Over the last few years, the Government of British Columbia (BC), Canada has initiated a variety of practices and policies aimed at providing more legitimate and effective governance. Leveraging advances in technology, the BC Government has focused on changing how it engages with its citizens with the goal of optimizing the way it seeks input and develops and implements policy. The efforts are part of a broader trend among a wide variety of democratic governments to re-imagine public service and governance.
At the beginning of 2013, BC’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services and Open Government, now the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, partnered with the GovLab to produce “Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts.” The GovLab’s May 2013 report, made public today, makes clear that BC’s current practices to create a more open government, leverage citizen engagement to inform policy decisions, create new innovations, and provide improved public monitoring—though in many cases relatively new—are consistently among the strongest examples at either the provincial or national level.
According to Stefaan Verhulst, Chief of Research at the GovLab : “Our benchmarking study found that British Columbia’s various initiatives and experiments to create a more open and participatory governance culture has made it a leader in how to re-imagine governance. Leadership, along with the elimination of imperatives that may limit further experimentation, will be critical moving forward. And perhaps even more important, as with all initiatives to re-imaging governance worldwide, much more evaluation of what works, and why, will be needed to keep strengthening the value proposition behind the new practices and polices and provide proof-of-concept.”
The GovLab produced “Reimagining Governance in Practice” with the two central objectives:
- Benchmarking the current state of the BC Government’s efforts in improving transparency, citizen engagement and streamlined service delivery;
- Inspiring BC officials how to build upon the existing foundation by pointing to worthwhile practices and policies drawn from case studies and reflections of current practitioners and thinkers in the field.
For the report, GovLab Research identified two central themes to position BC’s efforts. The first focuses on the actual practices of innovative governance, exploring different platforms and activities initiated toward achieving specific goals. The second theme revolves around fostering a culture of innovation within government, which, in turn, can inspire and enable more innovative governance practices. Within each theme, the report provides detailed case studies on the efforts of the BC Government and other instructive examples of similar initiatives from different local, provincial and national governments, as well as motivating efforts from other sectors.
The Practice of Re-Imagining Governance
Current practices of governance innovation range from making government held datasets publically available to using prize-backed contests to inspire private-sector research and development to help solve public problems. The report’s exploration of innovative governance practices focuses on the following areas:
- Disclosure, transparency, and open data – featuring case studies of DataBC, Québec’s open data portal, Data.gov, Data.gov.uk, CKAN and Socrata.
- Engaging citizens to provide meaningful input into policy decisions – featuring case studies of BC’s GovTogetherBC, Skills for BC and Ideas 2 Actions; Consulting with Canadians, Regulations.gov, the UK’s FOIA Online, the World Bank’s Mobile Facilitation of Participatory Budgeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, YouGov and PlaceSpeak.
- Citizen-driven policy innovation (including the use of challenges and prizes) – featuring case studies of BC Ideas, Grand Challenges Canada, Challenge.gov, MashupAustralia, UNESCO’s Education for All Crowdsourcing Challenge, InnoCentive and XPRIZE.
- Citizen monitoring and enforcement – featuring case studies of DriveBC, 311 Toronto, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Credit Card Complaint Database, India’s I Paid A Bribe, the UK’s Patient Opinion, Ushahidi, SeeClickFix and FixMyStreet.
Toward a Culture of Re-Imagining Governance
While studying current practices provides the most immediate method for determining the proficiency and sophistication of a province or nation’s efforts to re-imagine governance, studying the cultural and policy infrastructure used by government in such efforts is also—perhaps even more—essential. The GovLab report, therefore, explores efforts taken to create a more innovative governance culture, focusing on the following foundational areas:
- Government-wide strategies – featuring case studies of BC, Canada, U.S., UK and Open Government Partnership.
- Shared technological frameworks and guidelines – featuring case studies of BC, Canada, U.S., UK and European Union
- Training and sharing best practices – featuring case studies of BC, Canada, U.S., India and Open Government Partnership.
- Research and evaluation mechanisms – featuring a case study of BC and information on developing conceptual frameworks, metrics and key evaluative questions.
The report recommends that studying and incorporating the articulated best practices and distinguishing characteristics from other localities, provinces, nations, companies and organizations in a systematic manner can help BC ensure its government remains uniquely transparent and proficient at engaging its citizens. The full report is available here. Please leave any comments or suggestions below: Are there inspirational examples of innovative citizen engagement, within government or otherwise, that we missed? Should we have included any other types of government interventions or variables of success in our analysis? What are some logical next steps for BC or any of the other governments studied in the report to maintain momentum and maximize impact?
Recommended Citation: Andrew Young, Christina Rogawski, Sabeel Rahman, and Stefaan Verhulst, “Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts,” The GovLab, May 2013, https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.thegovlab.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Reimagining+Governance+in+Practice+(1).pdf