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Technological evolution is calling into question the traditional relationship between governments and their citizens.

It has also highlighted the fact that digitization and administrations do not always progress at the same rate.

Phenomena like the demographic explosion experienced by some countries, rural exodus towards cities, and profound social and economic changes, all contribute to a ‘perfect storm’ that is forcing us to rethink current governance models and seek more humane ones that take citizen innovation into account as an element for transformation.

In its study “Governments that serve: Innovations that improve Service Delivery to Citizens”, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) calls for a new governance model where values like equality, freedom and citizen participation are paramount. 

The study also calls for greater cooperation between public and private actors, and their communication through “multicentric systems or networks” where all parties involved can connect in real time and with equal conditions for access.

The study highlights that higher levels of education in society, as well as easier access to information, have produced citizens who are more participative, discerning and aware of their rights, and who demand change in their governments.

Citizen innovation
New governance models promote multicentric systems or networks.

These new citizens like to keep an eye on the efficient, effective and transparent use of their taxes and, in short, supervise the actions of the administrations that manage those taxes.

They also wish to actively participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and communities, understood as an essential value of democratic coexistence.

Technology makes the age of citizen innovation possible. In its study, the IADB cites “open data platforms and crowdsourcing” as some of the most useful tools to support the “inclusion of citizens at all stages of the policy cycle”, particularly on a local level.

Cities like Medellín (Colombia) or Santander (Spain), among others, have been committed to involving their citizens in co-creation within their cities for years, in the case of the latter through the community Santander City Brain eco.

Citizen participation that transforms cities 

The case of Santander, one of the European cities that has pioneered citizen innovation, is an example of how to involve a city’s various actors in its governance model. 

Thanks to the patronage of Banco Santander, Santander’s citizens participate in the city’s strategic planning since 2013, together with the City Council and through Santander City Brain. This digital community, open to all citizens, evolved this year into Santander City Brain eco, with the aim of building a more sustainable city through collaborative innovation.

This initiative allowed the municipal team to establish a closer relationship with citizens, and to understand their needs and proposals by using challenges presented within the community.

In its new phase, Santander City Brain eco has asked Santander’s citizens for ideas that promote sustainable mobility in their city, and has gathered proposals for the reactivation of business and local tourism from a sustainable perspective, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

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Santander City Brain eco: citizen participation and Tourism innovation
COVID-19 and the local economy: Santander launches a competition for citizen ideas for the recovery of small businesses

‘Santander City Brain’: download the case study (pdf)

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