The Crowd Sourced Council: Review

Yesterday, I attended “The Crowdsourced Council: online tools for participative policy making” in London (twitter #tcsc). It was a very interesting and informative day and I’ve come away with a lot of good ideas and glimpses at some of the tools that Councils and other public bodies may be using to engage their citizens in the future.

My interest in attending the conference was fuelled by the CitizenScape product that Public-i have created, and for which I am, at least partly, responsible. In particular, I am interested in the potential integration of these products into CItizenScape, either as widgets or via APIs. This is subject to a number of factors, including product take up, availability, popularity, etc. However, my interest is in the technical, rather than the strategic, aspects of integration.

The event was split into 3 sections – after a brief introduction by Domanic Campbell (Managing Director, FutureGov), the first half was a brief ‘pitch’ (for want of a better word) from each of the 6 companies, followed by a period of ‘milling around’ – looking at each product and chatting with the reps – and rounded off with a question and answer session.

The Products

The products on show were (with weblinks and twitter feeds, where available):

I’m not going to do an in-depth review of each company / product – suffice it to say that each, in their own way, has a part to play in citizen engagement and bringing councils and communities together.

By the way, it’s interesting to note (to me at least) that quiet riots is using uservoice as its feedback channel.

Conclusion

All in all I found each product to be a potential feed for the CitizenScape platform. Some are more readily integrated than others, with widgetised versions of themselves that can be embedded (Yoosk, for example) although I would prefer to have API access as this will provide better access to meta data – which is, in part,  CItizenScape’s USP. Some spokespeople were more technical than others, so there’ll be a bit of follow-up required in order to complete the research into the viability of each of these products.

As I said at the start of this piece, there’s still a long way to go with getting councils using tools such as these, and so the timescales for implementing the integration of any of these is very much up in the air. The exceptions to this might be audioboo and quiet riots as they are not predominantly centred around council involvement – they are out there, content is being created and we should be listening to it and presenting it alongside the blogs, petitions and other feeds we are already taking.