Citizens as policy influecers

Our model for Future of Government 2030+ tries to address the issue of open democracy (making democracy more open and participatory) from the perspective of citizen engagement and participation. Our concept presents a future scenario where citizens have penetrated local decision making beyond ‘casting a vote’. We explore open democracy as an inclusive way of policy making, shifting from a ‘yes and no’ voting system to one that involves citizens to frame issues, formulate questions and propose solutions relevant to their community.

Role of government

Central government’s role remains largely the same. But, by 2020, it has already approved a Universal Basic Income, as the enabler for citizen involvement in policy making. By then and in the following years, government and business align: any citizen above 18 years can swap 4h of work for 4h per week of policy shaping. They execute by participating in City Council meetings as Competence Units. They can also execute by collecting evidence, doing research or learning how to design policy.

The education system has incorporated the fundamental principles of policy making into its core curriculum since Primary School. Local government is changing from a service provider to an enabler. As such Councillors and Council Officers have slightly different roles.

  • Councillors are responsible for citizen-led policy making, they orchestrate and decide on the composition of the expert citizen clusters, they run local government, and are responsible for the efficacy and representativeness of the citizen-led process
  • Officers are skilled senior facilitators of the citizen meetings, leading them to good port and managing agendas, time and budget

Role of citizens

Citizens are active participants in the policy decision-making process. Instead of being merely informed and passive or ‘outside the room’ they are engaged and participate directly as problem solvers in City Council meetings. These are organised by government officials as competence clusters. In this way, key stakeholder needs are represented more fairly, timely, democratically and efficaciously.

This makes the policy decision making process more collaborative, really putting parts of it in the hands of citizens. It becomes more fair and representative, as the citizen clusters are made up of the most appropriate / efficient / fair / productive combination of stakeholders.

Citizens have penetrated local decision making beyond casting a vote

Our Scenario​​

Our concept relates to a scenario with the following working title and characteristics (this was given to us): Citizen Centric Hyper E-government.

The rise of AI in government and the concept of citizen centrism brought a new design of the government. Governments have a real-time understanding of socio-economic problems; public services can be offered predictively to citizens. Participation in decision making is easily possible. Citizens are the sovereign over their data, privacy is key.

Our concept focuses on a government which is closely supported by semantic sense-making technology. The technology enables citizens to participate as policy designers in real time. The data of the citizens is used by the technology, but is controlled by its users. They are still somewhat “sovereign” over their data. Privacy is key.

Role of technology

In spite of a trend to privacy and control, people’s opinions and views around policies are shared in the discussions in real time and published / visualised publicly (inside the meeting for the competence cluster and outside–via devices–for the general public). This is the case should they choose to participate, they can opt out anytime; but nobody does, as the quality of data is better when they opt in to share.

Semantic sense-making is the value add that tech brings to the new model, providing:

  • Real time processing and analysis
  • Almost real time publishing of information in human friendly format and open access
  • Real-time sharing and participation in competence unit council meetings
  • Real time processing and clustering of citizen inputs and evidence submission to meetings

How does the semantic sense-making help the citizens to become influencers and the local government (councillors and officers) be more transparent?

Capabilities of the future citizen

  • Have their voice heard via real problem solving
  • Collaborate in a relevant cluster of local policy making groups
  • Act decisively, using time and funding effectively
  • Access the decision making processes in real time from anywhere and participate
  • Obtain real time analytical information about the process
  • Access all information and reports in easy, accessible open formats in real time

Capabilities of the future councillor

  • Get citizen information in real time, with analysis of exemplars and cases
  • Decide the composition of competence clusters for each issue
  • Assess better state of each discussion in order to move it forward
  • Monitor progress and engage citizens more effectively
  • Issue information and reports in easy, accessible open formats in real time

Feedback from experts

As part of our design process, we were asked to test the concept described above. Last week we ran a small session of speed presentations with policy experts, academics, FutureGov and Camden Council staff. We had ten minutes in four instances to present our model to small expert groups and get as much feedback as we could. We did 4-5′ presenting and collected insights and feedback for the remaining 5-6′.

Citizens of 2030 having a stipend in the vein of Basic Universal Income, so that they can participate in regular policy making, was well liked. Many of the experts considered this model of ‘paid citizenship’ as ‘positive’. A few said it reminded them of ‘jury duty’ and, ‘could work’; some public servants also suggested it could be orchestrated as two year mandatory rotations, something like the Swiss military service.

The idea of citizen expert or competence clusters, selected by councillors, who still hold powers, was also well accepted. The composition of the expert cluster is important, as it should represent all key stakeholders, including subject matter experts, residents, affected business or individuals, and so forth. We were reminded that sometimes ‘politics’ is neither ‘competence’ nor ‘evidence’ lead.

Councillors, with the assistance of sense-making and matching technologies run by government, can ensure that the composition of the cluster is fair and truly representative. Like jury duty, whoever they consider should be there, will be there, as they’re paid for that. Recap: it’s 2030, an Act launched in 2020 to change the trend in local policy participation, which includes time and income for participation is in place. This was understood by experts and really well accepted.

However, to justify adoption, we had to remind our audience that, back in 2020 the launch of this Act also had implications for Education, in order to ‘normalise’ it. As such, citizens learn, since Primary School, all about citizen participation and how to engage. Just like literacy and numeracy, public participation has become a pillar of the educational curriculum.

Tools we used to demonstrate our early concept

We can happily say that our expert audience understood the model. We used this deck of Gov2030_Workshop cardboard slides to make a fast 4 minute narrative to situate the model, its drivers and enabling factors. The demo also included a Lego board, which showed the town hall with and without the citizen experts and a mock-up newspaper cover of Camden New Journal 2030 to help situate our audience in the future context.

WS w experts

From the feedback, the key issues to take back to design board for further examination include:

  • Define the new role of councillors and officers more explicitly
  • How will meetings be managed / facilitated? Think of roles and duties
  • Consider the boundaries and scope of local vs central government and how it may impact our model
  • Take into account the particular dynamics of politics vs business or civic life
  • Examine in more depth bias-risks of semantic sense-making technologies
    • We will also examine how peer to peer technologies or distributed ledger type technologies could help enact privacy and user control, as this subject was of concern

We think our physical model will be more like an installation, a sort of informative art piece, that will work as a symbolic rendering of ‘how things are then’. It will have a companion framework, describing how the model actually works (actors, roles, mechanics, etc.). Or it could be more like a game, where the rules and mechanics of these new meetings are enacted.

We are, at this stage (just two weeks left, but don’t let the panic monster get you!), considering use of materials like plexiglas, 3D plastics, and laser cut wood. Below, some inspirations we have been checking out.

Plexi, paper

 

 

 

 

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