Monthly Archives: January 2017

Service Requests with Accountability

The City of Raleigh, NC is one of many municipalities around the country using SeeClickFix as a platform for citizens to report issues around the city in a convenient, transparent, and accountable way. Raleigh residents can access SeeClickFix from a web browser or from a mobile app and report problems on a public page (similar to a Facebook wall) including potholes, broken sidewalks, roadkill, graffiti, garbage, dangerous intersections, and even photos of a neighbor violating a city ordinance by parking their car in their front yard.

Every report gets posted to the “Issues” section, which is the first page every user sees when visiting the platform, and is marked as “Open.” Once a designated City employee views the report they will change the status to “Acknowledged” and post a reply that typically thanks the citizen for their report, provides a service request number, and says that they will post any updates. The employee will then later change the status to “Closed” and reply with a statement about what was done to fix the problem.

Alternatively, if the citizen did not provide enough information about the location or the problem itself, then the report will be updated to “Closed” and they will get a reply stating that there was not enough information.

Either way, even after an issue has been closed, the resident can reopen it if they do not feel that the problem was adequately fixed (or if they want to provide the missing information from their first try). Additionally, residents can vote for issues posted by other residents that they would also like to see fixed, as well as comment on the reports to add details or their own negative experience with the problem.  

By using SeeClickFix, the City of Raleigh is making a commitment to its residents to fix problems around the city in a timely manner. This public platform holds the City accountable for how well they honor that commitment because unaddressed issues are in plain sight for everyone to see. Its design is also both convenient and transparent because residents can make reports from anywhere they have internet access, and they don’t have to wonder if their report is just going to sit unopened in someone’s inbox or get lost in a stack of other reports on a desk somewhere.  SeeClickFix is a simple and straightforward way for citizens to make sure their cities and towns stay in tip-top shape, and I would not be surprised to see this platform continue to gain in popularity.

If you’re interested in using SeeClickFix in your community, click here.

 

Leah Price

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Countable

The current generation is a generation known by their addiction to the latest iphone. Now, the political culture has caught up with the app Countable.

The helpful application for your cellphone does the following:

  1. Tells you who your senators and representatives are (the first step for community engagement on the bigger stage).
  2. Allows you to leave those senators and representatives messages AT THE CLICK of a button.
  3. Informs users about newly introduced bills in an easy to understand language (because because informed is vital for positive community engagement)
  4. This application lets you send approval and disapproval to your legislator on bills with the CLICK OF A BUTTON.

 

Not only has this application allowed for easier information access, it allows you to easily and simply contact your representatives and senators. It is as simple as reading a buzz feed article and answering a poll question to be engaged with your community on the bigger stage.

This is incredibly important with two years between midterm elections and the change of power that will result in legislation that will harm and help many people.

Now people can know who is representing them and allow them to actually represent them by letting their voice be heard!  Democracy can become a little easier with just a download, reading easy to understand articles, and clicking buttons to vote.

The current generation, young or old, uses applications on their phone ranging from games to buzzfeed to facebook. This application is just as simple to understand as facebook and buzzfeed and has a greater impact. It allows each person to be engaged in their community in ways that many people are too lazy to do so. It is often not common knowledge to everyone who their representatives and senators and to those that know, very few have every contacted their representative. Many find making calls, writing letters or sending  emails to be too troublesome and not worth the effort. This is much simpler.

 

Yet the transparency of this “app” has yet to be revealed. It may not  gain the public trust as it is relatively new.

 

https://www.countable.us/

 

 

Albemarle: Water. Air. Land. Opportunity.

Hello, blog readers! I’m Lindsay, and I am a full time employee of the City of Albemarle and full time student at MPA@UNC, the online version of Carolina’s MPA program. I am completing my professional work experience at, well, work! The City of Albemarle has been my home since birth and my employer since 2009.

Albemarle was incorporated in 1857 and is the county seat of Stanly County. Our city’s growth was driven by the textile industry, an industry that is now just a memory, but a more diverse economy has taken the place of the textile mills. With a population of just over 16,000, Albemarle is big enough to avoid “blink and you’ll miss it” status but small enough to see someone you know every time you go to the grocery store. It’s a good place to be.

Albemarle is close to major highways and interstates, and we have an airport just down the road. Charlotte and the Triangle are just an hour or two away, and we are equidistant from both the beach and the mountains. We are located in a wonderful area for outdoor recreation, as we are in close proximity to Morrow Mountain State Park, multiple lakes, and the Uwharrie National Forest. These features gave rise to the tag line in our new branding: Water. Air. Land. Opportunity.

