All over the world, citizens are looking for new ways to improve their quality of life and make their city hear their voices. Some bottom-up collaborations have seized their needs and are already pushing the limits of democracy as we know it, often using their digital talent – i.e. digital democracy, civic tech, open data. Yet, they have difficulties collaborating efficiently with the cities. But how can we connect all these urban stakeholders to build a truly open and collaborative society? The Civic Innovation Network is now using our civic tech platform to foster collaboration and innovation in the city of Brussels.

What is the Civic Innovation Network (CIN)?

The CIN is a coalition of organisations and citizens from Belgium who want to change the way cities work. The organisation was created to build bridges between the citizens, the digital bottom-up organisations and the private and public sector of Belgium.

How did it start?

All started when the organisation realized a few things. Firstly, more and more citizens in the past few years started to look for ways to collaborate and engage to improve their quality of life. To do so,  they created many bottom-up organisations to tackle the issues faced by the society today. Second, these organisations usually surfed on the digital wave to set up and organise their projects and movements. Thirdly, the impact of these organisations on the issues of the society were sometimes limited due to the fact that they were not organized to collaborate with the local governments.

The key learning from these observations was the real urgency to create a collaborative organisation to gather all these stakeholders. The challenges faced by the society today require unprecedented collaboration and innovative solutions. As a consequence, the Civic Innovation network decided then to create a network to implement citizen ideas enabled by technological innovations in order to build more sustainable and democratic cities.

A very dynamic network

Yet, as the name disclose already, CIN doesn’t work alone, it is a dynamic network. This network is made of CIN core members, main contributors (Hankistan, MakeSense, OuiShare, BIDs Belgium, Open Knowledge Belgium), public and private public stakeholders, structural partners (CitizenLab, SMart Be, Sharify, Armada, Poseco, European Parliament), supporters and friends organisations (Lunt Foundation, …).

Civic Innovation Network
Credit: Civic Innovation Network

Yet, the network felt like it needed a plan to connect citizens and public officials and concretely implement the innovative solutions proposed by the citizens. Hence, it decided to launch an online engagement platform combined with offline events to leverage the support from the creative communities of the city.

What is OpenWall?

The Civic Innovation Network wants to boost the civic innovation in the city of Brussels and engage every actor of society in the process. Where did it start? By creating a multistakeholder engagement core strategy! The idea behind it was to align citizens, innovators, companies, public institutions, local and national governments.

There are 5 stages: Crowdsource ideas, call for innovators, match needs with resources from stakeholders, build long-run interaction capsules action plane and follow-up sessions.

For the crowdsourcing phase, CIN is using the ‘Open Wall‘ platform which is a civic tech platform provided by CitizenLab.

Civic Innovation Platform
Open Wall

On the platform, citizens can raise issues on a wide range of main topics such as Work, Production, Education, Consumption, Urbanism, Economy, Politics, Healthcare and Culture.

The platform makes the participation accessible both for the society actors and the Civic Innovation Network. CIN organised the ideas by topics and neighbourhoods. Also, the main page shows the most trending ideas on the platform. This way, it is easy to know which are the most important challenges and the most discussed topics.
The crowdsourcing on OpenWall will run until the end of March along with offline weekly events with community partners and public institutions.

Civic Tech Summit

After the crowdsourcing phase, the CIN will evaluate the engagement to understand the needs and resources of the society. Then, it will match these needs with the most relevant civic innovators to invite at the Civic Tech summit in May. This summit will be organised as a lab of co-creation and collaboration.

Civic Innovation Network Summit
Credit: Civic Innovation Network

Then, the city will implement some innovative projects. But the CIN doesn’t stop there. In May, September and December, it will organise some follow-up sessions to keep the actors of the society in the loop about the project implementation.

Do you have ideas on how to improve the quality of life in Brussels on specific domains? Go to the OpenWall platform and shout them all out!