A Snapshot of The GovLab Wiki: Concepts and Case Studies in Citizen Participation

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance, the GovLab Wiki provides a collaborative repository of information and research at the nexus of technology, governance and citizenship. Every two weeks, The GovLab Blog will publish a snapshot of recent additions posted to the wiki. The following is a summary and collection of key findings from recent entries posted by GovLab Research and two student teams taking part in the GovLab Capstone at NYU Wagner.

WE NEED YOU: Please help us advance the field’s knowledge base by improving what we have and  sharing your insights and research on the GovLab Wiki.


Our latest updates to the wiki focus on concepts and case studies related to how institutions can become more legitimate and effective by engaging citizens as participants and collaborators. Evidence suggests that people are willing to engage in small, tangible tasks they view as useful or meaningful in exchange for a sense of contributing to something bigger than themselves.
  • Practices in collective intelligence – groups of individuals doing things collectively that result in “smart” solutions, such as crowdsourcing and open source intelligence – typically take one of three main forms:
    • An information market, where the crowd picks the eventual winner of some type of competition;
    • A widely publicized problem-solving exercise, where some specific problem is broadcast to a large network of potential problem-solvers; and
    • An ideation session, where anyone online can offer a suggestion.
  • Case studies from British Columbia, Canada (first published in the GovLab’s “Reimagining Governance in Practice” benchmarking report), explore online platforms – BC IdeasIdeas 2 Action – that allow the BC government to gain further insight into public opinion and help make citizen-generated policy ideas actionable.
  • Alternatively, citizens can get involved in policy-focused activities directly. Gov Together BC and Zooniverse offer easy ways for people to connect to volunteer opportunities that suit their individual interests, while Adopt-a-Hydrant connects community members to fulfill a real and specific public need.
  • Other organizations target populations with specific skills to collectively contribute to their core missions. For instance, the TED Open Translation Project engages translators in cities across the globe to expand access to the wealth of knowledge contained in the TED community.

Key Findings

Collective intelligence theories attempt to describe the phenomenon in which large, loosely organized groups of individuals come together to solve problems in highly effective ways.

  • Key finding: The intelligent leveraging of collective action offers exciting opportunities to solve problems and generate ideas in more creative, accurate, and efficient ways. However, in both the private and public sectors, more field research is needed on collective intelligence typologies, methods and definitions, as institutions work to discover their own best practices through experience.

BC Ideas is an innovation community and problem-solving marketplace in British Columbia, Canada that grew out of the prize-backed contest Solutions for Strong Communities.

  • Key finding:  Citizens and social entrepreneurs submitted 460 ideas for innovative projects that addressed pressing issues in the region, from health care to the environment. After a panel of judges narrowed the pool to 12 finalists, the online community voted on and selected 3 ideas, which received $15,000 each. Thirty additional ideas were funded by Ashoka Changemakers and their partners.

Ideas 2 Action was a seven-week online consultation that drew new ideas from the public for building a skilled workforce British Columbia.

  • Key finding: The consultation generated 500 contributions, just over 400 comments in the official discussion forum and approximately 100 ideas sent via private email, Twitter and Facebook. The Ideas2Action website provides information on the “125 actions and counting” that were inspired by the citizen consultation period.

GovTogetherBC provides British Columbians with a central location to find government consultation and community volunteering opportunities and get directly involved.

  • Key finding: The site promotes greater government transparency by publishing the full results of completed public consultation projects. British Columbians (or anyone who is interested) can access 119 consultations, 12 of which are currently active. The site also features 12 opportunities for citizens to get involved in their communities as volunteers.

Zooniverse connects volunteers from around the world to a variety of Citizen Science Alliance projects. Participants receive a small amount of targeted training in order to complete tasks such as classification or transcription.

  • Key finding: Zooniverse has over 1 million members participating in 21 active projects on subjects ranging from astronomy to climatology and the humanities.
Adopt-a-Hydrant allows citizens in Boston to claim responsibility for shoveling a fire hydrant after heavy snowfall.
  • Key Finding: The code for the program is public, and is being used by cities to meet other critical needs. For example, Honolulu had citizens adopt tsunami warning sirens to make sure they are working, and Seattle implemented the program for residents to adopt storm drains.

TED Open Translation Project aims to make TED’s full video library accessible to the non-English speaking world, by providing access to subtitles and interactive transcripts on every single video.

  • Key Finding: The Open Translation Project has currently produced 53,081 translations in 104 different languages, written by 11,629 translators.


The GovLab Capstone Expertise Team includes: Andrea Arce, Colin Bottles, Lauren Bush and Danielle Emery

The GovLab Capstone Crowdsourcing Team includes: Naomi Adland, Naomi Berlin, Dinorah Cantu Pedraza, Marisse Crenier Del Olmo, Hallie Martin and Chandan Sharma

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply