Live Blog: How Do We Accelerate Civic Innovation?

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After a full day of panels, breakout sessions, and civic innovation demos, the sixth annual Design Public’s final session is a plenary panel to reflect on the day; identify the new services that will transform the way citizens interact with the state; and identify the key areas where action is needed. The “How Do We Accelerate Civic Innovation?” panelists include Santosh Singh, Kartik Desai, Nishesh Mehta, Paul Aiyong Seong, and Jagat Shah; Aditya Dev Sood is moderating the panel.

5:45pm: Aditya Dev Sood, CEO of Center for Knowledge Societies, welcomes the panel and invites each panelist to introduce themselves and share how they are working to accelerate civic innovation.

5:48pm: Paul Seong, from USAID’s Innovations Office, is working to test and scale solutions from the innovation sector – especially those addressing water and sanitation – that can be adapted by the government and the private sector.

5:49pm: Nishesh Mehta is working to set up India’s first water incubator, using technologies that are at the heart of civic tech. Design Public is the exact platform needed to convene stakeholders.

5:51pm: Santosh Singh has been working in this field for some time and is presently working with the World Bank on policies and outcomes related to rural, urban, and resilience. For Santosh, exposure to certain problems can then lead to solutions to those problems.

5:54pm: Kartik Desai works in impact investing at Asha Impact, a firm that focuses on affordable housing, access to energy, and financial services. There are a lot of interesting solutions that individuals in this room are coming up with, but it is necessary to think about how to scale something effectively and how to collaborate with the government.

5:57pm: Jagat Shah from the National Institute of Urban Affairs is working to support a shift in thinking within the government. We need to reengineer how government plans and works in cities so the impact is positive and more sustainable to improve how humans live together. The role of the civic sector is really significant, and we need to move out of the adversarial relationship we have between the civic and government sectors.

6:02pm: Aditya shares that the morning of Design Public has wrestled with definitions of smart cities, platforms for civic feedback, and collective action. What are ideas for how we can create an ecosystem to foster civic innovation?

6:03pm: Kartik thinks that the social and political issues need to be separated from one another. One of the challenges is that there are so many cross-cutting issues; we need to prioritize infrastructure and people. Jagat comments that cities are complex, and in order to have significant impact, we must scale interventions. Every smart city needs to come up with goals and solutions that will meet the needs of their community. He mentions that the solutions must be locally created so that they are contextual and sustainable.

6:10pm: Paul poses a few questions about how at each step of the way there has been a delay in the solutions, even when we are aware of the problems and challenges. Aditya opens this question up for the audience to weigh in.

6:12pm: A member of the audience believes that it is crucial to have the community involved in the social and infrastructure development of that community. The delay in solutions needed in developing countries is often because developing country cities are importing their solutions from external sources so the solutions are not contextual. This audience member asked the panel what do they think the role of institutions, like USAID and the World Bank, is as we move forward in civic innovation.

6:15pm: Santosh explains that the World Bank or other donor agencies rarely have programs that focus on innovations because they institutionally decide on sector strategies. Their programs will incorporate innovation in its approach according to their mandate. Paul adds that USAID’s strategy is to not work specifically in civic innovation, but it should be part of any good program design. This approach is really the only way that new, great ideas have been generated.

6:22pm: Aditya offers a summary about learnings from Design Public and about the connectedness of the world. The government’s role is essential and present in this field of work; it is the way that this group of innovators will pitch and collaborate with the government that is crucial. He opens it up to the audience to ask final questions. An audience member shares a thought about the important role of youth and the need to connect other sectors, especially education, into civic innovation.

6:28pm: Aditya reflects on last year’s Design Public and the evolution and deepening of conversations that have occurred today. This growth in knowledge, work, and experience shows that there are quick advancements in this field and an increase in prioritizing civic innovation.

6:29pm: Jagat shares that it is heartening to see how much presentation of evidence of government failure creates change within government. There is a ripple effect as civil society advances solutions and pinpoints weaknesses; these instances of improvements need to scale up through the use of open data and civic technology.

6:32pm: Aditya invites Namrata Mehta to give a final summary and thank you to participants, speakers, and staff for all of their support putting together this sixth annual Design Public.

Follow along and join in on the conversations happening at Design Public today here on the blog or by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

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