Monthly Archives: August 2016

Consign With A Purpose

Shabby Chic Consignment Boutique is a modern resale store with rustic charm. We provide the greater Asheville community with a place to make and to save money. We offer our customers a wide selection of current fashionable clothing, home decor, furniture, and more!

Yes, we consign unique clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc. but our mission is much greater than that!

We seek to empower individuals with developmental disabilities through employment and entrepreneurship!


Cityzen -Simplified Online Public Outreach

Cityzen helps organizations collect, understand and leverage their online audience data. It provides interactive audience engagement tools for cities and online publishers (news outlets). Publishers like Capitol Broadcasting use Cityzen’s interactive polling and advertising tools to understand their audience and deliver more relevant native advertising. Government agencies like the City of Raleigh use Cityzen’s engagement tools to reach more people than ever through news partners and social media ( This technology is a prime example of 21st Century open government concept in that it provides a platform (or several platforms merged together) for online feedback and virtual ideation.


Communer is an online platform that enhances community engagement by tailoring modules to provide only the most relevant information to community members.  The app was created by Avi Oren, Eli Magzimof, and Nissim Avitan.  Initially, the app was targeted at unifying Jewish communities across the world, but its usefulness could be applied to groups of multiple communities, such as schools, churches, and clubs.

The platform provides personalized announcements from the community, mobile notifications, and use-friendly categorization features.  Community live events are synced to make sure that users are reminded of important schedules and are notified of last minute changes.  Through photo albums and communal information, users learn about events and engage in activities happening from all over the world.  Security alerts are updated and synced with local security organizations.  The platform integrates social media and the community website, including blog posts and newsletters, while allowing for questions and answers to be posted either privately or publicly.

Charity work or community involvement should be made easy.  The appeal of the Communer platform to an individual is that it allows an outsider to be able to participate in areas of interest without going through the hassle of numerous searches.  With current technology trending more towards mobile use, nonprofit organizations are pressured to find ways to interact with existing members and attract new members; however, creating a designated app takes away significant resources from the nonprofit.  Communer allows for easier community management while keeping costs at a minimum.  For larger umbrella organizations, the app allows for local branches to customize their own app while having the data capabilities of the national or international headquarters.

The Communer app is currently being beta tested in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Additional links:

Public-Private Engagement For Disaster Relief

As many recall, late June saw heavy flooding in West Virginia which ultimately killed at least 23 people across the state. In the aftermath of the flooding, one private organization–the iconic 700 room, 300 year old  Greenbrier Resort property–came to the aid of surrounding Greenbrier County. The resort, closed for business, took in and fed, clothed, and sheltered 300 of the most needy victims from the area. Many had lost everything they had (15 of the 23 victims died in Greenbrier County, and two died on the resorts grounds). Even though the course focused on public-public engagement, I thought this contemporary story was a great example of how private organizations–as key stakeholders to any community engagement plan–play an important role and offer important resources to their host communities. Here’s the link to the full story below:




Cities Use Community Remarks for Engagement Projects

Community Remarks is a collaborative mapping software that allows residents to provide public input for community projects. I originally came across this tool when I was looking for potential tools for my community engagement proposal, as we (my department) are developing a land use plan for our county. While I don’t know that it is exactly what we need for my project, I found the tool to be extremely simple, yet very beneficial. I looked at an example from the Louisville, where they utilized the program to allow community input on a potential rail expansion/brownfield site rehabilitation program. Apparently, this area was once home to heavy industries and has many brownfield sites that have not been clean up yet.

The way the platform works is that it allows the steering organization to develop its own GIS information to be featured on the map. It then allows citizens to go in and provide input on that map- they generally recommend 4-6 input methods. This can be a potential aspect of the project or even just feedback about something that has occurred there. For example, Louisville gave citizens the opportunity to identify transportation suggestion, community assets worth protecting if rail did come through the area, identify potential brownfield sites, and a couple others. It also allows citizens to see other comments, so they can provide reinforcement or add to an existing idea. Their page also linked to a facebook page where they provided updates on meetings and allowed the information to be shared more rapidly throughout the community.

The tool would be great for a community about to begin a bicycle/pedestrian plan because it allows citizens to point out both good and bad in the community. It’s a $1,995 licensing fee upfront, and then $280 for annual renewal. The best thing I like about it is the customization tools where the steering organization can add layers and customize the potential input tools.

Community-power Emergency Preparedness and Response

What would you do if an EF3 tornado hit your community? Well, sisters Caitria and Morgan O’Neill had a wonderful response that supports community engagement for emergency preparedness and response. In 2011, when a rare tornado ripped through their hometown of Munson, Massachusetts, Caitria and Morgan established a command center to help direct needed resources to residents in need. They weren’t emergency response experts, at least not yet. They stepped-up and started organizing a response to the disaster and soon leveraged technology to help local residents in other communities step-up to mobilize their community-power for emergency response and preparedness. They built is a free disaster preparedness and recovery tool that helps communities organize for recovery efforts and mobilize needed resources quickly. The tool is targeted to governments, nonprofit organizations, and individual community residents. The goal is to get resources to the right place at the right time efficiently and effectively following a disaster. The site offers communities everything it needs to help collect donations and manage recovery volunteers. One hundred-seventy-nine communities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico currently use Recovers. is supported by the MIT Public Service Center, The Knight Foundation, MassChallenge, Code for America, and Esri. To hear more about how Caitria and Morgan O’Neill started watch their TedTalk  video.

MobilePD Connect and Engage

Austin, TX-based MobilePD Inc. is self-described as the leading developer of law enforcement and public safety applications, and has designed a number of public engagement applications for law enforcement agencies which are intended to increase communication with residents and facilitate the investigation of criminal acts.

According to MobilePD, the developer’s two namesake apps–MobilePD Connect and Mobile PD Engage–build public trust and reduce crime as two-way, community engagement and intelligence reporting platforms. MobilePD Connect is the less capable (and expensive) of the apps, allowing agencies to send push notification alerts, receive real-time tips, and start and sustain secure two-way chats with individual citizens. MobilePD Engage includes the capabilities of Connect, but wraps them in a custom-branded mobile app tailored to specific departments. On top of push alerts, receipt of real-time tips, and secure chats, Engage offers real-time visual crime mapping, sex-offender registry information, crime-stoppers info, photos, videos, news, station locations, safety tips, department contact directory, most wanted listings, missing person information, recruiting information, helpful links, the ability to file a police report, as well as the opportunity to commend officers for good work. Additionally, with a one time set-up fee and an annual contract (which Connect also requires), Engage centralizes all existing public outreach programs, social media, and agency information in one virtual space.

MobilePD has been around since 2010, and appears to have some significant competition–namely from tip411, another virtual public engagement platform. However, the visual presentation of MobilePD, combined with the large variety of Engage’s additional services, has appealed to several major departments, including those of Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Long Beach, Richmond, Santa Cruz, St. Louis Metropolitan, Toronto (Canada), and Victoria (Canada).

Additional information on MobilePD, Inc. and its applications can be found at, or in the attached white paper. Additionally, department-sponsored Connect and Engage apps are free to the public citizen, and can be readily found via the iOS or Android app stores. I downloaded the Austin PD Engage app for a test-drive, and was pretty impressed.