What Advice Does the Civic Tech Industry Have For Your Municipality?

by Participation Factory

In May, the largest European democracy technologies meet-up of experts, organizations and municipalities representatives took place in Warsaw, called the Innovation in Politics Convention. As a strategic partner of the Convention, Participation Factory hosted the Civic & Dem Tech Industry Roundtable focused on the point of view of the civic technologies companies. 

This event created an engaging platform for critical conversation, enabling participants from six countries and three continents to explore and exchange the market’s perspectives on current developments, challenges and opportunities for the civic tech industry. Among the attendees, there were representatives from the Czech Republic as D21 or Mapotic, as well as Italian Bipart or Consider.it from Portland, USA, and more.

What were the key takeaways and what advice the civic tech industry has for municipalities using civic tech tools?

Pandemic Shifts
The Covid-19 pandemic instigated what could be described as a “hybrid engagement” in participation, the combination of online tools and in-person engagement. Public sector institutions should not return to the pre-pandemic status quo but rather embrace newly learned methods of citizen engagement.

Trust, but verify
While it’s important to foster trust in civic tech companies, this trust should not be blind. Institutions must remain vigilant, ensuring their interests and those of the public are protected.

People-Centered Approach
Listening is an art that every institution must master. By paying attention to citizens’ voices, institutions can ensure their actions and decisions are informed by the needs of the people they serve.

Simplicity and Innovation
Processes should be simplified, and organizations should be open to experiments. An in-house innovation team could be instrumental in implementing new ideas and fostering a culture of creativity and adaptability.

Effective Communication
Institutions need to improve their marketing and communication skills. By delivering clear, concise messages, they can better engage with their audiences and foster productive dialogues.

The software used in public sector institutions, especially in Europe, must be accessible to everyone. This inclusivity is essential for bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to services.

Learning from Others
It’s unproductive to reinvent the wheel. Institutions should learn from successful models implemented elsewhere, adapting them to suit their specific contexts.

Public Sector Readiness for AI
There is a general consensus that artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer just a trendy buzzword; it’s an impending reality. The public sector, much like all other sectors, needs to brace itself for this wave of digital disruption. The advent of AI signals an urgent need for capacity building within public sector institutions to maximize the opportunities AI brings while mitigating its risks.

Privacy and Security
As we advance technologically, privacy and security remain major challenges. While we continue to leverage technology in 2023, we must not overlook the importance of safeguarding users’ data and ensuring security across all platforms to maintain public trust.

Read the full report from the roundtable here.