Your government should value your input.

Seriously! You have a lot to add. It is your government, after all. It exists to provide services and value for you. If it’s not doing that, then you should be able to help it figure out how to solve that problem. An open government will provide the opportunity for you to do that – and will even provide incentives to keep you engaged. Now these incentives will probably not be cash back on your taxes or anything, but they’re still worthwhile. The most important thing for an open government to keep in mind however, is being authentic about its engagements. Engaging citizens without any serious intention to utilize the feedback received will only lead to angry, or even worse: apathetic citizens.

The reality is that a good government needs you involved in order to do its job — well not just you, but you along with all the other citizens. This includes nonprofits, journalists, companies, experts, and government watchdog organizations – each has a particular perspective to contribute and together, they represent the society we live in. An open government creates opportunities for you to participate in the decision-making process, build new tools on government data, or submit solutions to government problems. It understands that your unique knowledge and experiences may be exactly what is required to improve the delivery of services or the quality of decisions.

An open government will also make certain that you want to engage with them by ensuring that there is a value exchange. This means that if you contribute your time to trying to improve your government that at the end of the process, you feel that it was time well spent. While there is tangible value to be gained from this (for example, if you start a business based on government data), normally there will be a specific issue that you’re passionate about. Whether or not your efforts to improve government are successful, an open government will make sure that you understand the process, be transparent during the course of it, and keep you informed about the impact that your efforts made. In this way, while you may disagree with the final results, you will probably still respect the process and keep trying to make your government better.

This role that your government should fill can be summed up by saying that they need to be authentic in the way that they engage with you. In addition to being clear about the process – and your role in it, they should be neutral and objective, provide equal opportunity for all stakeholders to engage, and appropriately set your expectations for what is possible — including the likelihood of having a real impact.

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