Spending Challenge wraps up; government takes ideas forward

So on Friday the Treasury’s public ideas-gathering/crowdsourcing Spending Challenge site wrapped up, having collected more than 44,000 suggestions from the public. You can read more on the Treasury’s website or watch this quick BBC interview with George Osborne.

Both the way MPs and ministers talk about this initiative and the Treasury’s willingness to publish the ideas received and keep the public in the loop seem to suggest a genuine desire to make the most of these kinds of processes. (Quick aside: that seems to run across the three key elements to digital democracy: 1) the technological — finding affordable tools, platforms and channels to support decision-making processes; 2) the public-facing — engaging people and getting wide, useful participation; 3) the political — actually doing something with input/feedback and integrating it into the processes of government).

If you took the opportunity to look through the Spending Challenge site, you’ll know there were plenty of good ideas in there. Personally, I especially liked the really specific ones — things like the person who pointed out that their office wasn’t able to buy simple things like cups from high street shops, where they’re cheaper, but were obliged to spend more money ‘procuring’ them from official suppliers. How else would you access this kind of idea/feedback? Of course, there were also very broad-brush and very strategic ideas submitted as well.

This huge pile of ideas is now being sorted and the best being taken forward for consideration and implementation — in some cases, plans are already underway to turn ideas submitted into action. The Treasury site has more details:

The Chancellor has already announced three of the suggestions you submitted that will be taken forward. These ideas are:

  • a more common sense approach to Criminal Record Bureau checks for junior doctors. This will reduce the costs incurred by the NHS when a junior doctor moves position as part of their training;
  • piloting an online auction site for surplus and second hand Government equipment, with the money made reinvested in public services; and
  • replacing the plastic National Insurance number card with a letter reducing costs.

Obviously, we were really excited to be a part of this pioneering process, that the exercise was run using our Dialogue App. It seems certain that this *kind* of thing (government crowdsourcing ideas from the public, directly involving people in big decision considerations, facilitating mass participation online etc) is set to continue and become a more standard part of government’s decision-making procedures. I guess the two things to watch with interest are:
1) specifically with the Spending Challenge, seeing the public’s ideas get processed, sorted and, in some cases, realised; and
2) generally, how these processes will continue to evolve and be applied to different challenges/contexts.

Exciting times for digital democracy, it seems.

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