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Civic IQ 1.0: A Vision for Open Government

There are two things that are constants at Artefact – our belief that design can help us shape a preferable future and our interest in big challenges. We’ve reimagined photography, envisioned better medical systems, and established more human-centered visions of wearable technology. A few years ago, we started considering the role of design in democracy. The idea gained traction and it was only a matter of time before we began working to answer the question: can we create a platform that brings citizens and government closer and provides a scaffold for ordinary people to create real solutions together?

Civic IQ is Artefact’s vision for an online engagement platform that empowers ordinary people to solve problems our leaders can’t.

Click on the image to see the Civic IQ overview presentation.

Addressing the crisis in confidence

Despite the growth of pervasive digital connections and media coverage, government and citizens have never felt further apart. Critical government decisions are stalled. Our trust in government effectiveness and our engagement in the democratic process are in decline. But design thinking gives us tools. Years of experience creating products and experiences for people provide lessons on how to reach diverse audiences and nurture long-term engagement. Related disciplines such as behavioral economics help us understand behavior and counter the biases citizens bring to problem identification, deliberation, and voting. Our need for empathy with the people using our designs has shown us how others can build empathy with each other for more open deliberation. And we are learning that the same diversity that makes the people’s collective voice difficult to interpret can also be a source of better predictions and better solutions than experts can make.

A citizen’s think tank

Civic IQ is a platform that gives the public a voice of its own and builds empathy for effective debate and brainstorming. It empowers people to experiment with identifying and solving problems, including the ones that are left languishing by our leaders, while cultivating a more engaged, informed, and diverse electorate.

Civic IQ members form a citizen think tank that collaboratively moves ideas from rough outlines to polished and detailed recommendations through five distinct spaces.

Signup space: You are unique but not alone

When you visit Civic IQ for the first time, you are encouraged to create a profile by answering questions. This lets you reflect on your unique worldview and understand how it relates to that of your friends, neighbors, and countrymen. It also helps Civic IQ understand and utilize the diversity among its members.

The platform is designed to encourage participation through Civic IQ points (CIQ), the currency you use to promote the prominence of issues you care passionately about. The more comprehensive your profile is, the more often you participate, contribute and curate content, and the more you engage with people with diverging views, the more CIQ points you earn.


Problem space: Building a web of problems and issues, people, and solutions

A personalized home page shows content that aligns to your interests and prompts you to engage. It also shows topics that require more people like you to participate in order to achieve better diversity. Your current issues and related information are prominently displayed. Users can also create a new problem statement about anything they care about, promote it, refine and add information, and link it to related topics in the system.


Brainstorm space: Idea generation and experimentation

When popular problems reach a critical mass of support, they are moved to the next space, where users brainstorm solutions. In this space, diverse brainstorming tools help define the requirements for a good solution and enable the generation of a large volume of creative ideas.

Using their CIQ, people back and promote the solutions they like. Once the best ideas are selected and refined into more specific and complete concepts, government data and open simulation tools help people understand economic and other outcomes.


Deliberation space: Creative collaboration

Many collaborators can work together to turn the best solutions into a more comprehensive proposal that identifies funding sources and uses real policy tools like taxes, credits, or regulations. Individuals who are passionate about the process act as moderators, making sure comments are constructive, participation is diverse, and areas of contention and weakness are addressed.

To ensure diversity of viewpoints, Civic IQ recruits people who represent all sides of the problem and solution to critique and strengthen the proposal.


Proposal space: Citizen-backed, actionable, binding

After rounds of critical review, proposals move forward, go back for additional brainstorming or are combined with other, similar proposals for broader support. Votes are held for proposals with high community support. Successful proposals become part of the official policy agenda and receive media and lobbying support from the Civic IQ policy platform team.


Citizens in Action

With significant participation, social and media support, Civic IQ can generate the compelling proposals that empower elected officials to overcome political stalemates and act on the issues being raised. Through the process, citizens gain a deeper understanding of the issues and of each other.

Can we build it? Yes, and we should.

We believe an open government is more than the government sharing data. We need to bring the breadth of our collective knowledge and problem-solving capabilities to bear on the problems we face as a nation. The success of crowd-sourcing and citizen engagement platforms and social networks like Kickstarter, Liquid Democracy, Facebook, and Twitter, are proof that empowered people can identify issues, create and agree on solutions, advocate, and implement them. Yet very few initiatives are focused on the harder challenge of engaging people in collaborative problem solving, deliberation, brainstorming, and refinement. Design, research, and entrepreneurship are required and we are here to get started.