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Engagement Best Practices

Governments are transforming for the Digital Age using a Citizen First Approach


By Mary Leong (PlaceSpeak) and Dante Ricci (SAP)
This post was originally published on the SAP Community blog

For more than two decades, governments across the globe focused on standardizing processes and introducing online services. This generated some return on investment. But with digital technology, governments can achieve so much more.

Putting the constituent’s point of view at the center of every decision is a key prerequisite for success in the digital age. This does not stop with citizen facing services, but also applies across a wide range of initiatives aimed at delivering on policy mandates.

To govern in a digital society, government organizations need to put themselves in the shoes of the citizen to transform operational, process and engagement models.

Citizen centered program execution is based on the government’s ability to orchestrate and deliver high-value outcomes utilizing citizen centric design principles and arming government stakeholders with the right data so they have 360-degree perspectives of the situation. That includes arming government stakeholders with citizens’ insights and ideas.

The ending result is a boost in efficiency and effectiveness and better quality of life.

There are several forward leaning government organizations using the combination of technology and a “citizen first mindset” to better meet policy goals.

Citizen Inclusion and Participation Customer Case Study

The first example comes from PlaceSpeak, a SAP Startup Focus company and 2017 SAP HANA Innovation Award winner (Social Hero Category). Its citizen-centric model places the individual at the heart of the public input process, making it easy for people to make a meaningful impact on the communities where they live, work, and play.

In January 2017, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and its member municipalities (City of Duncan, Town of Ladysmith, Town of Lake Cowichan and Municipality of North Cowichan) began to use PlaceSpeak for engaging with their constituents. Residents register once to be notified of new public consultations in the area. By creating a single stop for online participation, PlaceSpeak breaks down silos between the regional and municipal levels of government.

Since its launch, over 1,000 users have signed up in the region to stay involved. From affordable housing to food trucks, notifications keep PlaceSpeak users updated on opportunities for public input in their community. Each consultation includes a variety of tools and features for feedback collection, including simple polls, surveys, discussion forums, participatory mapping, ideation, and more. Instead of one-off consultations, PlaceSpeak provides a consistent user interface which supports a culture of ongoing engagement and makes civic participation habit-forming.

Finally, PlaceSpeak encourages organizations to keep participants updated throughout the consultation process, and “close the loop” at the end to show how the feedback collected helped inform the final decision. For example, administrators posted updates during each phase of the Cowichan Watershed consultation to keep residents informed and engaged. By demonstrating transparency and accountability, participants can see that their input is valuable, and they are are more likely to stay engaged and participate in the future.

Transparency and Accountability Customer Case Study

A much different example of a government entity focusing on citizen centricity is the Ministry of Finance in Estonia. When the Ministry of Finance balances its budget, the entire country watches. They need to make sure everyone from politicians to citizens have a reliable picture of the country’s financial and economic status.  They currently use SAP’s solutions to align strategy, finance, and daily operations to garner a clear understandable side-by-side view of real-time budget execution data and planned budget data so everyone can join in the budget arguments. Stakeholders may not agree with the numbers, but the government now knows they understand them better.

When it comes to citizen centricity, government organizations need to keep the citizen at the heart of the process — from budgeting and financial excellence to providing the ultimate digital constituent experience.

What government technology initiatives have taken shape in your communities that use a “citizen centric” approach in design and execution?

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