Monthly Archives: March 2017

Rangers Football Club Launches “Community Engagement Blueprint”

Rangers Football Club in Glasgow, Scotland, has launched a “Community Engagement blueprint” to improve its relationship with the surrounding community. The club held a “a series of fact-finding meetings with councillors in order to understand local concerns,” and as a result of those meetings will implement a number of strategies aimed at being a better neighbor to local residents.

  • The team will play a video during games to encourage fans to respect the local community
  • Local law enforcement will make more visible patrols on match days
  • The team is installing more portable toilets and recycling bins around the stadium

This is a good example of an organization soliciting feedback from citizens and create an initiative using that feedback to improve relationships and build trust between their organization and the public. It’s also evidence of an organization working to effectively communicate that they have received the feedback and plan to make real changes as a result.

https://rangers.co.uk/news/headlines/community-engagement-blueprint/

Below is a video of the Community Engagement promotional video which will play during games, along with video of the press conference announcing the “Community Engagement blueprint.”

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Nextdoor Brings Neighbors Together

Nextdoor (https://nextdoor.com/) is a social networking service that connects users through neighborhood groups and allows them to share information with other users in their neighborhood. Nextdoor was founded in 2010 and now includes more than 125,000 neighborhoods across the country. Users are able to post about a  myriad of things including notifying neighbors of break-ins or other crimes in the area, organizing a neighborhood watch group, advertising and recommending services, asking for help finding lost pets, and listing items for sale. Membership is by invitation only and users must verify their addresses and use real names.

In 2014, Nextdoor began offering public agencies the opportunity to connect with neighborhoods for purposes including community engagement, crime prevention, and emergency preparedness. Currently, these partnerships are limited to public safety agencies and local governments. In 2016, Nextdoor added the ability for agencies to conduct neighborhood polls. Today, more than 2,000 public agencies use Nextdoor to communicate with citizens.

Across the Internet, there are numerous success stories of government engaging with citizens through Nextdoor. Neighborhoods across the United States used it to provide assistance to refugees following the recent Travel Ban. In Austin, Texas, a neighborhood used Nextdoor to collect yarn for a cancer patient to crochet hats during her recovery. Towns in California used Nextdoor to communicate with residents about flooding. In San Diego, a neighborhood created an innovative “Supper Club” while Sacramento used Nextdoor to recruit staffers for warming centers during the winter. Nextdoor is also frequently used to report crime and to enhance community policing. Therein, however, lies some of the downside. Nextdoor is seen by critics as a place where racial profiling is common, though this could be said of many social media platforms. There is also the potential for siloing where people tend to self-segregate themselves in neighborhoods among others who look and think like they do. Using Nextdoor to conduct neighborhood polls may still leave a lot of people out of the conversation.

Ultimately, I think Nextdoor, like most other forms of technology and social media, can play a positive role in communities where they draw people out into the world and bring people together, introduce people to new neighbors, and enhance engagement with government programs and services. I think it’s an innovative way to bring people together in an age where many people are turning inward to technology and their devices, and the potential for public agencies to target groups of people with information specifically geared for them, rather than blasting their entire communities with a barrage of information they may not connect with has significant potential to improve community engagement.

Cape Fear Commuter Challenge

Cape Fear Commuter Challenge

My Open Road App

Link: https://www.myopenroad.com/

In October 2016 the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization held their first commuter challenge. The commuter challenge ran between October 17th – October 30th and was designed to achieve a variety of objectives which included reducing carbon emissions, alleviating traffic congestion, improving community awareness of greenways as well as public transit options, and encouraging the community to be active. The commuter challenge utilized the My Open Road mobile application which tracks users activities and assigns a social responsibility score with the highest points being awarded for running, biking, and walking. Local businesses participated in the commuter challenge and offered prizes and incentives for the participants with the highest scores. The commuter challenge had a number of positive outcomes including 175 participants, 29,718 miles traveled, 16,038 lbs of CO2 saved, and substantial interest from partner organizations including NCDOT.

Mapping Social Media Posts

Mapping Social Media Posts through ArcGIS Online

http://www.esri.com/esri-news/arcwatch/0316/learn-to-add-tweets-to-your-web-maps

Many local governments use a variety of ESRI products for planning, land use development, and public safety. There is now an option to transform citizens user experience to allow for social media posts to be mapped in real time on community maps through ArcGIS online. The potential uses for this technology platform range from local governments being able to create heat maps based on key words, to directly interacting with citizens through retweeting or responding to tweets and other social media posts. This tool was used by various emergency management agencies during Hurricane Matthew to see the types of conditions that citizens were seeing on the ground as the storm was passing through. This tool is beneficial to local governments because most local governments already have access to ArcGIS Online and can therefore implement this concept without incurring any additional costs other than maintenance and oversight of the service.

Balancing Act

Name: Balancing Act

Website Link: http://abalancingact.com/

Balancing Act is an online tool that allows citizens to play an active role in balancing their local municipalities budget by working through a simulated budget process. The feedback from citizen input is directly implemented into the local government decision-making processes. There is a lot of potential with this type of process because it allows citizens to reflect on what services are important to them while also gaining an appreciation for the difficult tasks that local government staff face each year during the budget development process. Another benefit of this program is that it can be used by citizens who might not be able to attend a budget meeting or who might not feel comfortable openly offering their feedback on the budget. There is also an option for the program to be used in an in-person budget meeting allowing participants who are not as familiar with using computers to still participate in the budget development process.

Lucidpress

If you’re looking for an inexpensive online design tool, you may want to check out Lucidpress. I am probably one of the least creative people in my field so I’ve learned to use whatever help I can get.

Lucidpress offers the capabilities to design for both print and online content and includes templates from which to build. I’ve done an economic development tool with their ebook template for my county manager, annual reports, online newsletters, presentations, and flyers. The program is flexible, and the support is fantastic. If you have questions, all you have to do is fill out a short form, and they will contact you by phone or email pretty quickly. While some design programs are limited, Lucidpress allows the user a lot of freedom which helps to create unique content. It even has the capability to track how many times an online publication is opened. The price is reasonable with a year’s subscription only $155.40 for access to their Pro account.

There is a free trial so if you’re interested or in need of an easy tool to help with design, check it out!

More Delays to Clean Water Access in Flint

Flint’s task of rectifying the negative impacts stemming from its water contamination crisis continues to leave the city’s citizens desperate for solutions. On top of that, they have become increasingly aware of how little information they receive about why Flint’s elected officials make certain decisions.

This feeling is especially salient in the face of recent news from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver that citizens should expect it will be another two years before Flint can produce its own clean water. Luckily, Flint residents have a better chance of getting what they want thanks to federal requirements from the EPA that require the city to involve citizens in the process of deciding the city’s primary and back-up water sources. Tactics to date include community conversations, mailings, press releases, publication distribution, and presentations at state and city committee meetings.

Notably, its pending community engagement strategy is to gather cost and technical feasibility details from potential providers and then facilitate public participation. Specifically, residents will be encouraged to share their opinions on the alternatives being considered – they do this either by attending a town hall meeting, by email, or in writing.

It remains to be seen how many citizens take advantage of this opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. With nearly half of Flint households lacking access to internet, one can surmise that neither email nor town hall participation are likely to host significant attendance. Nevertheless, this community engagement example demonstrates not only the value of gaining resident buy-in at the outset of a public administration decision, but it also shows the power federal agencies can have in requiring participation when local governments fail to make decisions that are in the interest of their citizens.