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The EngageNSW hackathon

Engage NSW hackathon

Earlier this month I judged the EngageNSW Hackathon, an event hosted by ServiceNow with support from The NSW Government.

The event was a fantastic example of private-public-partnership stimulating the development of innovative technologies for government. Think GovHack but with a single challenge provided by government, in this case, The NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello.

The challenge put to the room by the Minister was clear: how might we use technology to make engagement more effective.  

The judging criteria included whether the solution:  

  • captured the voice of the community
  • helped gov act on input 
  • improved visibility into what is working and what isn’t
  • empowered government to provide feedback to citizens

It also had to be:

  • viable and could be used by government  
  • different, innovative and creative
  • would have an impact on various types of personas/engagement participants and government staff  
  • easy to use or required training  
  • build using ServiceNow platforms capabilities  

13 teams came up with engagement technology solutions and built prototypes. The teams included people from across government and the technology and private sector. Many of the participants were new to community and stakeholder engagement and it was great to hear their fresh perspective on the challenge and the tools government might use to improve engagement.   

The finalists

Several teams came up with solutions to engage people in community, online on social media channels, or offline in our public spaces through mobile apps or interactive technologies and objects.  

Many of the solutions featured the use of tools to listen to and respond to feedback from the community. At least three teams suggested that government use publicly available social media data to understand community sentiment about issues. Others focused on the use of data collected through engagement (invited data). One of these teams created a dashboard so these two sources of data could be compared. Another team created two customisable dashboards: one for Ministers so that they could understand issues and follow what people cared about in their electorate and portfolio; the second for engagement participants so that they could be notified about engagement on topics of interest to them and how their input was being used. 

A few of the teams worked on technologies to engage people about green spaces and the use of public assets. Another developed a map-based solution to make it easy for people affected by natural disaster to find real time information about the situation and the services available to them.

It was lovely to see one solution focused on engaging with youth and how people might engage with each other in their local communities.

I was also pleased to see one of the biggest engagement technology companies in Australia join one of the groups. This team worked on a solution to make the user experience simpler for people who might want to use their product alongside tools built on the Service Now platform.

It is great to see this type of collaboration and integration of products happening in the engagement technology industry. After reviewing over 120 products being used by governments of English speaking countries and talking to thousands of professionals using technology for government engagement it’s clear that no single product will be able to serve the full spectrum of governments engagement needs. So, it will be necessary for these tools and companies to work together if governments are to leverage the benefit of the range of engagement technologies now available.

The winning team built a prototype for a tool that would enable government to engage in a ‘virtuous circle’ with community: from idea-generation to closing the feedback loop, all the way through to innovating and delivering with others. It was a unanimous decision by the judges.

The winning team: Enabling Engagement

Congratulations to everyone involved. Thank you for caring about our communities and how we might participate in the ways that we are served and governed. 

In particular, I would like to recognise ServiceNow and the Minister’s office for their sponsorship and leadership. The EngageNSW hackathon was a fantastic event and a model for how governments might work with others to develop innovative solutions. Thanks for making it happen. 

I look forward to seeing the development of these #engagetech solutions and hope to see more of this type of innovation and collaboration in the future.

  • Gregory Masters

    November 14, 2019 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Nice work Amelia. I like the distinction between invited data and publicly available data and drawing comparisons between them.

    Sounds like a successful event!

    • Amelia Loye

      November 14, 2019 at 10:06 pm Reply

      Thanks Greg. I think the sweet spot is the triangulating of data from and about communities. Through the census we get data about the composition of our communities, through observation and big public data you can get data about behaviours and some insight into sentiment, and through engagement we get data about experiences and opinions. If you don’t Ask and Listen to data from the people and organisations you serve and govern you won’t build trust or change perception, but you need to listen to all sources of data to truly represent and govern responsibly. We are lucky that in the 21st Century we now have lots of tools to collect and make sense of all of these sources of data.

      Looking forward to discussing this with you further in person.

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