Brickstarter

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= we aim to stimulate more productive debates about 21st century governance and local decision-making

URL = http://brickstarter.org/

Description

Brickstarter enables everyday people, using everyday technology and culture, to articulate and progress sustainable ideas about their community. Brickstarter is a platform to turn possibilities into proposals into projects.

Brickstarter is about 21st century social services. We are sketching a system that would enable everyday people, using everyday technology and culture, to articulate and progress sustainable ideas about their community. The Brickstarter project explores the ideas behind these systems, and will provide the blueprints for a platform that can turn possibilities into proposals into projects. By creating its prototype, we aim to stimulate more productive debates about 21st century governance and local decision-making." (http://brickstarter.org/an-introduction-to-brickstarter/)


Discussion

Graphic via http://brickstarter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Kuvankaappaus-2012-11-16-kello-16.38.06-699x557.png

By Maija Oksanen:

Part 1:

"The city of Helsinki employs about 40 000 people being one of the largest employers in Finland. The city consists of its citizens and exists because of them, so would it harm to ask how they feel about things happening in their front yard? When the city continues to fail to take notice of its people, things like Ravintolapäivä happen. Or the Baana Skate-gate.

One of the reasons we have been looking at crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platforms is that in its current state, municipal government isn’t very appealing to citizens. In peoples’ minds, city planning does not compete with the education department, government competes with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Justin Bieber, etc.

...

Instead of trying to force people into a system created two hundred years ago, why not adapt and find people where they already are? Public services should be taken to 21st century rather than pushing citizens back to the 19th century. The tools for building more collaborative relationships in public decision-making exist, it is merely a question of taking advantage of them.

Here’s where the Fact Cards come in: The internet enables sharing information, collaborative decision-making and sharing and contributing human resources and rather than opposing it, government should learn and take advantage of it. To formulate a synthesis of all the platforms we’ve looked into so far, this spreadsheet comes in handy. The first tab lists all the platforms we found relevant in terms of the Brickstarter project and runs through the key elements of each platform. Roughly 1/3 is focused on crowdfunding and the remaining 2/3 on crowdsourcing. Its good to bare in mind that our sample of 27 platforms/projects is not even the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more existing online and more emerging every day.

Another general notion of our sample is that except for a few cases, all the examples share a bottom-up approach, where citizens independently form groups and are actively working with projects from the grassroots upward. Coincidentally almost all of these are projects not involving government. The top-down examples are more traditional and often involve the government in a supportive role. These are also the examples most likely to have only a low or medium level of engagement from the citizens. This means that they are mainly used as passive channels to collect (mainly negative) feedback which is then processed by the government, not enabling citizens to actively take part in decision-making.

The second tab in our spreadsheet looks at the platforms in different categories: Services like Kickstarter and Spacehive are great examples of crowdfunding. Joukkoenkeli and Neighborland are about crowdsourcing ideas. The likes of Avoin Ministeriö, Aloitekanava and Demokratia.fi mediate information to and from government, but are rather passive.

Projects like Osallistuva Budjetointi and Stadin aikapankki enable more active participation from the citizen point of view. Hukkatila is an excellent example of collaborative decision-making and activism without an internet platform. And when looking at all these examples, it’s good to bear in mind that the web didn’t invent crowdsourcing or crowdfunding – it just made it easier.

The third tab in the spreadsheet divides the different examples into four dimensions (government, non-government, active, passive) [1] .

...

Keeping in mind our narrow sample, it’s still pretty fair to say that there is more traffic on the Non-government side. The little that is happening on the government side, is mainly below the horizontal line. What is empty and lacking content is the upper right corner – and that’s where a platform like Brickstarter would be positioned.

The way Brickstarter is sketched borrows many of its features from social media such as comments, badges, votes/’likes’ and so on. Collaborative decision-making can imitate social media, and it should: I bet Facebook has more daily visitors than all municipal websites in Finland combined. A modular approach – using Vimeo to embed video, using Google Maps, comments from Facebook, or for example using Holvi to run crowdfunding campaigns suggests to government that services can be built extremely quickly and securely – and so prototyping public services becomes not only possible but desirable, compared to slow-moving government IT projects."


Part 2:

"All of the examples presented in our Fact Cards have features that could be adopted, one way or another, by public services to develop public decision-making more ‘public’. When building a platform, a number of things need to happen already at the stage when the foundations are laid. Fundamental questions need to be discussed before a platform like Brickstarter can go live. The list below is not finished and there are more things to be added. There are numerous open questions without an answer, but how to come to a mutual understanding?

...

Who actually decides? Finland is a welfare state with comprehensive public services. These are funded through comparatively high taxes. In a way, the Finnish government ‘crowdfunds’ large sums of money from citizens but citizens don’t get to decide directly how this money is distributed, except through representation. However, representation does not exclude participation. There are people all around Finland rolling up their sleeves and getting things done much more efficiently than their local officials who can’t see what’s happening right under their eyes.

As people get more active, the public sector responds by another set of rules and guidelines. And creating more rules simply enhances the NIMBYism. But if citizens are able to put ideas forward and be actively working with them, that would reverse NIMBYism into YIMBYism. Who makes the decision about their neighbourhood seems a simple question, but what if a neighbourhood could take advantage of the internet to receive funding from anywhere? Whose opinion weighs more and can someone from Munkkiniemi in Helsinki have a say in the local issues in Herttoniemi? And what if someone suggests a dog park to be built on the same spot where their neighbour has just suggested an outdoor gym? How are issues of mutual exclusivity dealt with? It will either be one suggestion or the other, it cannot be both." (http://brickstarter.org/what-can-government-learn-from-crowdsourcing-22/)

See for the rest of the detailed discussion: [2]