First social innovation Govcamp takes citizens' participation to a new level

16 Apr 2013

A three-day session of intensive brainstorming with some of the country’s leading whizz kids was held in Bitola to come up with new ways of using social media to increase accountability in local government. 

Everyone who took part agreed that the event took participation in governance to a new level.The Social Innovation GovCamp was an innovation in itself—the first think-tank of its kind in the country and a model of how citizen participation can go beyond consultation to active involvement in generating fresh solutions to improve local services.

The idea behind the event was quite simple—in the best sense of the word. First, an open invitation was issued to NGOs throughout the country to propose ideas for applying the latest developments in technology to improve communication and cooperation between citizens and institutions of local government. Then the four teams whose ideas were considered most feasible and effective were brought together to develop their plans with help and advice from experts in social media and social accountability and representatives from UNDP and the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. At the end of the three-day session the four projects were subject to a final appraisal and those judged most useful by the organizers and experts were selected for funding and implementation. Simple, but highly effective—as can be seen by the fact that all four of the prototypes developed in this first Social Innovation GovCamp were given the go-ahead for funding at the end of the session.

The four NGOs selected were Green Box from Skopje, Focus from Veles, the European Link Center from Gostivar, and the Youth Entrepreneurial Service Foundation. The Green Box team’s proposal focuses on improving energy efficiency in local government by developing a website and an Android app that will allow citizens to monitor the consumption of energy by public institutions in their municipalities.

Focus came forward with an excellent idea for increasing public access to information on local government. The team is now set to develop a website where citizens will be able to find all the official decisions of the municipality, information about all public hearings in the municipality, and the agenda of local government. This could make a considerable contribution to ensuring democratic governance by facilitating greater openness and citizen participation in decision-making at local level. The project developed by the European Link Center will introduce a new way to gather feedback from citizens on the accountability of local government. And the website will not only enable citizens to voice their views on local issues but provide comprehensive information about the services of the municipality and the rights and obligations of citizens. By detailing tax rates and public costs and publicly presenting the outcomes of requests submitted by citizens to the municipality, the implementation of this project will significantly increase transparency at local level.

The goal of the project developed by the Youth Entrepreneurial Service is to improve the responsiveness of local government, and they have come up with a highly original and interactive proposal to achieve this goal. Once the team’s web and mobile apps have been developed, citizens will be able to give direct feedback on local services. The first app will allow people to report on any damage to local roads that the municipality needs to repair, as well as enabling feedback on the status of maintenance work. 

The Social Innovation GovCamp was organized as part of UNDP’s project Support for Strengthening National and Local Integrity Systems to improve accountability and reduce corruption in local government. The GovCamp directly addressed the goal of greater citizen participation behind the  National State Programme for the Prevention of Corruption and Conflict of Interests 2011–2015.

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