Group Envisions Yelp-Like Site to Review Everything From Government …
Everyone has had a complaint about the DMV. Or maybe trash pickup, a pothole that never gets fixed or a streetlight that the city is slow to fix. But those complaints tend are often difficult to channel, and rarely is there an easy way to find out if you’re the only one grousing about something.
Josh Glasstetter, who by day is the Research Director at People for the American Way, has an idea—he and two partners want to create and launch Civicly, a Yelp-like service that would allow residents of D.C. and the surrounding jurisdictions to “evaluate and review city services and agencies, public schools, elected and appointed officials, transit systems, subway and bus lines, public hospitals and clinics, utilities and more.”
Glasstetter submitted his idea to Knight News Challenge, which awards between $1,000 to $1,000,000 to projects that improve the way government and citizens interact. In his proposal, he explained:
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Ratings and reviews are a proven model for assessing products and services, discerning public sentiments and highlighting areas that need improvement. The requisite technology and functionality are established and familiar to the public. That’s why we believe we can do for government and the public sector what TripAdvisor has done for travelers, Amazon for consumers, Yelp for diners, and so on.
At its core, Civicly will improve the way citizens interact with government and the public sector and help facilitate the change that citizens want to see. Citizens are tired of sending emails and voicemails into the void (overloaded general boxes), knowing that their feedback is unlikely to reach its intended audience, if it gets any audience at all. Many more don’t even try.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of those on the receiving end. The current system simply doesn’t scale. By solving this problem, Civicly gives voice to the citizens who have been speaking all along and significantly lowers the bar for new participants to meaningful civic engagement. Civicly will also enable representatives of the institutions and individuals being reviewed — as well as other citizens — to react and respond. We believe the resulting conversations will be a boon to democracy and transparency.
Glasstetter admits that this is much like Grade D.C., an official initiative launched last summer that measures citizen input and turns it into a letter grade for city agencies, but says that it improves upon it by putting everything out in the open. “There are already systems but they are pretty much closed,” Glasstetter told Next City. “It needs to be done in public to be effective.”
Civicly is up against over 800 other submissions, and Glasstetter writes in an email that he’d love to see local support for it. “The contest is currently in the feedback phase, and anyone can comment and ‘applaud’ proposals. While the number of comments and amount of applause doesn’t determine the winner, it certainly can’t hurt.”