Hopefully you are still with me after that brief history lesson and economic development pitch! Now, for some information on my MPA practicum, completed in June of 2016. As a current full-time employee of the City of Albemarle, I had to find a substantial project outside of my normal duties for the experience. For me, that meant work with the City of Albemarle that my supervisor approved because it was not feasible for me to miss work for my internship. For my fellow students finding themselves in the same situation, I would advise you to be realistic about your goals and transparent with your supervisors about what you seek to learn. That is, if you work in an environment receptive to this type of open conversation, which I certainly hope you do!

Although I worked in finance, I did not plan to stay in finance for the whole of my career. Fortunately, my supervisor was supportive of me expanding my experiences beyond finance, and she shared my goals with our administration with the hope that a suitable project was out there for me. Ultimately, administration assigned me to assist in project management for a new city initiative, Clean Communities Campaign, aimed at engaging youth in efforts to improve community appearance as well as reviving our Adopt a City Street program.

I referred to prior coursework for this initiative, including Professional Communications for guidance on creating marketing materials and writing memos and emails, as well as Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation for guidance on holding focus groups. So, if you have not already found your coursework valuable or have not had an opportunity to apply what you have learned, rest assured, it is valuable when the rubber hits the road!

I was excited for the opportunity to participate in community outreach and organizing, to work with coworkers outside my usual circle to accomplish a common goal, and to gain experience in communicating with the public.

Our efforts were ultimately successful, and we have handed the initiative over to Albemarle Middle School to continue educating our city’s youth about pride in community appearance.

 

Textizen in Buffalo, NY

Buffalo, New York is using an innovative way to encourage Community Engagement; text messaging. Buffalo has realized that the best way to encourage different people from different walks of life to participate in a planning effort is the multi-channel method.

Code For America brought Textizen to Buffalo. Textizen is a SMS powered survey system that allows for people to participate in community engagement efforts by simply texting. . Textizen-powered SMS surveys are just one component of this effort in the region. SMS texting platform allows for people — including those who are unable or unlikely to attend traditional Town Hall meetings — to make their voice heard, ranging from young adults to the older generation.  SMS is also considered a simple method, people are consider replying to a text message far easier and quicker to do than an email or a phone call.

Textizen is now used for the following in Buffalo:

 

  • Collect information before and during a live event, enabling the moderator to collect detailed information from everyone in the crowd before a public event, allowing for all voices at “Town Hall Meetings” to be heard. Everyone has a chance to speaking.

  • Surveys a response before and after something important or not so important happens, to understand public opinion,

 

Textizen also allows people to be connected to the results, not just the input process. The program allows for instant data results, that can be easily displayed. Participants who see the results are more likely to participate because trust has been built through transparency.

Code for America has the full discussion and additional detail about Textizen and the results and response to the technology.

 

April Gregory

Shared Information Facilitates Smarter Navigation

Waze is a real-time, community-based traffic and navigation app. Rather than simply displaying directions to a certain location, the app includes up-to-date road and traffic conditions so that users can adjust their driving patterns appropriately. In effect, the community works together to outsmart traffic and reduce commuting times.

The City of Asheville has recognized the potential this app provides and has jumped on the opportunity to better inform drivers of any government activity that may affect traffic patterns, such as lane closures and utility work. The City sought to make information more accessible to its citizens. After all, traffic and road updates posted on the City website may not be very useful to people in the middle of a commute. Instead, City staff wanted to tap into technology that citizens were already using, hence the partnership with Waze.

Drivers are not the only people who benefit from this technology. In fact, the City of Asheville can now receive real-time information about street conditions as a result of driver updates. It can then use this data in planning and street maintenance decisions.

More information can be found on the WCQS website.

Safe driving!

Engage Riverside

The City of Riverside in California has made informing and engaging citizens a priority to their community. Their website, Engage Riverside, is devoted to various ways of providing the community transparency and engagement. It includes tabs for Open Records, Budget and Finance, Open Data, Fraud Hotline (which in the spirit of transparency encourages citizens to share their concerns of city employees or city vendors that may be a part of fraud, waste, or abuse of City assets), Share your Ideas ( which has short blogs or questions that encourage resident input, polls, and information on community forums), Results, Maps, and Council/Board Meetings. The website is user-friendly and includes transactional options, visuals, and several ways to engage residents. The Council/Board Meetings is one of the features that I wanted to highlight because citizens can see the agenda, meeting notes, and make ecomments on each item. While submitting or posting agenda information is mandatory, Riverside took it a step further in understanding that our lives our busy and that attending city council meetings or board meetings can be challenging. They designed an easy, organized system to open up dialogue for input. The mayor talks briefly about this initiative in the video below.