“Policy Expo for Seoul of Hope” wherein Citizens’ Words become City Policies
Social Innovation Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
a. Citizen’s low level of interest in municipal administration As in many other nations, Korea suffers from people’s low level of interest in its policies and governance, and Seoul is no exception. Few citizens and civic organizations are active in their participation in the formulation of the city government’s policies despite the city government's efforts to boost their participation in matters closely related to their everyday lives. b. City’s superficial participatory governance The concept of “participatory governance” has been introduced in city administration for some time now. However, the city still lacks citizens’ proactive participation in the entire policymaking process from planning to implementation to evaluation. This is because, for a long time, “participatory governance” in the city had been the work of a few committees consisting of some bureaucrats and civilian experts. Furthermore, the committees were led by the former, and civilian experts were content with playing the role of advisers. c. Scarce opportunities for the vulnerable to participate in policymaking processes Today, the Seoul Metropolitan Government runs 120 committees and adviser/ombudsman groups have the participation of around 1,000 citizens. Their areas of participation are limited. Their composition is not balanced in terms of the representing the interests of all generations and social classes. According to law, women account for 40% of the members of the organizations, yet immigrants, low-income families, and the disabled are not properly represented. No doubt, the city administration is doing its best to improve the welfare of the disadvantaged in terms of policy formulation. However, the disadvantaged have had few opportunities to voice their opinions systematically. d. Necessity of supplementing citizens’ online participation in policy proposals The city administration has been trying hard to collect citizens’ opinions and ideas regarding its policies both online and offline. Many citizens prefer to use the Internet – as they can participate from anywhere at anytime. Thus, the city administration has placed priority on online communication with citizens. Nonetheless, there are still a large number of people in Seoul who simply cannot make policy suggestions online, including senior citizens, the disabled, and immigrants (due to the language barrier). Furthermore, many find it very uncomfortable to explain everything about their policy proposals in writing.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
a. Civil society and the city government Civil society has asked the city government to give citizens practical opportunities to participate in policymaking processes. The city government has agreed and has sought to find a breakthrough in its efforts toward direct communication with citizens. Thus, it has decided to launch a policy exposition wherein the citizens, community organizations, and the city government meet face to face to talk about policies. b. Citizens’ Policy Idea Market The city government has adopted the concept of “purchasing citizens’ ideas”. In a dramatic bid to draw citizens’ attention to policies, the mayor and department heads buy citizens’ creative policy ideas at the expo. In 16 policy purchase booths installed in the lobby of the New City Hall, they buy citizens’ policy ideas on the spot. For those ideas requiring further review, they consult with civilian experts on hand and make final purchase decisions on the spot. c. NGOs’ policy exhibition and 19 discussion forums The exposition features a policy exhibition in Seoul Plaza. In the 2013 expo, a total of 124 NGOs participated in the exhibition. In their respective booths, they promoted their new policy ideas through pamphlets, videos, and/or performances. Of course, all the decisions on the exhibition were made by NGOs. Meanwhile, the 2013 expo included 19 discussion forums in the New City Hall. NGOs chose the topics and ran the events on their own, with the city government providing assistance only when required. d. Speakers’ corner The 2013 exposition had a speakers’ corner in Seoul Plaza. Anyone was welcome to speak; there were no constraints in terms of topics or time. Those in the audience were free to ask the speakers questions.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
a. Mayor and department heads listening to citizens’ voices Throughout the expo, the mayor and department heads talk directly to citizens. In particular, they meet citizens one on one to listen to their policy ideas and purchase them in the lobby of City Hall. It is a sharp departure from previous procedures; citizens would wait for weeks, if not months just for indirect communication. b. Purchase of citizens’ ideas Seoul Metropolitan Government has introduced the concept of “Paying for citizens’ new ideas.” The expo showcases 16 booths for different topics. The mayor and all department heads meet citizens one on one and pay 100,000 KRW for any idea. Each idea adopted is eligible for an additional of up to 4 million KRW. c. Citizens determine the discussion topics Normally, in an ordinary policy forum, officials prescribe the topics. In contrast, the Seoul Policy Expo features a number of policy discussions whose topics are all determined by citizens. There are no limits imposed on the selection. “Minority opinions” can be heard as well. d. Public agencies offered as venues for citizen-led discussion forums Conference halls in public offices can be rented to the public in evenings or on holidays. During the 2013 expo, conference halls in City Hall and surrounding public agencies, 20 in total, were offered to citizens for their own policy discussion forums for the first time in Korea. e. All stakeholders in municipal policies participating in the expo All stakeholders in the city’s policies participate in the expo. They include citizens, civil society, and district offices as well as the city council and the city government. Policy discussions are held in various formats in an assortment of combinations between: citizens / public officials /city councilors /the city government /district offices/etc.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
