Seriously, Governments Should Be Playful

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

As we know, citizen engagement is a top priority of governments around the world. Many are launching digital outreach projects such as Adopt-A-Hydrant (pictured to the right). This is good news for both their citizen and business constituents (as well as for the application and platform vendors). Engagement is good. But what is really the best way to do it? What form should these projects take? How should the applications be designed? One way that has proven successful is the game.

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eGovernment Transforms From Electronic To Engaged

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Engaging citizens in government isn’t a new concept. Referenda, ballot initiatives, and recall of elected leaders are common in the US and other democracies. Even the EU has recently sought to involve citizens through its European Citizens’ Initiative. This new program, however, has started in an era where new modes of constituent engagement are easier and cheaper. Obtaining the signatures required to place an initiative on a ballot or bring an issue to government leaders’ attention no longer requires endless hours in front of a shopping mall. New social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, or even more local sites like Everyblock in the US or Iniative.eu in Europe make it easier to reach out to citizens and for citizens to reach out to their governments.

And, the pattern extends across types of government and geographies. Political activists in Nigeria are using social media to drive election reforms. Political unrest and even revolution throughout the Middle East garner support via social media sites. Recently, citizens in China used social media to block destruction of trees in Nanjing.   

New tools specifically tailored to citizen engagement — such as citizen reporting platforms, open data infrastructure, and competition platforms — even further transform governance. These tools provide citizens with not only a voice but also a role in the governance process.

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Edmonton Offers Urban Planning Classes: Opportunities To Take Citizen Engagement To The Next Level

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

I love the idea of the Edmonton’s Planning Academy, which offers planning courses to anyone in the city.  What a great way to get citizens involved in the complex challenges of city planning!  It made me want to live in Edmonton.  OK, so maybe I’m kind of addicted to school, and taking classes (corporate learning programs, continuing studies programs and even the Red Cross have seen me in their classrooms in recent years).  But really, this one looks so cool I had to write about it. 

The City of Edmonton’s Planning Academy’s goal is to “provide a better understanding of the planning and development process in Edmonton.”  And, it grants a Certificate of Participation following completion of the three core courses and one elective.  These three core courses include:

  • Use Planning: The Big Picture.
  • Getting a Grip on Land Use Planning.  
  • Come Plan with Us: Using Your Voice.

And, the elective course options include:

  • Transportation.
  • Urban Design.
  • Transit Oriented Development.
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