What if there were a site where you could post online reviews for a variety of local government services, similar to review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp? That’s the concept a local man hopes will become a million dollar idea.
District resident Josh Glasstetter entered his idea for a website called “Civicly” into the Knight Foundation’s “Knight News Challenge.” This year’s contest offers winners a share of $5 million in funding for entries that best promote open government and present ways to improve interaction between citizens and governments.
Civicly would allow residents to leave reviews for government agencies and services such as the DMV, police, utilities, transportation and public schools. There would be opportunities to leave feedback for both specific and larger scale entities. For example, users could write a review about WMATA in general, just Metrorail, or could review a specific Metro stop.
“The idea is to take something that people are familiar with, such as online reviews, and take into new area like government and the public sector,” Glasstetter said.
Although the concept of giving feedback to government entities isn’t unique in and of itself, the innovation comes through with the idea of allowing the public to see every piece of feedback that’s submitted.
Glasstetter, who works for an advocacy group in the District, said he’s focusing first on D.C., Arlington and Alexandria as pilot areas for launching Civicly. Eventually, it would branch out to other parts of the country.
“Arlington is really a perfect place to try something out like this because of the demographics. I think people would naturally take to it. Folks in Arlington and D.C. are already so accustomed to using these kind of tools,” Glassteetter said. “I think this is the right kind of population to launch this.”
With more than 830 contest submissions, Glasstetter acknowledges the odds of winning are slim, but he remains hopeful.
“There’s no way around it, the odds are very steep,” he said. “But my hope is that regardless of what happens for Civicly in the News Challenge, the idea has been seen by a lot of people. Hopefully that by getting this started and putting ourselves into this contest, we’ll be able to take the proposal and discuss it with foundations and other potential supporters.”
Viewers can give feedback on the proposals through Friday (March 29). Semi-finalists should be announced within the next week and will have the opportunity to further refine their proposals, as well as to submit a funding request ranging from $1,000 to $1,000,000. Winners will be notified when judging ends in June.