Online service that lets anyone report non-emergency neighborhood needs to their local government, and to discuss or collaborate between each other,commenting and documenting on neighbors’ petitions, building critical mass and helping government triage community needs.
Mission and Purpose
Create a bridging platform with public-facing and government management tools for citizens to make their non-emergency needs known to public officials and other neighbors, who can then organize to manage issues.
The website was created in 2008 by Ben Berkowitz, Kam and Miles Lasater, and Jeff Blasius in New Haven Connecticut as a way for community members to publicly let their government officials know about graffiti, illegal waste dump (two of the most popular categories), other infrastructure needs like cracked sidewalks and potholes, as well as intangible quality of life issues like dangerous zones and areas where reckless drivers put others in harm’s way. With the increasing adoption of smartphones with GPS, cameras, and ubiquitous internet, the website has expanded into an app that streamlines high accuracy reporting; however, the initial website and ethos of SeeClickFix is that government should not be a blackbox. To that effect, since the beginning reporting was open and public facing.
The service does not need the permission of local or state officials to work as an organizing platform for citizens and neighbors, but it offers premium management services to governments that want to contract them to streamline public complaints. For those who prefer not to sign in, people can report anonymously sensitive topics related to their building (SeeClickFix team, Tucker Severson 2015), or to do guest reporting, without the need for an account, which has turned out to be a popular way of reporting on the fly or as a way of protecting citizens' anonymity.
This has created a range of reactions from government officials. While some have voiced discomfort at having shortcomings in public services pointed out in a publicly accessible platform, but SeeCLickFix has also seen interest in backend management. In the past 7 years newer developments in SeeClickFix have aimed at helping local governments streamline their “request management” within the bureaucracy. Once the management system is purchased, SeeClickFix has teams that guide the entity through the implementation process, decision-making on rollout, and continued connectivity between citizens’ request and its fulfillment. This means the website has a background component that works with governments to manage their operations. On the frontend, citizens use their phone or computers to log a complaint. The website shows similar requests and their address so users can also see whether someone else has reported an incident, or they can follow through with pictures, or more information like if the situation has deteriorated. After reporting the issue (which can also be reported anonymously) and geolocating it, if the city has enrolled, the user receives an email with the city logo with a ticket number. On the backend, the city works with SeeClickFix to merge their process with the website’s workflow. The office handling requests acknowledges receiving it, which generates an email for the citizen—creating a link between the management office and the SeeClickFix account holder, then assigns it to the correct worker or field agent and can set the due date.
The workflow for each city worker is managed through SeeClickFix, which filters by due date and status, links to the phone’s GPS which increases the likelihood that the correct issue will be addressed, and allows the worker to communicate back about each issue with the request managing office. The backend interface also allows anyone manning the reports desk to add other citizens who call in to the email response, creating an internal tally of engagement level, which can also help prioritize high-volume issues, while keeping everyone interested informed about the progress. The information is easily collated meaning departments can keep track of their progress and find areas of weakness in the service requests they are getting. Furthermore, the user has complete ownership of the issue—even after the official says the problem has been fixed, if the complainant disagrees she can reopen the case and challenge that assertion.
Specializations and Activities
As of 2017 there are approximately 300 organizations enrolled with SeeClickFix, most of which are US municipalities, city or county governments, usually located around college or university towns, across the country. Hospitals and universities are other non-government organizations which have begun subscribing to the public communication and internal management system. In Canada, cities and councils have enrolled in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. If a locality is not enrolled as a customer of the SeeClickFIx management system, users can still report problems and set up watch areas, which are public-facing. The city, volunteer organizations, or other citizens can then take action and organize to problem-solve given the website’s commenting capabilities.
Users who sign in earn different amounts of “civic points” based on their level of participation (commenting, logging in, uploading images, creating a watch area, having an issue commented on, voted on, or followed up on) and discourages abuse by subtracting points if comments are flagged as inappropriate. These points are then translated into titles, like badges, that indicate status within the online community.
Not all reports are for pothole or graffiti. Reports of discarded syringes and other dangerous waste were used by the Burlington, Vermont Public Health Department to geolocate where public drop boxes were most needed, creating avenues for citizens to help with a public health crisis.
Major projects and events
In 2014 the service got its millionth request.
SeeClickFix is an example of how the open government is not enough. As time has passed, the community-centered platform has gained leverage by bringing in governments who are willing to be held accountable into dialogue with their residents, creating a feedback loop around dialogue and capacity-building that has changed the operational goal of the organization too. Beyond government demands, the “talkback” communication aspect of the service has put residents in contact with their neighbors, who in the process of discussing a concrete issue like the need for a stop sign in a cross road can bring attention to a larger issue, like public safety. An issue with high interest can have compounding effects, and can make the government prioritize finding a solution quickly, but it can also bring the community together to solve it on their own or to make it feel empowered in its capacity to be a co-producer of good governance. With time, SeeClickFix has seen these dynamics come out over and over again, and has adjusted its initial model to incentivize and make accessible these benefits to as many communities as it can.
Free services for citizens are now sustained by municipal memberships, though it is unclear what the operating costs and funding ratio is.
The service has started documenting https://seeclickfix.com/pages/case-studies.htmlcase studies which have use figures but does not document "failure" cases where cities refused to engage with the service. The service also has multiple outreach programs: blog posts highlight ways in which the community helps each other learn where to report issues like rogue university bus drivers even when SeeClickFix does not know (SeeClickFix team 2008); their local government GovLove podcast sprang from webinar events (SeeClickFix n.d.) with partner cities which are used to have local governments using SeeClickFix talking to each other (SeeClickFix team; Smith, Caroline 2015), and to give their residents a glimpse of their internal processes and lines of thinking. The webinars themselves have developed into annual conference workshops , called GovLove Summits (SeeClickFix team, Caroline Smith 2015).
Distributed Democracy: SeeClickFix.com for Crowdsourced issue reporting, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, 2012, https://kops.uni-konstanz.de/bitstream/handle/123456789/36359/Mergel_0-361533.pdf?sequence=5
 The range of urbanity spans wide, for example the local government of Washington D. C. and Broken Arrow Oklahoma are SeeClickFix users. In 2015 the Digital Communities consortium highlighted 16 cities who had “forward-thinking technology projects” (Digital Communities 2015), seven of which are affiliated and developed projects with SeeClickFix (SeeClickFix team, Caroline Smith 2015).
 The full list is St. Albert, Grande Prairie, County of Newell, City of Brooks, and Okotoks in Alberta; Burlington, Ontario; Cote Saint Luc, Quebec; Humboldt, Saskatchewan; • New Westminster, Revelstoke, and Richmond in British Columbia.