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“What the?!” Whatever happened to the UK Government’s innovative crowdsourcing project, the “Spending Challenge”?
Friday, July 16th, 2010

Earlier this week, I got really excited! (You should have seen me…)

On July 12, The UK Government launched an innovative crowdsourcing project to gather public ideas for reducing the country’s serious budget deficit. The Spending Challenge used an engaging website where members of the public co u ld submit their ideas for “getting more for less” by making public services less costly and more efficient. Participants could also read each other’s ideas, as well as rate and comment on them.

This was true crowdsourcing, where the community of users provides the engagement sponsor with a ranked list of measures based on what they think is most important to consider.

Before being released for public involvement on July 12, the Spending Challenge was used internally and received over 60,000 ideas from public servants government! And, with their expertise, this response was likely full of golden ideas.

What happened!?

So, I was surprised today when I returned to the engagement site, only to see that it had completely changed….

Gone is the ability to read other people’s ideas, to comment and to rate! You can still submit ideas – but that’s about all. Have a look for yourself: http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/

Less engaging + less effective

I think this new process design change is less innovative and, ultimately, less effective for several reasons:

  • No Interaction: There’s no dialogue or interaction between participants. People cannot engage in dialogue on the subject matter, exchange insights or perspectives.
  • No Community: The community of participants cannot collaborate together to co-create or improve ideas posted.
  • No Priorities Identified: Now, the UK Government will not generate a rated set of suggestions, showing which measures participants thought were most important to consider or implement. Instead, the results will be more of a “laundry list” than more a useful, publicly generated set of priorities

I still think the UK Government should be applauded for involving the public in tough, values-based discussions about government services.

That said, I think the redesign of the site and whole engagement process had made it less engaging for users and less effective as a tool to inform government decisions.

– Ellis Westwood –

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