When community engagement might not be enough - Let's talk 'why?' civic innovation

By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place

Civic Innovation is the rapid explosion of citizen-led, or citizen-powered innovation that occurs when citizens play an active role in democracies.

Enabled and empowered by technology and access to public and city-wide data, citizens and businesses are playing a fundamental role in driving innovation in cities, with a focus on improving social and economic outcomes for local communities.

Civic Innovation is a global movement that includes a range of concepts including; citizen-centric smart city investment, civic tech (the development of tools created by and used for citizens and businesses), active citizenship (citizens involved in democracy) and social innovation (to address social problems).

In this post we wanted to outline some of these concepts and why civic innovation is so important.

Immense challenges demand new solutions

Global cities are facing immense challenges and opportunities that can only be solved collaboratively with citizens. Climate change, population growth, changing demographics and the rapid pace of technological evolution is placing incredible pressures on our cities.

Around the world, communities are using digital technology and their time, resources and ingenuity to solve problems. And to do it fast and collaboratively. Every day ordinary citizens and businesses are driving innovation.

Is your community engagement strategy acknowledging that this is the new norm?

Social innovation

Social innovation is the practice of citizens working with social organisations to solve social problems. Digital technology can enable citizens to connect locally and globally and to quickly accelerate change and deepen impact.

Citizens often identify social problems before city-makers and private companies. And through technology and social networks, everyday citizens are developing viable solutions to solve social problems such as homelessness, violence, depression or inequity.

Our communities are leading social movements around the world, by creating grassroots networks and ecosystems, and developing technology solutions to identify, track and solve social challenges.

Are your community engagement practices enabling this networking to propagate?


CivicTech is technology created and used by citizens, businesses or governments to improve our communities. Excited by falling development costs, creative commons and open source software, everyday citizens are developing new technology for community benefit. This includes developing new platforms, software and applications.

Does your community engagement process 'bake in' opportunities for growing the CivicTech movement?

Citizen activation

Active citizens enable cities to do more with less. Empowered through technology, active citizens are helping cities to collect live data, push community education campaigns, or participate in their local communities at a pace that no city can. Through mobile technology they’re tracking endangered species, collaboratively mapping cities, or activating grassroots campaigns with little or no cost.

Is your community engagement process recruiting the next generation of 'active' citizens to help bring our communities to life with data?

Collective impact

Rather than spread resources and efforts across multiple, smaller projects, community groups, citizens, businesses and governments form united collectives with shared goals and resources. Together they identify city problems and make concerted, targeted efforts to achieve a greater collective impact.

No one stakeholder can solve our problems alone. Is your engagement process mapping those who have 'skin in the game' and can invest time and resources to accelerate the best projects for people?

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