Since 2006 I have been involved as member of the Economic Development Board of Rotterdam. During the years I have developed my vision on how the region of Rotterdam could benefit form the enormous unused potential of its citizens and organisations that live and work in the city and port. Now that the city is facing serious financial problems, I feel an opportunity for change.
I believe now is the time for Rotterdam to embrace the concept of co-creation and create value together with its citizens or as Chris Anderson states it: “Countries with most vibrant web communities and companies will win.”
Is it possible to change from a government that wants to be in control towards a government that provides an infrastructure (a platform) for it civilians to innovate and participate in the various challenges that the city and port is dealing with?
The current state of our information and communication technology make it possible to build strong self-organised communities. Also, organisations like Enviu have developed methodologies to facilitate collaboration amongst large groups of people to create concrete results and positive societal impact.
Imagine what could happen if you would share your problems, ambitions or data with anyone that is passionate to help you to make the city or port a better place. If you look at Rotterdam as one big source of energy, expertise and creativity that once unleashed creates a massive think and do tank.
Important conditions in my opinion for a government to be able to mobilise its civilians is to be transparent, make thing simple for people to understand, be open for learning and experimentation and be communicative. The civil servant becomes a file manager, process facilitator and a community organiser. All execution is done by the community!
As a government there could be various ways to start. You could open up your processes and data for the outside world to blend in (check the various open data initiatives), or create whole new platforms and in a later stage blend in the organisational processes. In 2009 I have co-founded R’damse Nieuwe as an experiment to introduce government as an open platform thinking in the city of Rotterdam. We have learned important lessons the past few years that I’d love to share.
One that is vital for success: if you want to transform the government towards a platform for participation it is key to not be afraid of your citizens!