Simpl tries to make connecting innovation to local government easier

There’s a new platform to bridge the connection between social innovators and government. Simpl, a joint project between FutureGov and Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, is short for “Social Innovation Marketplace.” As of last Friday, are Simpl is open for ideas in both the United Kingdom and United States.

For now, this open government startup is bootstrapping and focused on local government. “We’ll be exploring a bunch of avenues over the coming months, but for certain we see cities as important and the local as being the right level for being able to support this kind of action,” said co-founder Dominic Campbell. “That’s why we’re launching it with Code for America.” Craiglist founder Craig Newmark described the “social innovation speed dating” that’s set to take place in San Francisco tonight in more detail, for those interested in learning more or attending.

“We are committed to helping government embrace social innovation, handing over power to citizens,” said Campbell. “We see Simpl as a key tool to support the work we do with city governments to open up, connect and innovate.” His presentation from last year’s Open Cities Conference in the UK, embedded below, offers some more insight on that vision.

Campbell offered more insight into what Simpl is all about in a brief interview.

What is Simpl all about?

DC: It’s not about competition, it’s not (really) about money. It’s about peer to peer support and collaboration putting social innovator in touch with government. Not top down, not predetermined parameters by government – but instead gives people the opportunity to say, “Hey, this is a great idea I’m working on to fix a problem that you probably didn’t even know existed. How about you help me make it happen?” It’s mostly aimed at government but much wider. It’s more about meeting a social need as defined by the people who have that need and know what they need to make it happen. That’s often access to people in power more than money, or some borrowed skills, etc. It builds on the challenge model and says, “Hey, perhaps government doesn’t know the problems, so how can it set challenges to meet them? Who better than to define the problem/challenge/wish the person on the receiving end?”

What makes Simpl different from other platforms?

The competitive differentiator is that it is entirely agnostic. It’s about bringing people together, whoever they are, whether in government or out of government, to identify and solve challenges, meeting their own goals with or without the help of government. Frankly, Scott, me, Carrie, and most people we know have more ideas than time to make them happen so this is a vehicle to made that happen.

Why does Simpl matter to citizens?

The key is that this is all about the average citizen. They are the captive audience. They are the people on the site shaping the site from the start. Government is a key partner. That’s something we’ll be working very hard to do to connect our good government (and more than government) network into the ideas to help elevate them and help them meet their goals.

What’s else is ahead?

There’s tech development, in response to a number of requests we’ve already had for people wanting to use our matching software. We’re considering the possibility of adding some paid-for features over time. But all the functionality you see today will remain free.

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


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