Saturday 13 October 2012

Civic starters for ten

This is a personal blog. You are gently reminded of this. The thinking behind this post was done entirely on a Saturday and in my own time and in my own head, without discussing it with anyone else who might be or is anything to do with work. It's important, that bit. This blog is for my thinking and noodling and reflection.

Kickstarter is coming to the UK. If you're sitting there thinking so far, so meh, that's fine. Hopefully by the end of this post you will be thinking hell yeah lets go change the world to look like how the majority wants it to look. Or something.

Fix my street, a supercool web app that became other kinds of apps written by MySociety, ably steered by Mr Tom Steinberg, it rocks. It allows citizens in civic spaces to go 'oh hai Council, there's something wrong with the street I'm in, please fix it'.

Sometimes the Council has enough time and resources to do one of these things:
  • fix the problem and tell the customer
  • fix the problem and not tell the customer
  • not fix the problem because they don't have the resource
  • not fix the problem because it's not a priority
  • not fix the problem cos they've never heard of fix my street
3 to 2 says the problem isn't getting fixed and 1 to 1 says even if it does get fixed you aren't going to know it was fixed by the Council, a somewhat silly missed opportunity for free PR if ever there was one. Anyway, fix my street relies a lot on the Council.

Kickstarter says no one might have to any more. All a civic minded developer has to do is create a map using Ushahidi or some other free resource, publicise it and ask people to contribute to it when they see something that annoys them. That might be anything from:
  • not enough sole traders in the high street
  • not enough bins
  • bins in the wrong places
  • dropped kerbs in the wrong places
  • no dropped kerbs at all
Then they need to ask people to vote on the existing flags of issues raised, perhaps on a rolling basis, perhaps within a close timeframe.

And then they need to pick the most popular complaints or ideas for fixes, pitch them back at the residents in the local area and ask them to fund fixing them through Kickstarter.

Behind this is a really big question.

Is the British public prepared to quite literally put its money where its mouth is? And I don't know the answer to that question. And there's this whole issue around people already paid their Council Tax. But if the problems and ideas were things which would never be fixed through the Council or any other service funded by Council Tax then this becomes something else, in reality.

It becomes volunteering. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lou
    Not sure if you've seen the demonstrator project we recently launched with LB Lambeth and Dept for Communities?

    One of its features is 'Add my data' a crowd-sourcing tool so volunteers can be invited to gather local data that would be too expensive for the council to gather itself.

    The tool is available for public services to replicate under a creative commons license.