Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2015

More Citizens Connect

by Mitchell Weiss

Abstract

Funding to scale Citizens Connect, Boston's 311 app, is both a blessing and a burden and tests two public entrepreneurs. In 2012, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides Boston's Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics with a grant to scale Citizens Connect across the state. The money gives two co-creators of Citizens Connect, Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacob, a chance to grow their vision for citizen-engaged governance and civic innovation, but it also requires that the two City of Boston leaders sit on a formal selection committee that pits their original partner, Connected Bits, against another player that might meet the specific requirements for delivering a statewide version. The selection and scaling process raises questions beyond just which partner to choose. What would happen to the Citizens Connect brand as Osgood and Jacob's product spreads across the state? Who could help scale their work best then nationally? Which business models were best positioned to drive that growth? What intellectual property arrangements would best enable it? And what role should the two city employees have, anyway, in scaling Citizens Connect outside of Boston in the first place? These questions hung in the air as they pondered the big one about passing over Connected Bits for another partner: Should they?

Keywords: public entrepreneurship; civic technology; government innovation; civic innovation; cities; New Urban Mechanics; Thomas. M. Menino; Chris Osgood; Nigel Jacob; Connected Bits; SeeClickFix; Ben Berkowitz; Eric Carlson; Dave Mitchell; government technology; open innovation; open source software; Citizens Connect; Commonwealth Connect; Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention; Innovation Leadership; Innovation and Management; Open Source Distribution; Public Administration Industry; Information Technology Industry; Boston;

Citation:

Weiss, Mitchell. "More Citizens Connect." Harvard Business School Case 315-075, January 2015.