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Is the tail getting too long?

The words "crowdsourcing" come up time and time again as successful ways to involve people in co-creating the answers (and questions!) to the massive challenges we face in public services.

Let's not even pretend we can get anywhere near being as responsive to these issues as we'd like to. Even Google can't. But what we do need to watch out for is that we don't allow a divide to be created between the 1% which is allowed for the crowdsourcing but which doesn't impact on the real decision making processes and the 99% of the decision making to be made behind closed doors, which itself does have an impact on what and how services are designed. They shouldn't be separate worlds, but often they are. 

Paul Clarke covers this debate well in Hard Wired State 

"How many of these ideas are actually crossing the seemingly vast divide to become ‘production’ public services? We have a few ideas about why this might be the case: not enough will to change; would it scale?; procurement never works like that in practice; sure, you can design smart new services but can you sustain them?… And so on…"
And because of these tensions, many the people innovating at the edges feel the emotions above. To put this in context, this image was a visualisation of people's tweets on the Social Innovator launch at NESTA.

We don't claim to have the answers to any of this, but we thought that we ought to try and tackle what we can as early as possible in this journey. That's why we've hopefully been pretty honest that for this event we will seed challenges we've crowdsourced with staff that they can see are key issues. People can then vote them to the top of the table or relegate them to the dropzone, if they disagree with them or think we've missed issues out, they can even suggest their own. On the day, you will be able to pick a challenge and get into a group to come up with ideas to tackle it.

Why get people to vote? This is less about going for xfactor style democracy which is probably not the best way to tackle digital inclusion. No, it's building on the pledgebank principle, ideas are more likely to take off if the challenges they help tackle are issues which people actually believe in. So if we put one of our challenges up there and the participants don't vote for it, that gives us a pretty good clue!

It's not me, it's you... 

Have a look here and you'll see the newest challenges submitted. What do you think? 

Do you have any better ideas? Add them on, it's as simple as writing your idea in the "I suggest you" box.

Manchester or Middlesborough?
The league table of challenges seems to be changing all the time. What we've found is that the most popular ones are the most general like "helping people share skills in their communities" or "finding out what's going on in your local area" whereas similar but more specific challenges are mid table or in the drop zone.

Something that's been going around my mind today, is will the more general challenges mean people get more freedom to brainstorm what idea they want to develop that tackles that challenge or will it mean more time discussing what that challenge actually means and less time developing it into a prototype?
Is the tail getting too long?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


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