OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

City Concierge — Official Service Clerk for citizens

Help the citizens that run around the city hall between departments in the quest of getting their permits and fees paid for routine errands. We can create a new form of service-focused one-stop-shop at the local government. Updated 12/30

Photo of Johan Löfström

Written by

At any of my errands to local government, I have felt like starting from scratch. How am I supposed to find correct documents/forms and the correct counter/desk/clerk in most appropriate way? And also, I hate it when a clerk stands behind a counter and points towards another long waiting line at a different counter or department.
I guess this is a similar feeling that many people find, in contacts with authorities. There must be ways to combine our collective experience, in order to simplify the info and routines needed to navigate city hall more efficiently. So that not every person need to start from scratch.

Most of the errands at the local authorities are routine, and must be done in same order, but with different deadlines/timelines/waiting periods. And many errands involve several departments, for instance a person opening a new restaurant needs permits for alcohol licence, food safety regulation and sanitation, waste disposal...

Every citizen with simple routine errands does not have to run around like "K" in Franz Kafkas famous novel, in the quest to find all the correct documents, filling them out over-tediously and to pay fees and receive permits at different instances.

We could install a new service-minded employee within the local government.
These clerks will need wide and broad experience from different departments and authorities, to become licenced to take citizens errands and solve them together with us. And we can save time and money for the city. Would need to work under similar ethics as patient-doctor-confidentiality.

Suggested location, most optimal at or near the front entrance of city hall, to be visible and easily accessible.

The step-by-step process:
The concierge and the citizen meet at a counter or online. They could discuss on phone, msn, skype or sitting in a comfortable chair. Q&A's until the clerk understands the whole issue and all details and permits that is needed for this actual project.
OR if the actual errand does not need a specific permit, they can be authorised to give the goahead right there with an oral agreement and a handshake and signature on which clerk that gave the O.K.
OR the clerk can give advice on how to adjust/adapt the practical details in the suggested project to create it without having to apply for permits at all. Or to just simplify the application process for both the citizen and for the city.

the unique sellingpoints about this concept is:
it is the concierge's job to run around or phone to the departments to clear the needed permits. The concierge have a printer, so can hand out any type of document from any department to the citizen, so they can fill it out together.
And the concierge have phone number to the person organising this project, so if some obstacles arise at some point, they could immediately discuss any solutions or adjustments that is needed to solve this unexpected issue.

This would prevent application forms gathering dust in stacks of paperwork, or end up bouncing around in the internal mail-system at city hall!
This enables anyone to be able to fill out application forms and understand local rules, even if sight impaired or illiterate, or young and don't grasp politicians lingo and requirements!!! The Concierge/clerk becomes a sort of equalizer, to make all citizens at same level when it comes to contact with city hall.

Expediting all sorts of routine errands for the citizens would be much faster and simpler and cheaper for the administration if it could be done like this!
Everyone involved would save time, money and energy! Perhaps this frees up a couple of clerks at some of the departments, to reassign to this new concierge-position. And there could likely be organized more local events! More diverse local culture! This creates more vibrant region!

Crowdsourcing the process:
It could possibly be created an open wiki-style guidance, for this type of navigation. But most of the errands at government are so object-focused, and need to be followed in exact order, so I think it would need to be some sort of graphic flowcharts drawn for each of the errands, (see the image above for example). Long descriptive texts are confusing for many, and a narrativefocused wiki can also be too easily manipulated and require high level of moderating.
Of course it is possible to design some sort of opensource graphic tool online, to enable people participating to make/edit/finetune these "Cheat-sheets" / flowcharts for all of the common errands. But I am afraid it would not become enough user-friendly and too costly.

I strongly believe this concierge need to be employed by the city, to try to make it so independent as possible from any influence/bribes/corruption and so on.
I mean even unintentionally one could give out bad advice, and the one following such bad advice will never be able to trust this person again.

all of your ideas, details, feedback are highly valued, please discuss in the comments below!

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Authorization from local government. Perhaps there is a need for change of some laws and regulations? Could be done low-tech, face-to-face, to amplify voices of illiterate citizens and those that are not skilled at using computers/phones. Could also be done very high-tech, online, peer-to-peer, to try make the process more streamlined, instant and cheap. see my related concept : Brownfield-eliminator

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

Contact local politicians?

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

Writing a manual, instructions, White-book, of how this is implemented and franchising it as business model, or delivering it open source, with creative commons license to give Detroit and Steelcase extra kudos, publicity and respect around the world. (compare to what happened to Linus Torvalds with his Linux)

My Virtual Team

All of the usual suspects + all comments I have received and the discussions I have enjoyed over these last 13-14 months being active here @ openIDEO !


Join the conversation:

Photo of Florin Alexa-Morcov

I like the idea and I also made a connection with my concept posted few days ago. At town hall some specialized agents could talk with new-comers (businessmen or not) that do not know much about these towns and wants to discovery them. One of services could be the street view real estate, a service where the new-comers discover a lot of things about the opportunities of the city (abandoned places, interesting residential or industrial spaces or other sites) related to its history. Also these specialized agents could presents and propose businessmen the specific opportunities for investments.

Photo of Johan Löfström

I think your real estate idea is amazing, but a bit unrelated to this concept. But of course a city concierge would need a convenient list of useful web links in a folder, to hand out to newcomers.

Photo of Florin Alexa-Morcov

Yes, you are right; I was from the beginning catching by your title concept: city concierge and the picture, it could by the start for a lot of good ideas.

View all comments