Citizen Engagement Digital Government

From Consumerism to Citizenship

Jon Alexander founded the New Citizenship Project after working for a decade in the advertising and marketing industry. His agenda is to find ways to apply the skills of marketing for genuinely positive social and environmental ends.

I had heard about Jon’s crusade to encourage business and government alike to think less about consumers and more about citizens. I was keen to get his perspectives on how government service could be improved by a more citizen focused perspective.

According to Jon, the discipline of thinking about citizens makes organisations much better at innovating new services that are, by their very nature, more collaborative and more fit for purpose. The consumer era was characterized by feeding services to willing recipients. The citizen era is much more about active participation where both sides of service provision have skin in the game.

“There’s a big trend to talk about customers or consumers in government. That, in itself, is dangerous. When you think of people as consumers there’s only really one interaction they can have – which is to ‘buy’ from you. If you think of people as citizens and you start using that language then you start coming up with different ideas. ¬†If you think about citizens you want to work with you start to think differently about how you develop services. By working with people you can involve them in designing and developing the service.”

In the video, below, Jon first outlines how citizenship differs from consumerism. In the second half of the discussion he provides advice to government leaders as to how to transition from one world to another.