The WeGovNow project completed the first 12 months of its three-year lifespan in February 2017. In the following we summarise WeGovNow's achievements during its first year against the overall context and objectives of the project.
Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project
For some years, developments in the online world have nourished hopes that public services can be considerably improved with help of innovative digital technologies. At the same time, views that power has shifted to the ‘customer’ have gained ground not only in the private sector but in the public sector as well. It is hoped that innovative online tools provide potentials for enabling citizens to play a more active role in the design and delivery of public services. Evidence available from international benchmarking studies suggests that achieving innovation in the public sector along these lines, however, is anything else but a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some electronic neighbourhood platforms and systems for citizen-driven issue reporting to public authorities have emerged over recent years. These do, however, not fully exploit the potential of participative social innovation to find novel solutions for existing problems and to engage in collective action and peer-to-peer networking for addressing issues which are not tackled satisfactorily by local authorities. Also, they tend to suffer from a poor link between open discussion and collective action, as they lack capability to achieve opinion formation – which means that their usefulness is limited to issues about which there is little if any controversy. However, a successful transformation from current ‘e-Government’ viewing the citizen as a customer to ‘We-Government’ where the citizen is viewed as a partner holds potentials for society placing greater trust in – and empowering – the public to play a far more active role in the functioning of their government. Also, it holds potentials for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of public services as they are currently delivered.
Against this background, WeGovNow aims at tapping into innovative technologies for effectively supporting coproduction by civic society stakeholders and collective proposition development. By integrating a set of innovative technologies into a unified citizen engagement platform, the project aims at overcoming the current limitations of existing digital tools for citizen reporting, e-participation, and communication between the citizen and the government. An ambitious programme of service process innovation and technology innovation is pursued by a multi-disciplinary project team. Outcomes will be validated in three European cities. An evidence base on impacts will be generated through a dedicated evaluation work strand, thereby adopting a multi-stakeholder perspective. This will enable the development of guidance on the further mainstreaming of WeGovNow solutions, and the provision of directions for further research.
Work performed since the beginning of the project and main results achieved so far
Project work is organised according to six dedicated work packages (WPs), staring with critically reviewing the conceptual and methodological approach initially set out in the project proposal (WP1). Concepts and methods to be pursued for platform integration purposes were further detailed.
In parallel, a plan for engaging stakeholders at each of the three pilot municipalities was developed, identifying generic engagement aims, methods and tools (WP2). This was followed by pilot site related engagement planning. First versions of contextualised use cases were developed for each pilot municipality which will be iteratively refined / extended over the coming months.
Technical development work started with consolidating the system architecture initially set out in the project proposal (WP3). Initial integration tasks were started and user requirement elicitation work was carried out. Expert guidance was provided to the developer teams in relation to accessibility by people with disabilities. Further to this, methods/protocols for prototype testing were defined. A first version prototype system will be extended and refined in an iterative process over the coming months.
In line with contextualised use cases, local pilot service implementations at three pilot municipalities will be evaluated during the second half of the project (WP4). Up to now, work focused on planning operational evaluation work. An evaluation roadmap was defined and data gathering techniques to be applied in this context were specified.
Another work strand concerns project dissemination activities as well as means to support further exploitation of project outcomes beyond the immediate project duration (WP5). This started with the development of a dissemination plan to be implemented throughout the project’s life cycle. Dissemination materials were generated and various dissemination activities carried out. A project web site was set up and social media activities were kick-started as well. As more content in terms of tangible project outputs and achievements will become available over the coming months, dissemination activities will be accelerated and intensified in line with the project’s dissemination plan. At a later stage, dissemination activities will be augmented by dedicated exploitation support activities such as exploitation workshops.
Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact
By integrating innovative technology components into a new type of civic engagement platform, WeGovNow is expected to ultimately make a contribution to public sector transformation by enabling a new form of citizen-government relationship towards more collaborative practices in several regards. To begin with, the project will enable effective “citizen sourcing” where the public helps government in being more responsive and effective. Also, collaboration between governments and citizens is expected to be changed, e.g. by making their knowledge and the new digital infrastructure available to the public. At, the same time WeGovNow solutions are expected to ultimately enable connected citizens to efficiently self-organise, opening up new opportunities for citizen-to-citizen and citizen-to-government coproduction. Thus, WeGovNow will ultimately empower citizens to become actively engaged in services of public interest and related policy development.
An impact yielded by the project so far concerns increased awareness of the WeGovNow approach achieved by hitherto pursued dissemination activities. In technological respect, some interim outcomes such as the Unified WeGovNow User Management (UWUM) component were generated which will become available as open source solutions soon. Through the development of first versions of local use cases at each of the three pilot municipalities, local governments and civic society stakeholders have started an intensive debate about how best to exploit the WeGovNow approach for their purposes.
For more information, please refer to the public deliverables available from the results page.