Online platforms such as Citizen Lab offer cities a vehicle to engage with citizens on a variety of civic topics, asking them to make suggestions and vote for the ideas they think have the most potential. This type of platform is already operating in Medellin in Columbia, where citizens have put forward 14,463 ideas to resolve a variety of issues including how to increase mobility and improve engagement between citizens and the government.
However it is not just about sharing ideas. Co-collaboration is also about encouraging people to be creative, making and designing things that will have a positive impact on community living. Events such as the Aarhus Mini Maker Faire bring people of all ages and backgrounds together, to showcase their products, come up with designs for buildings and spaces and identify opportunities to create solutions and business models using technology and design. In the UK, Hands on Bristol brings together architecture students at UWE and citizens to collaboratively design and build solutions that will enhance spaces across the city for the end user.
Despite a growing number of exemplar projects, the biggest problem with co-collaboration remains a lack of awareness. If citizens don’t know it exists or how to access it, they won’t participate. Therefore, cities need to look at ways to engage people and help them to see the benefits this type of approach can bring. A failure to address this will mean that co-collaboration will only reflect the views of a minority, which could sway policy and innovation in favor of very vocal or well-connected citizen groups and disenfranchise others. This is why I believe it is crucial to support this type of activity with a clear communications strategy, while also offering multiple touch points for people to engage both on and offline, ensuring that all citizens get their chance to be heard.