Better Reykjavik

Better Reykjavik is a co-creation project of the Citizens Foundation, Reykjavik City and its citizens that connects them and improves trust and policy.

It’s a platform for crowdsourcing solutions to urban challenges and has multiple democratic functions: Agenda setting, Participatory budgeting and Policymaking.

Innovations include unique debating system, crowd-sourcing, submission of multimedia content and extensive use of AI to improve the user experience as well as content submitted.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Better Reykjavik is an online platform for the crowdsourcing of solutions to urban challenges launched by the Icelandic Citizens Foundation in May 2010. It has multiple democratic functions which can roughly be split up into three divisions: Agenda setting, Participatory budgeting and Policy crowdsourcing.

Work on the open source platform started in 2008, after the Icelandic financial crash and Better Reykjavik was its first successful incarnation. It opened a week before elections in Reykjavik and was quickly picked up by the Best Party which was as a sarcastic critique of local politics that won the city elections. After the elections Better Reykjavik became an official policy and agenda setting platform for the city.

The website gives residents of Reykjavik the opportunity to submit original ideas and solutions to municipal-level issues within the city. Citizens of Reykjavik are given the opportunity to submit, debate, and prioritize policy proposals and ideas. Moreover, it allows residents to vocalize, debate, and amend a variety of ideas which they believe are crucial, and gives the voters a direct influence on decision making. 450 ideas have been processed through agenda setting part of Better Reykjavik. https://betrireykjavik.is
In 2011 a Participatory budgeting started within Better Reykjavik using the name Better Neighborhoods (later My Neighborhood. There Reykjavik residents and the city administration collaborate to determine capital allocation for construction and maintenance projects within the ten main neighborhoods of the city. Participation has increased steadily with new records reached almost every year.

This 450 million ISK (4.2 million USD, 3.6 million EUR) participatory budgeting initiative enables the public to spend approximately 6% of the city’s capital investment budget. The process for My Neighborhood takes about a year. During a three-week span between February and March, the ideas from all 10 neighborhoods are collected, and from the end of the “idea collection” period to May, the ideas are processed by both the project management team and the political district committees to decide which ones are reasonable and implementable. Close to 700 ideas from citizens have been realized by the city, with the visible and usable results in all neighborhoods which have been made better for their citizens to enjoy. https://betrireykjavik.is/community/973

Better Reykjavik has seen many more projects with the most notable being used to crowd-source policy on education in Reykjavik schools. In 2017 the City of Reykjavík decided to crowdsource ideas to co-create the City’s education policy on Better Reykjavík. This was the first time that a specific policy of any government within Iceland was crowdsourced. The process is ongoing, having completed the first phase of prioritizing educational objectives. The education policy project generated almost 200 ideas and thousands of debate points. https://betrireykjavik.is/community/663 & https://betrireykjavik.is/community/725

The main idea behind Better Reykjavik and its various projects is to connect citizens to the city administration to increase participation and awareness amongst citizens on municipal issues and to lessen the gap between on the one hand elected officials and administrative staff and the general public on the other hand.

There are many innovative elements within the Better Reykjavik platform and one of the reasons for its success and general acceptance is it’s unique debate system which is based on users adding talking points and arguments for and against ideas instead of the traditional comment section which often goes into heated arguments and name callings with seldom useful content which deters most people from participating but encourages extreme views and words. This debate system has been a part of Better Reykjavik since its inception.

Better Reykjavik incorporates an Up/Down ‘voting’ system where users vote up and down not only ideas but also debate points from other users which results in a system that, without moderation or other administrative efforts, presents the city with a list of ideas that are prioritized by its users. But not only that but also with the best points (according to its users) for and against each idea. This makes it very easy for the city to evaluate which ideas are good and which not as they’re in fact evaluated by the citizens.
Other notable innovative elements are the possibility to use video and audio to record your ideas and debate points. This method attracts users that otherwise might hesitate to participate. This benefits both the city and its citizens as their opinions and expertise used to improve the city.

Better Reykjavik uses machine translation as well as AI to recommend ideas and do smart notifications and a toxicity sensor to alert admins about abusive content although our debate system makes this rare. There is also an automatic classification of ideas.

Innovation Description

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Year: 2010
Level of government: Other

Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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