Policymakers in the US and UK amongst others have said they want to strengthen the use of evidence in policy making, through a greater reliance on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to establish the impact of programs and interventions. But before they introduce new rules and requirements to do this, they should consider another largely neglected source of evidence - the views of users of services themselves, which crowdsourcing could help to gather for them.
In an age of Amazon, TripAdvisor, Angie's List and a thousand other review sites for commercial products and services, it's surprising that there aren't yet more equivalents for public services to help us evaluate their performance from their users' point of view. According to the UK organisation Consumer Focus, the British public makes more than 100 million comments a year in online forums - so it's not any unwillingness to provide feedback but rather a lack of places for them to do this on public services that represents a missed opportunity.
Here are seven UK websites that are already helping to improve public services through crowdsourcing. With some support and official acknowledgement, platforms like these could provide a rich picture for policymakers about the quality and effectiveness of public services.
FixMyStreet - This moves street issue reporting for local government online, in order to deliver savings and improve customer satisfaction. Similarly, Fix My Transport focuses on sorting out transport problems.
MyPolice - This provides a platform where people can send feedback to the police from a neutral place, as well as share their stories.
Rightsnet - This heavily-used site enables benefits advisers to help each other navigate the complexities of the welfare benefits system.
The Student Room - This forum for school and university students includes a wiki written and edited by students which provides a reference source for prospective and current students on institutions, examinations, courses, applying and going to university, student life and careers. As of July 2012 the site had over a million members and 36 million posts.