All around the world, we are seeing fundamental changes in the meaning of governance and ‘networked democracy‘ – particularly in the shifting role of citizens, from passive consumers of government services to active participants.
This is also having a major impact on the way public services are designed and delivered.
As MindLab’s Christian Bason points out, the traditional, one-sided model of government service delivery is being supplanted by an activation of citizens’ resources in peer-to-peer services. FutureGov’s Casserole Club is a prime example.
There is also a shift from a transactional understanding of services (e.g. How do I get the best service for the taxes I pay?) to a cooperative ideal, where relationships between citizens can be leveraged for more effective service.
Montenegro’s ‘Be Responsible’ mobile app, mobilizing citizens to fight informal economy, is a great example of this new paradigm.
Not surprisingly, this shifting definition of ‘policy maker’ is a challenge for public servants. In an increasingly connected world, where constant chaos and rapid change is the new normal, it can be difficult to know what the actual problem is, much less what the possible solutions may be.
As a result, we are seeing many governments moving away from traditional decision-making, towards designing policy-making where each service is a continual experiment, constantly adapting to feedback from the people it affects.
The United Kingdom, for instance, now uses ‘experimentation’ as one of its main criteria in approving funds for agile policy making.
In this context, the Georgian Government’s Public Service Development Agency (PSDA) is looking to shift from an engine of bureaucracy to an engine of innovation, using the growing base of smart citizens as a resource for more effective governance.
Together with UNDP in Georgia, we are exploring the learning-by-doing approach, through hands-on experimentation that we hope will bridge the gap between decision-makers’ and citizens’ viewpoints on important issues.
We will investigate design thinking and behavioural insights in three interrelated and important policy areas:
- Promotion of e-ID cards among the citizens of Georgia. PSDA has been issuing electronic ID cards since August, 2011. These cards provide a fast, inexpensive, and secure approach to online transactions, providing security against identity theft, and allowing easy access to government services. In spite of their advantages, their introduction aroused some controversy, perhaps due to low public awareness of the program.
Thus our intention is to approach the issue through citizen-centric innovation, focusing on the user’s expectations. This will allow PSDA to develop a proper strategy and encourage the acceptance of the cards by the wider public.
- Introducing a digital stamp/seal for remote clients. Accessing personal documents such as birth certificates and diplomas in a traditional, paper-based form takes a lot of time, discriminates against people who live in remote locations, and may not very user-friendly.
Our hunch is that digitizing these services would save money and time for both citizens and companies. For users, it may allow easier and friendlier processing of transactions in a digital environment, and for the government it will provide a more streamlined and effective use of tax funds.
- Fostering positive practices among parents and caregivers in Georgia. We would like to create an environment where parents and caregivers can access the right type of information about proper prenatal and childcare.
We will work hard with citizens to better understand what prevents access to essential information while helping to spread good ‘rules of thumb’ for parenting.
Are new approaches to governance being used in your country? We’d like to hear your success stories.