a. Policy Expo Planning Committee laying out the basic plan (April ~ July 2013) In 2013, the city government organized the Policy Expo Planning Committee with 12 citizens. The committee laid out the basic plan for the expo in the direction that it would be “planned, organized, and run by citizens”. The committee members were experts with varied specialties, including issues of youth, women, and welfare. Thanks to their hard work between April and July 2013, they came up with the basic plan for the expo consisting of eight major events. b. Policy Expo Citizen Supporters producing detailed expo plans (July ~ September 2013) In order for citizens to put together all the details of the expo plan, the city government organized an expo supporter group with 47 citizens from 5 community groups. The group worked on all the details of the expo plan from July to September 2013. It designed the main exhibition venue (Seoul Plaza); carried out various PR campaigns, and persuaded more than a hundred NGOs to participate in the expo. On the day of the expo, they were in charge of the entire operation, with some even working as guides for visitors. c. Full information disclosure to NGOs ahead of time (July 31 ~ September 28, 2013) In July 2013, the city government held an orientation meeting for NGOs interested in the expo. A total of 51 organizations participated. The objectives and characteristics of the expo were fully explained. All the details available, at the time ranging from the location of 20 conference halls to the availability of beam projectors, were provided to the participants. NGOs’ valuable feedback was reflected on the detailed expo plan. d. Active on/offline PR boosting citizens’ participation (August 19 ~ September 28, 2013) In August, the city government opened a website for the expo. The objectives, main events, incentives, and fun family programs were emphasized. For the social media population, it opened a Facebook account, and through the account the city government connected to many various Facebook pages, encouraging the social media users to participate in the expo. The city government sent out 185,000 e-mail messages advertising the expo and launched banner ads for the expo on Naver and Daum, the two biggest web portals in the country. In terms of offline advertising, the city government delivered expo pamphlets to 3,818 community organizations, posted ads on 27,733 digital screens on buses and subway cars, and attached 2,000 posters in key locations. It also had an expo PR printed on the back of a total of 3.16 million property tax bills. e. 2013 Policy Expo for Seoul of Hope (September 28, 2013) On Saturday, September 28, the Seoul Metropolitan Government staged its second policy expo at Seoul Plaza, encompassing City Hall, and City Council. City Hall held 19 discussion forums organized and run by community organizations and showcased the presentation/exhibition of citizens’ outstanding inventions. The City Council hosted a discussion on youth unemployment as part of the discourse on the visions of the Seoul Metropolitan Government in collaboration with the Seoul League of Young Voters. Seoul Plaza, the main venue, had a policy exhibition staged by 124 NGOs. Among many other facilities and programs held in the plaza were a speakers’ corner and a “Seoul Imagination Map” filled with citizens’ diverse policy ideas.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
a. Policy Expo Planning Committee Composed of various experts, the Policy Expo Planning Committee crafted the basic plan for the 2013 expo. It also introduced some fresh ideas about the expo such as, suggesting that experts be on hand at the expo for on-site counseling services, and that the city government open its conference facilities for various discussion forums. It also proposed expanding the participation of civil society and how to transform Seoul Plaza into a discussion-friendly space. b. Policy Expo Citizen Supporters Composed of 47 citizens from 5 community organizations, Citizen Expo Supporters created detailed actions plans for the expo. They were also responsible for all publicity efforts and are publicly credited with the success of the expo. Since the supporters were mostly employed professionals and college students, their meetings were held in evenings or on holidays. The city is deeply indebted to them. c. Volunteers On September 28, 68 volunteer citizens helped turn the expo into a great success, working hard for a crowd of more than 30,000 citizens. d. Civilian experts A total of 30 civilian experts participated in the Policy Idea Market. They helped citizens, before and during, present their ideas to the mayor and department heads of the city government on Expo Day. e. Public officials from Seoul Innovation Bureau On behalf of the city government, Seoul Innovation Bureau took the lead in the preparations for the expo. It fully supported the Policy Expo Planning Committee and Policy Expo Citizen Supporters, signed contracts, contacted the city council and district offices to secure their cooperation, set up booths in Seoul Plaza, and prepared many conference halls to host discussion forums. f. Public officials in other departments of the city government Public officials in other departments held discussions on district issues. They also worked on the discussion forum and successfully held the Citizens’ Invention Contest in City Hall. In addition, they summed up citizens’ policy ideas presented at the Citizens’ Policy Idea Market and made all the necessary follow-up measures.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
