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Towards We-Government: Collective and participative approaches for addressing local policy challenges

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Collective, participative approaches to local policy challenges

The EU-funded WeGovNow project developed and piloted a new type of civic engagement platform that supports communication and collaboration between citizens, civil society and public administrations.

Society

Across Europe, eGovernment is in a state of transformation. Whereas public administrations have traditionally viewed the end users of these online services as mere customers, they are now seeing them as partners. To help facilitate this transition from eGovernment to ‘We-Government’, the EU-funded WeGovNow (Towards We-Government: Collective and participative approaches for addressing local policy challenges) project developed and piloted an innovative platform of services for addressing local policy challenges through civic engagement. Unlike the single-purpose tools typically used for civic engagement, such as online citizen surveys and petition systems, WeGovNow is positioned as a comprehensive online eco-system. Using the platform, public administrations, citizens, civil society and businesses can come together to co-create practical solutions to local policy challenges. Within the platform, there are tools geared towards: community networking and self-organisation; identifying and tracking problems; democratic decision-making; crowd-sourcing ideas; and promoting volunteer opportunities. “Practically speaking, WeGovNow provides an integrated ‘toolbox’ that enables flexible support for diverse stakeholder participation process designs rather than a single, predefined participation ‘workflow’,” says Mr Lutz Kubitschke, project coordinator and executive at empirica, the project’s lead partner.

Engaging with citizens in Turin

The WeGovNow project was piloted in several cities, with the goal of utilising the project platform to address real-world policy challenges. In Turin, Italy, city administrators leveraged the platform to better involve non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and citizens in various decisions about cultural projects. For example, residents, stakeholders and public administrators used the platform to share ideas, collaborate and co-develop a section of the city’s Dora Park. According to Kubitschke, with the help of WeGovNow, the City of Turin has gained better access to citizen ideas and needs. “The platform proved to be an excellent means for reaching out to and engaging with a large number of participants – many of whom would typically not participate in traditional citizen forums like town hall meetings,” Kubitschke says. “Citizens also benefit by having the power to exert an influence over public policy-making.”

Solutions available to all public administrations

Across all three pilot municipalities, nearly 10 000 users have registered on the platform – proving that WeGovNow is scalable to a large number of users. Based on the success of the pilots, researchers have now made WeGovNow support services available to other public administrations via the project’s software partners. Furthermore, various software components developed or extended within the project can be downloaded as open source solutions. Finally, information is also available to assist those interested in implementing and/or further developing any of the WeGovNow components. This information provides interested users with a detailed overview of the solutions’ current levels of maturity and sustainability, but crucially also provides insights into how they can be successfully taken forward, thus cementing the project’s legacy for later innovations.

Keywords

WeGovNow, eGovernment, We-Government, public administrations, civic engagement, Turin, co-development, co-creation

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