The creation of a handbook for better public civic collaboration

From 2022 Waag Futurelab and Stby have collaborated on a joint research project with the question: What do citizen collectives and government need to achieve sustainable cooperation based on mutual value creation? Our goal was to learn from experiments with new forms of collaboration between government and social initiatives. One of the guiding principles in our explorations was Frame Innovation‘s deep knowledge base. 

The project lasted 1.5 years and resulted in a set of key lessons and a selection of 15 tools presented in a handbook for public civic collaboration. The handbook has been created by Stby and Waag FutureLab, especially for people and organisations who are seeking inspiring ways to improve public civic partnerships. You can download a copy of the handbook via the link below.

Why do we need better collaboration between citizens and government?

The civil society is deeply connected to local communities. Collaborative efforts help build trust between government and citizens, fostering greater community engagement in decision-making processes and policy implementation.

Civil society organisations often bring specialised knowledge, skills, and innovative approaches to addressing social issues. Currently, cooperation between government and social initiatives is often limited and difficult.

To harness the power of society, we must move from the old value system focused on financial profit to a new value system focused on value for the entire society. This requires redesigning government instruments and policy processes, letting go of the idea of citizen consultation and single funding, and giving space to constructive, sustainable cooperation and mutual generation of value.

Taking inspiration from other existing forms of collaboration

How to achieve constructive, sustainable collaboration and mutual value generation? 

By researching current and successful examples of public civic collaboration, this project aimed to develop new knowledge and process models that support sustainable cooperation between citizens and governments to realise successful participation. With the premise that this knowledge is applicable in a wide range of domains, where citizens and governments cooperate.

We first investigated various social initiatives in the Netherlands, in various domains, such as food and energy. Several interviews were conducted with experts and stakeholders in public civic partnerships, using service design tools, like stakeholder maps. Analysing this data showed that learning to better work together based on shared values is key to success in public-civic partnerships. Various blog posts on this topic were published by Waag.

In several rounds of additional data collection, we then explored various options for working differently and better together between civil society and public government. We used various forms of reflective practice, supported by design methods such as value pursuit and policy mapping, expert interviews, case study evaluation and interactive workshops with civilians and civil servants. With the deployment of these design methods, we acknowledged the different interests and allowed all actors to participate as equal partners in public civic collaboration. As guidance for the reflective practices, we followed the appreciative inquiry model.  

Experimenting together through using service design tools 

Handbook with lessons learned 

We are sharing the lessons we learned from the research project in a handbook that Stby and Waag FutureLab created together. This handbook provides a set of key lessons and a selection of 15 tools that are especially useful for people who are seeking inspiring ways to learn to improve public civic collaborations. 

We also learned a lot about the crucial value of both attitude and ways of working together for all involved. These explorative projects are never straightforward or linear. They are experimental in nature, and focused on learning, which requires a collaborative and open mindset. 

The people and partners who were involved in the project were very committed, and that was a crucial part of the learning process. One of the most important lessons we learned is the need for a common language and terminology in the communication between the different parties involved. Next to that, we learned that openness is another key factor. Throughout the process, the participants determined the course, while we offered possible directions. Important choices were made jointly during the work sessions. And between the workshops the participants (both civilians and civil servants) experimented, documented and reflected on their experiments. 

You can download a copy of the handbook here
Or download the English summary here.

Interacting in the spaces where citizens live