As we are stepping into the new year, it’s time for the CitizenLab team to look back at the past year and set the pace for the next year. Read below about our citizen participation realisations in 2017, and our ambitions for 2018 with a brand new product version coming up.

E-democracy in more than 50 cities

Between our international expansion and the launch of many citizen participation platforms which enabled change, we really feel like we have made our mark on local democracy this past year. We are proud to tell these stories of proposals shared and engaged citizens, like the ones of Liège or Mons. We are looking forward to working in other countries with our further expansion into Europe and beyond, with the City of Vancouver.

As it’s often the case, figures speak louder than words. Here is what our 2017 has been like:

CitizenLab year in review 2017

We also ended the year with the great satisfaction of launching the new version of our platform after many months of collecting and processing feedback. If you haven’t had a look at it yet, what could you expect apart from a simplified and optimised design?

  •      Citizens’ ideas put at the core of the experience, more than ever
  •      A platform performing better and up to 300% faster
  •      More citizen engagement thanks to the strategic support of our engagement specialists
  •      An even more intuitive flow between the admin and the user
  •      And also, more possibilities to inform the citizen for increased transparency on decision-making

Government’s central workplace for citizen participation

CitizenLab citizen participation suite

As proud as we are of the new version of our platform, we are convinced that these are just foundations laid for an extensive citizen participation suite. Therefore, this is just the beginning. In 2018, we will focus on extending the range of different participation methods. We want to accompany local governments on each step of the participation ladder; from top-down information to bottom-up co-creation. Surveys, polls, ideation, mapping, participatory budgeting, you name it!

Besides, our idea management system will also be revamped. Together with our customers, we have enhanced the admin panel so that bulk operations will help civil servants save time on idea processing. After filtering on a selection of ideas, giving mass feedback, updating idea status in bulk, or re-categorising your citizens’ input can be done in two clicks, at maximum.

Process optimisation at heart with NLP

We also have at heart to develop a more intuitive experience for the platform administrators, namely when it comes to idea classification. With our experience of collaborating with cities between 10 and 500K inhabitants, we came to a conclusive statement: while the current platform allows municipalities to interact with their citizens, it could support the input processing workflow a lot more. Thanks to state-of-the-art semantic technologies in Artificial Intelligence, some of the tasks performed today by civil servants, such as backlog management and coordination with peers, could be automated and performed more efficiently, to improve the business processes, and overall save resources.

Deloitte has recently released a report on AI-augmented governments, in which they conclude that machine learning and natural language processing can help free up 1,2 billion hours of work and save up to $41,1 billion per year inside governments worldwide. At CitizenLab, we also believe that automating mundane tasks can free up time to focus on the core: enriching interactions with its citizens. That’s why in 2018, CitizenLab will increase its research and development in NLP, supported by the Flemish government, to be even more at the side of public administrations and civil servants when it comes to integrating citizen participation processes in their workflows.

Let’s work together in 2018

With more than +50 cities worldwide on board, we are hoping to lay the digital foundations for revamped local democracies. On this exciting journey, we are constantly looking for cities with whom we create our product and partners with whom we integrate to come to an offering that meets all participation needs. Furthermore, we are looking for a Head of Marketing and for a Front-End Engineer to join our forces in the heart of Brussels — reach out if interested.

We hope to collaborate with you in 2018 and help you create a central digital workplace for all your public participation.

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Wietse and the whole CitizenLab team