While sitting in a breakfast meeting on disrupting the Public Schools this am it felt very appropriate that we were given an opportunity to reap the benefit of previously successful disruption.
My friend Eliza was the victim of a broken parken meter and a consequent ticket during the meeting. We opened the SeeClickFix iPhone app and, for the first time, when I reported the broken parking meter, a request was created within the City's work order system. (As of last week we completed the first roll out of a connection between SeeClickFix and the city's Citiworks work order system.)
This was truly an exciting moment for me as it symbolically marks the success of a social mission to make our own government more open, accountable and efficient while encouraging citizens to be more engaged in a productive way. Imagine an unendorsed, unfunded, undesired and unrequested service not only sending the existing service (WebQA) into obscurity but replacing it in its entirely. All while carrying the weight of a cultural shift in how we as citizens interact with each other and our government. By a democratic process the citizens of New Haven voted for open and accessible government through the tools they chose to use to connect with government. And through effective leadership the City of New Haven chose to listen and adapt to the voices of their citizens.
Once we could only have access to a blackbox of communication by leaving a voicemail or filling out a lengthy form with too many personal questions when we wanted to report a broken parking meter. Now we can publicly document our broken parking meter with a photo and a GPS location provided by our mobile phone and it will integrate directly with the city's existing business process.
We have noted the benefits of the simple shift over and over but its worth reiterating here on the success of this implementation:
1) A positive feedback loop for the citizen who has chosen to speak up. One less opportunity to feel trapped and frustrated with the governing institution and one less excuse to become apathetic.
2) An opportunity for the government to effectively harness the power of the crowd and start to get a complete bug report on the municipal fabric of the city.
3) A network effect of engagement that scales exponentially as the conversations and reports that spin out of an open system of government bounce off of each other and spin up greater participation.
Personally seeing the effect of SeeClickFix on the how someone reports a parking meter at a time when we are thinking about how to "Fix" the public schools gives me great confidence that a citizen driven disruption of the Public Schools is not only needed but will also be effective.