a. Financial resources For the expo, the city government spent 107 million KRW on the installation of 150 exhibition booths for 124 community organizations in Seoul Plaza and 16 booths in the lobby of the New City Hall for the Citizens’ Policy Idea Market, publishing of program leaflets, and purchasing citizens’ policy ideas. A total of 143 civic organizations financially contributed to the expo, publishing their policy discussion materials and pamphlets for forums, installing experience facilities, and producing videos for their policy exhibitions. The Seoul Pharmaceutical Association, Peace Face Association, and Seoul Volunteer Center provided their valuable services free of charge. The Youth Community Neighborhood Organization installed children’s play facilities in the plaza at their own expense. b. Human resources The city government assigned three officials to the expo. A total of 23 Public officials worked on the day of the expo, with 12 civilians serving in the Policy Expo Planning Committee. 47 citizens worked as Policy Expo Citizen Supporters, and 68 volunteers served on the day of the exposition. c. City government’s support in terms of facilities and PR The city government provided 19 discussion venues for the expo. It offered digital signage in the subway, streets, and rooftops, opened a website, and sent out e-mails to 185,000 citizens, all for the expo’s publicity. It also printed an expo ad on more than three million property tax bills of the city.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
a. Citizens’ suggestions getting adopted as municipal policies The city government implements the citizens’ expo suggestions. The proposals cover various areas such as safety, transportation, and city finances. For instance, one of the 44 suggestions adopted by the city government at the 2012 expo proposed installing a general bus stop information display at each bus stop. Previously, passengers had to check a number of bus stop information signs installed at intervals along the street due to the relatively well-developed mass transit system of the city. Now, passengers can look at the general display to figure out where their buses stop. The display also shows information in key foreign languages. b. Participation of 143 Diverse NGOs A total of 143 community organizations advocating various causes participated in policy exhibitions in the plaza and policy discussions in conference halls. The expo is the only occasion wherein so many social service organizations in the city get together and discuss all aspects of city administration. c. 19 civic organizations staging policy discussions A total of 19 NGOs took charge in the preparations and operations of policy discussion forums held in the New City Hall. They decided on the discussion topics and panelists, prepared discussion materials, and assumed responsibility for putting their conference venues in order. They mostly staged discussions on unheard-of topics. For example, a discussion dealt with how to better use the rooftops of multi-unit houses (Seoul has many of them). The conclusion was that using them wisely could pave the way for the recovery of the community spirit in the mega city. Participants talked about the possibility of using the space for community meetings with food, music, and perhaps movies, particularly in apartment buildings with smaller living room space. Social media such as Facebook could be used to allow all of the residents to voice their opinions. Additionally, some proposed using the space as community vegetable gardens or rest (healing) space. They concurred that the Seoul Metropolitan Government could not afford to leave the unused space on rooftops of a great number of multi-unit housing as it is. d. 31,000 citizens participating in policy discussions A total of 31,000 citizens participated in the 2013 policy expo. Previously, a select group of citizens participated in policymaking as part of various committees. The number of citizens who came to the expo to express their ideas on municipal administration increased dramatically. It is a success in its own right, with more than 31,000 citizens coming to the expo to discuss policies. It is a big step toward participatory governance in the city.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
a. Expo White paper The city government arranges for professional writers to put everything about the expo in writing. They interview a large number of people involved in the expo including officials in the city government, members of the Policy Expo Planning Committee and Policy Expo Citizen Supporters, volunteers on the day of the exposition, and citizens and representatives of community organizations that participated in the expo. The white paper becomes a valuable source for discussions on the future development of the expo. b. Survey among participating organizations Following the completion of the expo, a survey is conducted among the organizations that took part. Questions include the backgrounds for their participation, their evaluation of the expo: including positive and negative aspects, and their suggestions on the future development of the expo. Of the 143 community organizations that participated in the event, 110 gave their opinions. At least 85 organizations said that they would like to participate in future policy expos, with 90% of the respondents expressing satisfaction. c. Monitoring by the relevant departments Public officials sat in on all policy discussions of the 2013 expo to record citizens’ proposals and discussions. Officials (department heads) participated in discussions only when asked. They also visited the policy booths in Seoul Plaza, checked the NGOs’ policy advocacy, and had in-depth discussions with the representatives. They are looking into ways of reflecting the opinions they collected in the city’s policies.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
