May 10, 2012

Fostering Civic Innovation and Engagement in San Mateo County

HOW CONNECTED do you feel to San Mateo County government?

Survey after survey shows that people want to have a better idea of what their elected officials are doing and they want their voices to be  heard.

The intersection of technology, policy and civic engagement is increasingly central to making local governments work for everyone. There are information and innovation gaps between municipalities throughout the sate, and we should be discovering ways to bridge those gaps and provide opportunities for governments to learn from one another and share innovative technologies that have real impact in their communities.

Now there is a statewide project that seeks to make all of that happen.

The California Civic Innovation Project (CCIP) focuses on identifying the best practices to improving service delivery, opening new channels for public voices and bridging the state's digital divides. It promotes innovations in technology, policy and practice that deepen engagement between government and communities throughout the sate. Through research and information-sharing, CCIP plans to build communities of practice within California's local governments.

I think this is an important initiative and it got me thinking.

What steps could San Mateo County take to give residents a better sense of what the Board of Supervisors is doing and how could more public voices be heard using technology?

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. The county could allow for YouTube testimony on the issues

2. The county could publish its checkbook online so people would have a better understanding of where the money comes from and how it's spent - and the site would allow for comments and the sharing of public ideas

3.  The county could sponsor a county "hackathon" aimed at the development of civic apps which residents would find valuable

4.  The county could experiment with online participatory budgeting

5. The county could explore ways to foster people driven viral marketing (and other online strategies) where the community sees a problem and the community harnesses new media tools to try and solve those problems

6. The county could use social media tools to leverage conversations with users of its various services

7. The county could supplement it's popular once a year "Citizens Academy" with an online version so that information sharing would be more widespread and ongoing. A community of interest could be developed of all past graduates and an online forum would provide for ongoing discussions of issues

8. The county could encourage the use of mobile media to promote healthy life style choices for young people

What are your ideas for using technology to help people connect with county government?

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