Participatory government in person (Photo: New York City Council)
In 2019, New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly to create a Civic Engagement Commission that would modernize how the city and its residents work together to identify and solve problems at local levels. This panel didn’t grab many headlines, but the sharing platform I created Post.nyc.gov It can support world-class civic engagement programs. Whether or not Mayor Eric Adams’ management uses them will be an early test of their core competency and technological prowess.
The Participation Site “Pat” is much more than a basic government website. It is a publication of an open source participatory democracy platform called We decide. First established in Barcelona in 2016, Desidem is free and open source software used by dozens of municipal governments around the world including Helsinki, Mexico City, Zurich and Milan. The program is the successor consula similar platform that facilitated Really innovative and very successful Collective sourcing town planning, participatory budgeting, and decision making in Madrid, Spain.
The idea behind Decidim and Consul is simple: to give the public a single, unified, open source platform and standard set of tools to participate in local civic engagement programs. These platforms allow city residents to organize in different types of districts to have discussions, make proposals, vote on projects, conduct polls, and generate the kind of feedback that city agencies and elected officials can and should use to understand how best to improve our district. Neighborhoods, city and government operations.
Since the NYC publication of Decidim is barely used, it’s hard to see the platform’s potential. To do this, it is better to visit Desidem Barcelona (Turn on Google Translate if you don’t read Spanish) and see how they use the software. On this site, you will see two main menu items, which translate to Participatory Processes and Participatory Bodies, which can be easily understood as Processes and Spaces.
Operations are civic engagement programmes, such as the participatory budget cycle, city planning project review, or charter review.
Spaces are groups of people, often divided by their area, that operate according to a specific set of rules around membership and governance.
By applying operations to spaces, the Decidim system deployed on share.gov.nyc can host many of the city’s existing civic engagement operations right away, right “out of the box”, without the need for any costly custom development.
Here are some examples:
– City and county council members can use it for participatory budgeting;
-Community councils can post news, events, meeting minutes, files, videos, surveys and more – replace their own websites;
-City committees can replace their websites with Decidim as well, and use collaborative editing and commenting features to enable residents to attach their thoughts and comments in a specific language to the document.
In addition to these basics, the system can be used for much more: to
-hosted discussions on pending legislation;
– collecting feedback on land use issues;
Provide a consolidated calendar of city agency outreach events;
Facilitate petitioning the City Council to introduce legislation.
And the list goes on.
All of these new tools and features can intimidate politicians and civil servants because they are experts in current systems of public participation and any change could alter the power dynamics to which they are accustomed and controlled. As such, there is a natural resistance to the use of different and better platforms and processes. Fortunately, Mayor Adams claims to know the technology, is eager to reform city government, and is focused on public participation.
During the mayoral election, Adams pledged to create MyCity, “a single gateway to all of the city’s services and benefits.” One of the main “services and benefits” that the city provides to its residents is civic engagement. As such, the standard platform used by many different agencies for the purposes of civic engagement fits well with Adams’ vision.
As an open source platform built using the popular Ruby on Rails framework, Decidim is a platform that a city can own and run on its own, without having to pay expensive IT consultants or exorbitant licensing fees. In fact, it is the perfect project for a digital services organization (DSO) in the city You should have already fired.
In fact, the share.nyc.gov system could become an integral part of the MyCity dream. Decidim’s login system uses open standards that can and should be combined with the inevitable user authentication system that is a prerequisite for MyCity. And its data, formatted in open, configurable data feeds, can and should flow elegantly to other city information management systems, such as the City Record event feed or town planning project pages.
To see the true value of Decidim, Adams management must develop an understanding of the open source concept that makes it possible. It is difficult for many people to understand how complex programs like Decidim can be available on the Internet for free download, without restrictions on how or by whom they are used. It seems too good to be true, but it is.
Open source technologies like Linux, WordPress, and Bitcoin are getting a lot of headlines, but there are already Hundreds of thousands of open source apps In the world, this number is increasing all the time. Most of these applications are components that must be combined with other components to create a system, but some are complete applications such as Decidim.
As mentioned in else Articlesopen source is changing the way government delivers services around the world, but New York City’s IT bureaucracy and poor leadership have not adopted proven technologies to take advantage of these developments because powerful private interests make huge amounts of money by keeping the city in the field. Technological dark ages.
Companies that run core city software systems like Microsoft, Dell, Tyler, ESRI, Accenture and others want to keep the city hooked on their proprietary software systems. To achieve this goal, these companies have merged with city agencies such as the Department of Information, Communications and Technology (DoITT), which are more comfortable signing expensive software contracts with these companies rather than deploying and managing the open source software systems themselves. Meanwhile, city technology managers routinely work for vendors before and after their time in government. The turnstile rotates very quickly.
If Mayor Adams develops an understanding of how to effectively use open source software to make the city more efficient, effective, and egalitarian, there is no limit to the amount he can make. He has a great opportunity to get started afoot by organizing a DSO unit to manage the open source Decidim program at share.nyc.gov and to make strong use of this program to provide New Yorkers with the world-class civic engagement experiences we deserve.
Presenting compelling civic engagement programs through share.nyc.gov is a great way for Adams to demonstrate that he had the technological prowess and genuine desire for reform that he claimed to have had during the campaign.
It’s delivery time.