The city of Virginia Beach, Virginia, recently launched a new program called Virginia Beach Connected. The city describes this new program as “a social, collaborative platform for Virginia Beach that fosters information and communications, of both a public or private nature, within our community.” The city’s goal in developing this collaborative website was to create a community-centered platform for residents to discuss topics related to the community. Virginia Beach Connected has four different platforms: SpeakUp!VB, Good Deeds, Groups, and Neighbors.
SpeakUp!VB is the city’s newest mobile app, which residents can download to their Apple or Android device. On this app, residents can find “54 policy recommendations in 10 topic areas, including transportation, environment, urban areas, housing and open spaces.” Additionally, residents can find the city’s Comprehensive Plan on the app, which contains “hundreds of policies and recommendations in dozens of areas.” Using the SpeakUp!VB app, residents can read these policy recommendations, rate them, and leave comments. Additionally, the app lists times and locations for community meetings should residents want to give their opinion in person.
The Good Deeds section is new to the Virginia Beach Connected website and connects residents with local nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations. Currently, there are four organizations on this platform: 757 Angels, Meals on Wheels of Virginia Beach, Happy Paws, and the Virginia Beach SPCA. The city does a “spotlight” on one of the organizations each month as well as on someone who works for the organization. Residents and other nonprofits can add organizations to the list and allow other Virginia Beach residents to easily locate an organization.
The goal of the Groups section is to allow residents to “connect and communicate using tools like activity streams, document management, messaging, blogs, calendars and shared forums.” Groups are free to use and can be made private or open to the public by the user. Groups allows businesses, organizations, and the city to connect with residents in a number of different ways. The Virginia Beach SPCA uses this section to make residents aware of puppy training classes and adoption events. Residents have used this platform to create a group for runners so people can meet up and run together. Even neighborhoods use these groups for their civic leagues and home owners associations.
Finally, the Neighbors section operates much like Nextdoor.com; however, it is based on areas of the city rather than specific neighborhoods. This allows neighbors to communicate with each other about events or issues in their community. Additionally, the city contends that this platform is much safer than “mega sites” like Nextdoor.com, which they claim is open to data breaches.
The city plans to expand Virginia Beach Connected soon by adding a mobile app that combines all of these platforms, not just SpeakUp!VB, in one place. Virginia Beach Connected uses Concursive Corporation for their website. This company, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, provides community, collaboration, and business tools. They have developed similar programs for other cities and organizations across the country, including Norfolk Connected in Norfolk, Virginia, SWLA Connected in Louisiana, and CT iHub in Connecticut.