Engaging the Population of a City to Reinvent Itself, Part Two



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Guest Post By Don Tapscott, Curator Social Media Week. As Global Curator, Don Tapscott is leading a series of discussion on our global theme of Empowering Change Through Collaboration. Read previous discussions here.

In my previous post I discussed the ambitious initiative by the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota, Columbia to resuscitate citizen involvement by getting residents involved in the city’s October 2011 municipal election. The previous mayor had been suspended from office amid charges of corruption.

The Chamber’s process was launched in the spring of 2011, and involved a mix of online and local face-to-face initiatives. The Chamber wanted voters to help set the agenda for the new mayor and government. It was the Chamber’s desire to go beyond simply asking the candidates to adopt platitudes about building a better, more open city. The Chamber wanted fresh proposals with specific goals.

For example, during the campaign mayoralty candidates were asked if they would adopt the International Development Bank’s software for open procurement for government tendering. The software is highly transparent and makes bid-rigging and bribery virtually impossible. All the candidates were forced to say Yes. Now with an active citizenship the Chamber has some muscle to keep the winner’s feet to the fire and do what he said he would do.

The Chamber’s campaign used online tools such as a website, Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs and virtual surveys. There were also face-to-face roundtables held in the 19 districts of Bogotá and in the city’s main universities.

The Chamber was able to involve more than 10,000 citizens. Its 26 roundtables attracted 1,800 citizen, business and student leaders. The campaign gave citizens the tools to point out on a map of Bogotá the events that affect their environment and identify locations where the problems are most concentrated. Citizens were able generate and share ideas, build collaborative networks and generate projects.

An advertising campaign to promote involvement in the campaign and promote Bogota as a lively, active and participative city generated over 28 million hits on websites and 36,700 visits to the campaign’s website.

As a result of this activity, the public developed and delivered to the mayoralty candidates five proposals, which they wanted included in the new mayor’s agenda. Depending on the objective, these goals could be achieved by the public sector, the private sector, the community, or alliances among them.

  • Competitive Positioning Strategy for Bogotá: Strive to position Bogotá as one of the 3 most competitive cities in Latin America, making it a preferred destination for investment, tourism, major events and development of new technologies.
  • Employment Plan for Bogotá: Lead and implement a public-private strategy to create high-quality jobs, and make Bogotá one of the top 3 cities in Latin America with the highest employment and the lowest poverty rates.
  • Intelligent city management: Develop a digital agenda for Bogotá to promote transparency, social control, and the effectiveness and efficiency of public policies based on a citizen-focused platform.
  • Agreement on High-Quality Education: Develop an education system in which at least 80% of students attained minimum competency levels.
  • Urban and Sustainable Bogotá: Help the city control its urban growth and acquire an international reputation for sustainability.

These are ambitious goals, but the citizens are providing the will and the Internet is helping provide the way.


For three decades Don Tapscott has been the world’s leading thinker about the impact of the digital revolution on business and society. He is the author of 14 books, most recently Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World and with Anthony D Williams: Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. You can follow Don on Twitter at @DTapscott.

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