Around the world, government organizations are constantly seeking new ways to engage with citizens—and rightfully so. Today, many governments are facing the challenge of having to balance cost cutting while at the same time using ICT as an enabler of economic growth. As recently discussed on the Microsoft on Government blog, involving constituents and all parties interested in this process can help governments not only build mutual understanding with their stakeholders about budget realities, but can also help governments map out future services and solutions that more closely align with what citizens actually want. Today, these types of dialogues are increasingly happening online through grass roots movements and are becoming more ad-hoc in nature.
Embracing the evolving way in which governments interact with their stakeholders, for the past several years Microsoft has hosted a series of “GovCamps” in countries around the world. These non-traditional “unconferences” are designed to bring together key sectors of a country, including national and local government, industry, media, academia, civil society, and other groups in an open conversation about national challenges and planning for the future.
A key part of GovCamps is the use of crowdsourcing. In other words, tapping into the collective intelligence of participants to discuss and propose solutions to presented challenges. It’s a highly-transparent and open process, with ideas being shared via the GovCamp website, as well as through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
At GovCamps, participants work on developing practical solutions to a wide variety of government issues. Activities can range from improving government Web applications to drafting policy that addresses stakeholder concerns. Since we first began organizing these events, the conversations have become a force of nature, beginning long before a planned GovCamp and continuing long afterward with new ideas being generated, as well as new projects and meet-ups.
TeaCamp London is a perfect example of this, which offers a forum for those who have attended GovCamps and want to continue the conversation. Today, the group gathers on a monthly basis to discuss how the government can use the Internet in more effective ways. I believe that examples like TeaCamp London speak to the real demand that’s out there for these types of interactive events.
Another example that I encourage you to check out is GovCamp Scotland, which took place last November at University of Edinburgh. Attendees gathered to discuss the vision for Scotland’s Digital Future, the current state of Gov 2.0, and how the government and constituents can work together more effectively moving forward. In my opinion, it’s one of the most successful Gov camps events we’ve held to date. We truly had 100% participation from every sector of the country and everybody signed up to improve and shape Scotland’s Digital future.
Citizens already have great ideas – the key is engaging them in the right dialogues with the right people to truly affect change. GovCamps are just one of the many ways Microsoft is helping government organizations increase engagement with their constituents. If you’d like to learn more about our work in this area, I invite you to check out our Service Delivery and Citizen Engagement site for more information.
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