a. Uncertainty over participation by civic organizations Civic organizations’ participation was crucial for the success of the expo. To discover lesser known yet highly qualified NGOs, the city government used the Internet and social media instead of mass media and subsequently contacted them over the phone. It asked interested organizations to recommend other admirable groups. As a result, it found 143 NGOs willing to participate in the city’s policy fair. b. Selection of an easily accessible location that could accommodate a large crowd Easy access through the city’s mass transit system was key to the decision of the expo’s location. It was decided that the expo would be staged in Seoul Plaza and City Hall, which are accessible via Subway Lines 1 and 2 in addition to a number of bus routes. The locations are very familiar to the citizens as there are nearby tourist attractions such as ancient palaces and Cheonggyecheon (Stream), and shopping districts like Jongno and Myeong-dong . To attract an even bigger crowd, the simultaneous launch of Village Expo in Seoul Plaza was decided. The expo helped enrich the contents of the policy expo. It included Village Markets, Village Broadcasting Stations, and Village Photography Exhibitions. c. Expo policy proposals may lack quality Citizens’ policy ideas are often fresh yet unrealistic. To ensure that quality policy ideas are presented at the expo, the city government joined hands with web portal Daum to try to collect citizens’ ideas online in advance. A total of 1,421 policy ideas were submitted online, 243 of which were chosen by Policy Expo Supporters as excellent ideas. At present, the city government is still reviewing them.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
a. Increased interest in municipal administration The policy expo has increased citizens’ interest in the city government’s policies. A total of 31,000 citizens have familiarized themselves with a whole array of the city’s issues and policies through their participation in policy exhibitions and discussion forums in addition to various policy leaflets and video presentations. They also made policy proposals at the expo. Compared to the inaugural event in 2012, participation in the 2013 expo increased sharply. The audience and NGOs increased by 20% and 248%, respectively. The number of policy discussion forums rose by a whopping 375%. b. New policy proposals from newly discovered community organizations The expo provided a large number of new community organizations with opportunities to participate in the city’s policy formulation. Since most of them did not have much media exposure, they did not have opportunities to influence the city’s policies even though they had ideas to make improvements in municipal administration. They simply needed a chance to present their ideas to the city government, as well as to their fellow citizens. For instance, “Thought Tree BB (Bilingual Bicultural) Center” advocates the protection of interests of immigrant women and their children. It helps the women adjust themselves to local communities, learn about Korean culture and language, and offers opportunities to introduce their indigenous cultures to Koreans. Following their participation in the 2012 expo, the members of the center had increased confidence in the programs they offer. On February 29, 2013, the center was registered in the city government as one of the non-profit community organizations. In the 2013 expo, the center opened two booths one for understanding, and the other for experiencing, multiculturalism and both ran very successfully. c. Focus on the protection of the disadvantaged The policy expo provided opportunities for the underprivileged such as immigrant women, adolescents, as well as the disabled to deliver their policy ideas to the city. Priority was placed on their participation. A number of organizations representing their interests took part in the policy discussions. For instance, immigrant women were given a rare opportunity to share their concerns with a large crowd of people. The expo also featured the serious voices of the disabled, senior citizens, and people displaced from their shantytowns. Citizens and public officials of the city government paid keen attention to them. Of the 19 policy discussion forums for the expo, 7 were about the protection of the vulnerable classes such as women, immigrants, children in poverty, and runaway adolescents, among others. Organizations advocating the protection of their rights in the policy booths in Seoul Plaza included 68 youth organizations and the Korea Seniors’ Human Rights Association, including a few assemblies of immigrant women, the Displaced People Association, and the Seoul Center for Independent Living for the Handicapped. d. Reconfirmed possibility of large-scale offline policy gatherings The policy expo has proven that large-scale offline meetings with citizens are feasible. Central and local governments in many countries are shifting their focus to online communication with their constituents, believing that it saves a lot of time and money. The 2013 Seoul Policy Expo has proven that an offline policy fair can be even more time-efficient and economical. With a relatively small amount of investment, the city government had 31,000 citizens come together at a location to discuss and share new policies for the city government. In its second year, the expo strongly indicates that future events will be even more impressive.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
