Crowdsourcing: Government by the people?

State and local leaders set up sites to solicit public input

States and municipalities are pursuing the idea of government by the people, by using online tools to crowdsource ideas on how to allocate budgets, cut waste and reduce the size of government.

Oakland County, Mich., is using its Oakland County Ideas Project website to solicit ideas and feedback on its budgeting process, Lauren Katims writes in Government Technology.

The site, built by IdeaScale for $35,000, lets residents post comments, answer question and rank spending proposals, according to the report. Phil Bertolini, Oakland County’s deputy county executive and CIO, told Katims that crowdsourcing was an outgrowth of the county’s use of social media tools. “If you use crowdsourcing, you put out an idea and you get thousands of opinions,” he said. “More minds and more ideas make for a better product.”

The idea is catching on around the country. In January, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez set up a dedicated e-mail account, [email protected], to solicit ideas on eliminating waste and reducing the size of the state’s government, the website reported.

The City of Santa Cruz, Calif., set up a WordPress site in 2009 to get ideas on solving a $9.2 million budget shortfall, writes. The city also uses the site to promote monthly “meetups” with residents.

New York City signed a deal in January with Spigit to use the company’s Simplicity idea management platform to set up an internal crowdsourcing site for 15,000 of the city’s workers. The site is intended to improve collaboration and idea-sharing, and could eventually be expanded to include all of the city’s 300,000 workers, according to the company.

Crowsourcing is also being employed in one way or another in Idaho, North Carolina and Washington, according to

Whether these efforts produce many tangible results, or whether they amount to a big, online suggestion box, is a question to be answered down the road. But for now, at least they’re bringing people into the process.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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