Change the system: civic tech lessons from Amsterdam, and a wrap-up from across Europe

I think Amsterdam might be (whisper it) more beautiful than Paris. It’s the canals. And the architecture, particularly the social housing — which has been cutting-edge since about 1910.

Apart from wandering around thinking “I’d really like to live here”, I also met up with two democracy-focused organisations. One that I would call classic civic tech, and one that takes a wider democratic engagement role, but that has helped deliver some interesting digital products. With a general election approaching in March 2017, it’s an exciting time for Dutch civic tech.

Amsterdam was also, alas, the last stop on EuroCivicTechTour2016 — so I round off this post with some reflections of the State of Europe’s Civic Tech.  Continue reading Change the system: civic tech lessons from Amsterdam, and a wrap-up from across Europe

Transparency is about people

Numbers are all well and good. But we’re not perfect robot machines. That’d be weird.

People take decisions. Beautiful, irrational people. So transparency in organisations can’t only be about publishing vast amounts of data and hoping for the best.

We have to know who is taking the decisions. And who influenced the people that took the decisions. And whether they took the decision before or after lunch.

So open data is great. It’s lovely stuff. But if we’re to make institutions transparent, it’s going to be about people.

Very few people actually engage with numbers. People engage with people. So if we’re looking for public involvement, participation in or scrutiny of global governance institutions, then the people who work for global institutions are going to have to publish who they meet with, what they’re thinking, what they’re reading. What gets them fired up at work; what they worry about. What they’re doing, right now.  Continue reading Transparency is about people