a. Expo day and venue fixed In 2014 onward, the policy expo will always be held on the last Saturday of September, as was the case in 2013. The permanent main venue will be Seoul Plaza. The number of participating community organizations is expected to continue to grow from 143 in 2013. Their contents will become even more substantial in future expos in line with their increasing capabilities. The city government is not considering increasing its budget for the event, however. In spite of the forecast increases in the number of citizens and organizations participating in the expo, it expects an increasing number of individuals and organizations willing to participate in the preparations of the expo without getting any monetary remuneration. In fact, the city government is planning to reduce the proportion of its budget in the total expo expenses in line with its efforts to ease its physical intervention. Nonetheless, it will continue to do its best to make future expos huge successes realized through citizens’ efforts. b. Benchmarking by the Ministry of Safety and Public Administration In October 2013, the Ministry of Safety and Public Administration launched the inaugural “Korea Local Autonomy Policy Expo” after benchmarking the Seoul Policy Expo. The ministry in charge of local autonomy policies of the country, among others, collected various policy proposals on local autonomy in the country at the fair. The difference is that the Seoul policy expo received policy proposals from citizens, whereas the ministry expo collected policy proposals from regional and local governments.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
a. Participatory governance is possible The 2013 Seoul Policy Expo has shown that citizen-led policy discussions are possible. At the expo, citizens held policy discussions on topics of their choice in their preferred ways, and officials scarcely intervened. Meanwhile, decision makers of the city government tried to respond to citizens’ suggestions promptly. The city government is now certain that the expo is an occasion for genuine participatory governance. Hopefully, all ten million citizens will someday be able to participate in the decision-making processes for all key issues in the city. b. Civil society is able to plan and carry out huge events The Policy Expo Planning Committee consisting of 12 citizens worked out the basic plan for the expo. Thanks to their hard work for four months (April ~ July), the 2013 policy expo was successfully concluded. From May to September 2013, the Policy Expo Citizen Supporters with 47 members from 5 community organizations worked out the expo details. They also mobilized more than 140 NGOs, launched publicity campaigns, and ran the huge event quite successfully. They did almost everything on their own without the involvement of city officials. More than 31,000 citizens gathered together in the plaza, yet no accident occurred. Typically, government officials in Korea have relatively low regard for civil society particularly when it comes to developing new policy agendas; hence the concern as to whether civic organizations could manage discussion forums on new policies on their own. Their belief proved to be contrary. Citizens and civic organizations staged policy discussions of various sizes successfully without particular support from city officials. Civic organizations put their new policy proposals on the table, too. They led the discussions to reasonable conclusions. They have proven the prejudice that new policies can be formulated only through the intervention of public officials is wrong. c. Public officials faced with new policy challenges The policy expo yielded many policy challenges that government officials had never imagined. For example, everyone knows that foreigners living in the city suffer many difficulties. A relatively unfamiliar issue raised at the expo was that landlords or landladies in the city do not allow foreigners wishing to rent or buy houses to look around their housing for fear of crime. As an international city, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has taken a number of foreigner-friendly policy measures, yet no one in the city government has heard of such serious problem suffered by an increasing number of foreign residents in the city. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has learned that it must do a lot more to make itself a genuinely global city, and that the municipal administration must work harder to open its heart to all the residents in the city.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Social Innovation Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Ki Bum Park
Title:   manager of citizen’s idea management  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-2-2133-6322/+82-2-2133-0744
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   smartbong82@seoul.go.kr  
Address:   110, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul, Rep. of KOREA
Postal Code:   100-744
City:   seoul

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