Only a few things in life are certain, and our weekly selection of must-reads is one of them.

Every week, we gather our favourite reads on the topics of civic tech, democracy and data, and we share them with you in bite-sized pieces. Missed a list? Check out our blog for the previous editions.

This week, we’re reading all about how citizens will save the climate, politics and, somehow, bike lanes. Let’s dive right in!

1. “How could citizens’ assemblies be used to tackle climate change?” by OpenDemocracy

Taking our bikes, ditching plastic straws or eating less meat – we all know there are things we can do to beat climate change. But as it turns out, citizens could actually make a lot more impact than that. Citizens’ assemblies, or groups of citizens discussing particular topics and formulating concrete solutions, have a valuable role to play in the fight for a healthier planet.

This article explores what the impact of citizens’ assemblies could be. “When people hear it from their peers who say ‘we’re f*ed,’ that will be really powerful,” says author Kaminski. A must-read for everyone who believes in more impactful citizen participation.

2. “Citizen participation is essential to change government” by Mail&Guardian

Economist Milton Friedman’s quote that “governments never learn, only people learn” is the starting point of this interesting opinion piece. In the wake of South-Africa’s national elections, author Rakabe makes the case for citizen participation as a tool for development and growth.

“(…) voters and the general public are left with one option — to embrace participatory governance to gain more of a say in public decision-making processes affecting their lives. This is by far the most crucial role the citizen can play in making sure that government delivers on its promises”, says Rakabe. A must-read for democracy disciples everywhere.

3. “How China’s smart-city tech focuses on its own citizens” by Financial Times

The concept of smart cities has incredible potential to increase the wellbeing of citizens across the globe. But in China, despite massive resources being pumped into the set-up of these smart cities, there’s very little evidence of any improvement in the lives of the masses. That’s because the bulk of the resources have gone into increasing surveillance of Chinese citizens. In short: “the Communist party spends more on monitoring its own people than on guarding against foreign threats.”

A must-read for anyone interested in the concept of smart cities, and willing to face its potential darker side.

4. “Civic crowdfunding reduces the risk of ‘bikelash‘ by GreenBiz

Bike-sharing ventures are getting increasingly more popular, and that’s a positive evolution for both the planet’s health and our own. But it comes at a price: ‘bikelash’, or hostility towards bicycles and cyclists (by people who don’t ride bikes), has been on the rise in the United States.

Author Gasparro argues that the key to solving this issue lies in civic crowdfunding. When community organizations can engage community members around a certain project, “residents become acquainted with the proposed plans and voice their concerns before it’s too late to change course.” A must-read for, well, everyone who rides a bike now and then, and everyone looking for even more proof of the value of community.

5. “Unlocking the potential of crowdsourcing for public decision-making with artificial intelligence” by OECD

Okay, this one’s secretly ours, but there’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion now and then! In most participation projects, analysing contributions is a challenge for administrators. We’ve developed specific machine-learning algorithms in order to help civil servants easily process thousands of citizen contributions and efficiently use these insights for decision-making.

Loved this case study? Vote for it here and help us to become the proud winners of the best open government case study!

And that’s it for our weekly catch-up! Ready for more? Check out our previous selections on the blog, download our brand-new comprehensive e-guide on participatory budgeting, or contact our experts to get started with digital participation in your city!

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