CityLab — "311: City Services Revolution"

The invention of 311, a universal number for police non-emergencies, has fundamentally changed city governments forever. And SeeClickFix has played a huge role in its history -- and, according to CityLab's "311: City Services Revolution" piece, will play an integral part in its future.

You can read the gorgeous piece by Sarah Goodyear (@buttermilk1) as part of CityLab's "City Makers: Connections" series (@CityLab). In particular, we're thrilled by the significant nods to our partners: the City of New Haven, Washington DC, and Detroit.


We've summarized the history of 311 timeline with quotes from the piece here:

"Over the past couple of decades, a growing number of cities have been changing their approach, casting themselves as service providers and taking advantage of new technologies to offer increasingly innovative and seamless ways for citizens to get what they need."

After starting 311's history in 1996 with the City of Baltimore's launch of America's first 311 program to address police non-emergency complaints, Goodyear proceeds to show how 311 systems began expanding to not only larger cities (i.e. Chicago, LA, and New York) across the country but other types of city services. Then in 2008, Goodyear features SeeClickFix's start in New Haven:

"[In 2008] SeeClickFix launches in New Haven. Its first iteration is a website where residents can post problems they see in their communities, generating an email notification to local officials. Over time, the city of New Haven realizes it is getting more service requests through SeeClickFix than it is through its own portal. As the service develops, adding a mobile app, it will eventually become the official 311-style online reporting system for New Haven and many more cities."

As SeeClickFix grows, Goodyear notes how larger cities wrestle with the popularity of their new 311 call center systems. Some begin developing systems that can take in requests by mobile, web, social media, and email to reduce costs. Then in 2010, municipalities begin taking a Open 311 approach, learning from the practices of platforms like SeeClickFix:

"Washington, D.C., and San Francisco pioneer the Open 311 approach, in which the city's API is open to the public, standardizing protocols, allowing independent developers to create their own apps, and enabling more transparent interaction with government when it comes to reporting non-emergencies. The White House supports the move as part of the Obama Administration's Open Government initiative. The approach is similar to that used by private-sector companies such as SeeClickFix."

Just this year, Detroit partnered with SeeClickFix:

"Detroit, enabled by SeeClickFix, launches the Improve Detroit app, giving the city a 311-style capability for the first time since its traditional service was discontinued."

Goodyear finishes the 311 timeline with a description of the current 311 landscape -- hinting at an exciting future for many municipalities:

"New York logs its 200 millionth 311 call. More than 200 cities around the United States now have traditional 311 services. In addition, about 220 mostly smaller municipalities are paying to integrate SeeClickFix, with many more relying on the free version of the tool. The cities with the most sophisticated systems now use 311 data not just to deploy services but also to measure their own performance and make crucial budget and policy decisions."


To learn more about CityLab, head to their website. And to learn more about SeeClickFix, explore the rest of gov.seeclickfix.com.