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Gov Tech Company Recruits Noveck for U.S. Expansion

Already New Jersey’s chief innovation officer and director of NYU’s Governance Lab, Noveck is joining the Belgian company as it develops new products and an expansion strategy to serve U.S. cities.

Beth Noveck
Beth Noveck
The Brussels-based citizen engagement company CitizenLab has recruited Beth Simone Noveck, currently New Jersey's chief innovation officer, director of New York University’s Governance Lab and a veteran of the Obama Administration, as board chair while the company prepares to do more business in the U.S.

As board chair of CitizenLab — not to be confused with the Citizen Lab, a research unit within the University of Toronto focused on security and human rights — Noveck will bring decades of experience in academia and public policy, on both sides of the Atlantic, to bear on helping a European company sell tools for digital democracy to U.S. city governments.

As director and co-founder of The Governance Lab, also known as The GovLab, Noveck oversees a research arm of NYU devoted to making government more open and effective through data and technology. Under the Obama Administration, she served as deputy chief technology officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative, which aimed to make government more transparent, collaborative and digitally accessible to citizens. Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron also chose Noveck in 2011 to be the country’s senior adviser for open government, and in August 2018 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made her the state’s first chief innovation officer.

According to a news release last week, CitizenLab wants Noveck to help develop the company’s future products as well as its growth strategy in the U.S.

“Given the unprecedented crisis that governments face, we need tools to tap into collective intelligence and crowdsource innovative solutions at the local level,” Noveck said in a statement. “This solution will also help local governments recreate trust and overcome the decrease in trust we have seen in recent years.”

CitizenLab isn’t altogether new to North American operations, having worked with the city of Vancouver, B.C., in 2016 on citizen engagement and sourcing ideas from the public for how to tackle affordable housing. The news release said the company is working now with the governments of Seattle; Lancaster, Penn.; and Bowen Island in British Columbia, as well as opening an office in the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in New York City next month.

In the five years since its founding, according to the news release, CitizenLab has acquired a team of about 30 people and worked with more than 150 governments in 11 countries, presently including customers in the U.K., Chile, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Denmark. It also landed on Government Technology’s International 10 list of companies headquartered outside the U.S. that focus on government clients. CitizenLab’s co-founder and CEO Wietse Van Ransbeeck said in a statement that the goal is to reach 2.5 million citizens through the platform, which gives local governments software to exchange information and feedback from their citizens, allowing them to participate in policy questions as they come up.

Entering the citizen engagement space in the U.S., CitizenLab will be competing with Australia-based Bang the Table, Nextdoor and various other gov tech companies and local efforts in a market that has become increasingly active as smartphones and digital services have become more commonplace.