At Open North, we’re passionate about giving citizens better access to the decision-making processes of government. With Represent, we’ve made figuring out who your elected officials are, at any level of government, simple and efficient. Our consultative budget simulator, Citizen Budget, provides municipalities with an opportunity to put citizens in the shoes of elected officials to re-balance the budget according to their priorities. With the recent release of the Open511 API for road events, we’re aiming to streamline road event reporting and sharing between governments and citizens. Our next major project, MyCityHall.ca (MaMairie in Quebec), will build on these initiatives by creating a free, online solution for civic engagement at the municipal level.
What is MyCityHall.ca?
Municipalities are responsible for most of the services citizens use everyday such as roads, schools, parks and waste management. However, citizens do not have the tools to provide direct input into the decision-making processes around these services. We believe that when citizens participate actively in decision-making at city hall, our leaders make better decisions – to make our cities safer, healthier, smarter, more fun and efficient. MyCityHall.ca will be a platform for citizens to track, learn about, and influence the decisions of their city council.
With MyCityHall.ca citizens will be able to:
- set up alerts and subscribe to receive updates via email when council discusses issues they care about
- ask questions in public to their councillors and get an answer in public, creating a shared memory for voters and helping them hold politicians to their word
- track and share the current motions before council, and engage with their existing social networks when important issues arise
- monitor their councillor’s activity, including attendance and voting records
- read explainers on how council works and get advice on how to lobby council
Councillors can use MyCityHall.ca to engage constituents in new ways and to better understand which issues matter. Activists and nonprofits can use it to track issues and mobilize supporters. Teachers can use MyCityHall.ca in their lesson plans to help their students understand how their city and their democracy functions.
We will launch MyCityHall.ca in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa in 2013.
Who is on board?
Towards the end of 2012, we entered into a partnership with the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) to build a new set of tools as part of the expansion of their OpenGovernment.org project to the local level. PPF will launch these online tools in three initial US cities: San Jose, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We plan to re-use this open-source civic engagement platform for MyCityHall.ca, with Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa as our launch cities.
We will work with city councillors and partner organizations such as the Institut du Nouveau Monde and Samara to ensure the website presents government information in a way that is easy for residents to understand and use. We will invite community leaders to workshops to receive their feedback, to ensure the platform meets citizens’ needs and empowers them to act.
What’s the next step?
To get this project off the ground we need to raise around $10,000 per city to cover the costs of development and data collection, web hosting, and community outreach. We have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for Toronto, and campaigns for Montreal and Ottawa’s MyCityHall.ca sites will follow. After these campaigns, we hope to launch MyCityHall.ca by the end of summer.
We are also hoping to find a few interested volunteers to help us get the message out about MyCityHall.ca. If you would like to help test MyCityHall.ca, tell city leaders about it, raise awareness in civil society organizations, or develop workshops, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.