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Olena Ursu

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Local governments provide better services when they engage citizens in co-designing and improving the service

Fullly agree with Beth Noveck: transparency of the Government itself does not change anything and does not solve the local problems without combining it with the next step - meaningful citizens' participation and collaboration for the chage.

In Ukraine where I'm from 54% of citizens are fully or mostly unsatisfied with the quality of administrative service provision. Reasons include complexity of the administrative procedures; lack of proper information from the authorities; lengthy terms of service provision; uncomfortable work schedules of the administrative bodies; and many others. But can citizens influence this situation?

Effective mechanisms of raising citizens’ concerns to provide their feedback to the local authorities and, most importantly, to make sure that this feedback is translated into the real actions to improve the quality of service provision, are still lacking.

One of the models which was experimented in L'viv municipality is a "Secret Client" model within which the organised groups of volunteers attend the administrative bodies to get some service and then report to the municipality through the active local CSO with their recommendations for improving the quality of this service.

There is also a number social innovation projects helping to engage citizens for constructive monitoring and oversight on administrative service provision in the couontry.

Our idea is to collect the most efficient models of engaging citizens by the local governments for the sake of improvement of the administrative services they provide.

We are sure that the TED community accumulated rich knowledge on the topic, which you could help us to reach. Please tell us about all experiences which you may recommend as a smart practice of public oversight on administrative service provision, be it Web 2.0 based initiatives or real-life exercises accomplished in your countries. We will be sincerely grateful for all thoughts and ideas you share with us.

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  • Mar 26 2013: My career involved much training and some practice in systems analysis. We learned very early that close and thorough engagement with the users of a system was necessary to develop a decent system.

    It is amazing to me that governments can be so far behind the private sector. I have recently been helping a recipient of government health services. The processes involved are absurd. They expect people who are chronically ill and debilitated to absorb thick books of information and fill out forms that require twenty pages. I am sure that many people never manage to complete all the work required and just go without services they need.

    When developing government service processes, it is ESSENTIAL to engage the citizens who are being served. The "Secret Client" approach would be a good way to check on the results, but not a good method to design a new approach. My method included interviewing everyone involved and developing lists of everyone's requirements. When one person has the whole picture and understands all of the requirements, then that person can find an approach that will best satisfy everyone. In the case of government services, the needs of the people being served should have top priority.
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      Mar 27 2013: Thanks a lot, Barry! It is very interesting. How did you prepare your interview questions? Did you follow some specific pethodology of systsms analysis? In Ukraine, the area of "administrative service" is quite specific - it's the results of some beurocracy, the fact of getting an administrative service is some paper document - certificate, allowance, approval etc. So I am just trying to understand did you adjust some typical questionnaire to your area (heath care services) or just used a standard questionnaire from some methodology? I would be interested to learn more about the latter in this case.
      • Mar 27 2013: I became acquainted with a few methodologies, and found all of them to have deficiencies. (In part because they are intellectual property and one cannot copy features of another.) Whenever possible I observed people while they were performing their jobs and learned everything I could about the whole process. Often, the most important aspects of a job are the things people do without thinking about them, and these things are often forgotten during interviews. I am sure that some government clerks go the extra mile and do things for their clients that are not technically part of their job. They may not want to admit doing those things that their clients consider to be the most valuable. If you get involved in the nuts and bolts of this, be sure to check the top drawers of every desk for little note pads. These will have hand written notes about how the job really gets done.

        Good luck.
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          Mar 27 2013: Thank you, Barry, for the very inspiring and practical; advice! Much appreciated. Honestly, office clerks in the municipalities often to their job nicely, but also are relucktant to any changes, even if those changes are for the better. One city mayor in Ukraine issued an official regulation regarding the telephone conversations with clients. Intead of "hello, ____ listening" he obliged the municipal staff to say "Good morning. ____, internal policies department, how can I help you?". This last part "how can I help you" was the most difficult for the employees in practices, they really couldn't force themselves to ask citizens how they could help them :)

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