One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that citizens often have the knowledge and expertise needed to solve issues in their community or municipality. We’ve seen examples of this everywhere - from university professors running studies, to doctors offering up new ideas for treatments.
However, we’ve also noticed something’s missing.
On the one hand, we have the decision-makers, such as public authorities or local municipalities, that lack access to citizens’ opinion, ideas and feedback in order to make better informed judgements.
On the other hand, we have the citizens that tend to be disengaged within their communities and have no voice in the decision-making process of public authorities or local municipalities on issues which affect their daily lives.
This lack of a collaborative environment creates frustration for both parties. Citizens feel unheard and disengaged, and public authorities lack the connection to the citizens which could help them change things for the better. Without the tools that let decision-makers ask for input, how can the citizens know what may be heard? And if they know about an issue, how are they able to share their knowledge and solutions that can help to positively transform their communities?
What it does
Proactivecitizens.ch is an online platform bringing citizens and communities together into the decision making process. Information is exchanged between the local authorities and citizens, with the objective to support effective decisions with considering citizens’ ideas early on. Decision-makers can ask for ideas or opinions from the citizens, related to a specific subject, initiative or challenge. Citizens can participate and influence the decision-makers by sharing their views, and therefore contribute meaningfully to the decisions that impact their lives. The platform is based on the collaborative-design framework “co-design”, which is seeing increased application by the government and public sector worldwide. It is a process for delivering community services in a reciprocal relationship between the citizens and the decision-makers. The process is created to be as simple as possible: The institution creates an initiative on the platform; Citizens are directly connected through the platform, and are able to respond proactively by sharing their ideas or solutions to a specific challenge/problem; The platform collects all the data and creates a report designed to be easily readable by the interested parties.
How we built it
Tools used for making the wireframes: InvisionApp, Sketch App
Tool Used to create the video: InShot App
My teammate and I are both experienced professionals, and we’ve worked together on multiple projects.
I am an experienced Full-Stack Developer, with a BSc in Informatics from the University of Lugano. I have already founded two startups in Lugano (Switzerland), one in 2013 another in 2015. My teammate Claudia Borio is a Service Designer and Information Architect, teaching at CSIA (Centro scolastico per le industrie artistiche) in Lugano, Ticino.
After creating a low-fi wireframes, we shared our idea with different people at this hackathon to receive feedback. We also presented the project to people who were mentoring us during this hackathon and they all showed great interest in the solution: Ms. Anaïs Sägesser, Ms. Egle Thomas from Innosuisse, Nadzeya Kalbaska from the University of Lugano. Once our platform’s online, our mentors have pledged to connect us with possible decision-makers, like municipalities and people active in local communities, in order to pitch using our platform to them. There is a need for such a platform in Switzerland, especially in small cities and localities.
Challenges we ran into
Being a team of only two people, we had to take care of other aspects of the project, like copywriting and video-making (which are not our strengths). Some people joined us after showing interest during the hackathon, so that’s a definite success!
Accomplishments that we're proud of
- Created a clickable graphic prototype
- Started with the development of an MVP (main features of the project)
- Registered our domain (http://proactivecitizens.ch/)
- Created a landing page for our concept - available online
What we learned
We learned that for a project like ours to succeed, it’s important to get in touch with the relevant stakeholders. Collaborating with authorities and finding civil society partners is a huge step that takes us from discussing the solution to implementing a prototype! Other than that, we’ve also found out that there is a tutorial for just about anything, so it’s just a matter of finding the right one. After all, we’ve never made a video before, and look at us now!
What's next for proactive-citizens
For the next month, our focus is on delivering the prototype and improving the concept of the platform. From there, our technical work will be aimed at improving the infrastructure of the application and the design. In the meantime, we are working on creating collaborations with several key organizations in the role of decision-makers and exploring the best channels and approaches to our target end-customers. By the end of June, we are planning to gather a database of users willing to share their opinions. These early adapters will help us optimize the platform, but also provide input that will help us reach our target audiences better once we launch the final application in August 2020. In order to complete our plan, we need to raise a small funding CHF 20K - 30K to cover the costs of adding a new developer and to cover our marketing efforts. This fund would let us move ahead with the platform and our ideas.
- We have drafted a business plan
- We are considering applying for support from Innosuisse, as an Innosuisse coach (Dr. Egle Thomas ) was mentoring us during this hackathon.
A sketch of our project that was kindly created during the #VersusVirus hackathon by @beautymakesasound
- proactivecitizens.ch prototype