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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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    Apr 1 2013: The internet has made direct participation in government more feasible. There's a US House Representative, Justin Amash (R-MI), who reports his votes to facebook and explains the bills. He's been pushing for other congressmen to do the same. Maybe that's what got him kicked off the budget committee... but he set an example.

    Also for the federal level in the US we have sites like govtrack.us and opencongress.org. But these are third party solutions. From what I read here, you seem to be more interested in structural changes, bringing various institutions up to speed with the 21st century. I don't know how things run in Ukraine, so I have no comment there. Most US agencies wield outsourced executive power with absolutely no democratic system to them, so here I expect solutions to look more like a feedback page on a company website. Like the White House's "We the People" page - https://petitions.whitehouse.gov. They have a "terms of service" that sounds like a software license; they maintain "signature thresholds" and you agree they can remove signatures and petitions, block IP addresses, you must be 13 and older, etc. In reality, there's really no benefit to using this system over a petition hosted elsewhere. The administration did it for their image, for the same reason any company would. Personally I'm a fan of third party solutions and community effort over any actual structural change. But I absolutely agree with you and Beth Noveck, a brilliant system is pointless if the citizen base is lame.

    I would love to see a more open government. But open is a degree, open-source is not. A free market (without patents) is open-source. Anyone can contribute to anything, and if a controlling party turns down a change then the would-be contributor is free to fork the whole project. So if I don't like your restaurant Sizzling Steaks, I'm free to start my own called Sizzling Sirloins. But government is not at all open-source, it can't be forked. It's totalitarian and pervasive
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      Apr 1 2013: Dear Fred, thanks for your great comments indeed. I really enjoyed reviewing the platform "We the People". In Ukrainian reality all possible crowdsourcing platforms are just starting to develop, there are just a few really good projects which proved their efficiency, and the process is really slow. http://ukryama.com/ is one of such projects - it's where citizens report about the condition of the roads where they walk/drive. It may not be interesting for you, but for Ukraine where the quality of the roads is really poor it is critically important for all citizens, drivers first of all. Yes, we would also like to see the open-source government. We'll see what kind of projects our partners will come up with. Thanks for your contribution!

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