How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?

If you read the news paper, it’s impossible to avoid headlines related to big issues facing our culture.   How do we value people and human life?  How do we address poverty?  How do we improve our education system to foster a culture of great teachers?   For our exceptional teachers, how do we celebrate those teachers with a great salary?   How do we stimulate the local economy to create jobs?

As common citizens, it’s easy for us to feel powerless in the face of these big problems.   We often think about government as this “big entity” that we influence by voting, writing letters, and getting involved in local councils.     Like many others from the “code for America” movement, I believe that social media and the internet give citizens a new opportunity to connect with each other and local leaders to create positive change in our neighborhoods.    Social media, however, is only a tool.   It takes great leaders, engaged communities, and a common vision to address some of the big issues facing our culture.  How do we get more of this?

Jennifer Pahlka, one of the founding leaders from Code for America, has an awesome quote about a new vision of government:  “Government is about doing together what we can’t do alone.”   Government isn’t just the people we elect to public office.   Citizens have the potential to connect to each other, self-organize, and form communities of reform. is an example of an app that can be used by citizens to identify issues in their area and encouraging citizens/government to resolve them.

I wanted to shine a light on an open innovation event sponsored by the Knight Foundation.    I believe the Knight Foundation has a very cool and important mission:  “Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.”

How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?

They seem to have a passion for engaging citizens and solving “big problems” in novel ways.  In their current innovation challenge, they are asking citizens to address the following question: “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”   You can learn more about their challenge to government and local citizens by visiting

I believe their approach to this challenge is cool since they are executing this challenge using OpenIdeo’s social innovation platform.   This platform has many of my favorite ideas:  online collaboration, gamification, and designing engagement experiences with focused missions.

At the time of the writing, the challenge event has collected 109 innovation ideas.    In the spirit of previous Knight Foundation challenges, they hope to financially support some of the top ideas.

  • What one idea would you want to share?  What’s important to you?
  • From a project based learning perspective, can we use these open innovation challenges to create “mini-challenges” that can be shared with students?
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