Author: Harry Wilson

Firma logo-02Very often, what we choose to believe a technology will become, turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the West, we’ve believed that robots will come to displace us; in Japan, they’ve been seen as helpful and friendly; in each case, technology development has followed the narrative.

Today’s dystopian vision is of citizen data used for social credit scoring (yes, think that “Black Mirror” episode). The vision, and the reporting of, China’s Sesame Credit system is again totally built around cultural narratives. But is it possible to create a new narrative that will turn this concept inside-out and upside down, to serve citizens first?

We think that social credit scoring is using citizen data in the wrong place.

Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, often associated with technology, was the only deity in the Pantheon represented as having two faces – recognizing that the new can go either way.

If we are entering a new beginning, it is important for us to shape it for the better and turn the concept on its head.

Scoring by citizens, not of citizens

The first place social KPIs should be used is by governments and companies to score their own actions, and not to score citizens. So, let’s flip the microscope. Instead of governments using data to assess citizens, social scoring should be used by citizens to assess their governments.

For example, in our recent Citibeats project with the Government of Catalunya, we measured the social impact of their STEM programs according to open citizen opinions. We took the feedback of kids and parents from Twitter, to programs around robotics, coding, sustainability, and many more.

Of these, we assessed government-funded programs, but also discovered feedback to the long-tail of over 50 grassroots programs that were off the radar. Interestingly, the most successful programs according to the civic KPI were significantly different than traditional KPI rankings (funding invested per program, or event attendance).

Ultimately, the important part is the good practice of organizations being assessed by the people they serve. The challenge for these organizations has been finding a way to do this easily, as open data and qualitative feedback are both often messy – fortunately, new tools are emerging to do this well.

Beyond 0s and 1s

We should also recognize the opportunity here to move beyond the limitations of how governments have been measuring impact. Social value is notoriously hard to capture, and that’s the challenge we’re trying to crack. Social value doesn’t live in patients processed, and it definitely does not live in funding dollars spent; it lives in the feelings they have and the stories they share.

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