with their own community. We needed to find out if people wanted to get involved with their communities and if they did, what stopped them.

In order to test this under the constraints of the hackathon, we decided to survey the 100 or so participants and organizers. These were people of various ages and professions from Ukraine, Finland, Latvia, Belarus, and Estonia. The survey found that the majority of people (over 60%) do not get involved with their communities because they either don’t know how, or they admitted that it was too much work.

The responses supported our project idea.  By making a more democratic and accessible platform for civic engagement, there was a chance for many more citizens to engage with their communities.

We proceeded to brainstorm the ways in which this could be accomplished and we quickly came to the idea that civic engagement needed to meet people where they already were, and where they already communicate. This meant smartphones, maps, social networks, tags, and analytics. In short, this meant a digital town hall that worked with existing social networks and functioned with the new norms of digital communication.

Our concept imagined residents would authenticate through existing social networks, follow issues or neighborhoods relevant to them, easily invite friends and neighbors to participate in discussions and polls, raise funds, and ultimately take ideas from concepts, to live projects. Along the way, they would have the opportunity to engage and receive feedback from the relative governmental bodies in order to overcome legal and logistical burdens.

This was another assumption that we wanted to test. After having some mockups designed for the mobile experience, we connected with the Lviv city council and invited them to meet and discuss our idea. We got a positive response. They were particularly interested in the platform’s focus on citizen crowd funding. We learned that the city council has certain procedures and requirements for citizen proposed projects. These include identity and address authentication, and necessary amounts of votes. We also discovered that the city has a budget for supporting such projects, but that overall there was no significant public awareness or action around applying for these funds.

Ultimately, over 48 hours we prototyped an IOS app, engaged citizens and the city council, and designed a website in both Ukrainian and English.

Results

Key Takeaways

  • Relatively few people are actively involved with trying to change their communities.
  • Residents are not indifferent about their communities.
  • Cities have policies and procedures for citizen engagement projects.