Tag Archives: community engagement


I recently attended an event at my local neighborhood library, in Columbia, SC. Before then, I had never heard of Placemaking. What was interesting is that I had actually participated in it, without knowing what to call it. Placemaking is “is the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play and learn in.” It is the act of people getting together to revitalize under-utilized parts of cities, most of the time through small-scale intervention and community collaboration. It could happen in a neighborhood square, or even in an urban park; in any place that is void of personality but that needs to be filled with a soul–the soul of the people that dream it up.
The great thing about Placemaking is that, when it is community-led, it allows people of all ages and walks of life to play a vital role in reinventing a place. It enables citizens to network, and congregate around a common goal: to create a representation of their community.
To me, it is one of the highest forms of community engagement because it calls for a partnership between citizens and local government to roll up their sleeves, develop a vision, and bring change. Unlike other government-led efforts, this one is led by the community: the citizens are the experts because they, as the users, will have the most substantial insights about how an area functions or how it can be better used.
Come to find out, there are many Placemaking projects in my community and I am excited to become part of the movement that is very popular in countries like Australia. We, as citizens and community members, have the ability to influence future town planners and community leaders to help shape our city spaces in the ways we envision them. What better way to love a community even more, than by actively building it up?


Tech Spotlight: Constituent Management Software -Romulus


Municipalities are often inundated with emails, tweets, and phone calls from constituents. Government workers are often asked to do more with less, resulting in jumping complex mazes delaying constituent response time. Constituent management software the federal government uses is often very expensive and not what is needed at the local level. Local government deal with issues like potholes, trees that need trimming and other types of direct services to people.

Tech Solution:

Seneca Systems build products for local governments, its first product Romulus, was created and designed to help local governments interact with their constituents regardless of method of communication they use. Romulus gives local governments the ability to manage and response to service requests that come from phone, email, text message, social media, etc. Seneca Systems will be launching its mobile app version to expand access to field workers and local officials document issues, and request service fulfillments on the go. Romulus centralizes constituent communications, allows to streamline service requests, and generates reports on constituent trends and work performed; the constituent management software can be accessed directly from any browser.

Video Demo

Bringing All Oregonians to the Table

In sharp contrast to how government institutions and individual citizens alike managed the notion of community engagement just fifty years ago, the contemporary practice of community engagement is marked by transparency, pathways to government accountability, and ultimately a sense of partnership and collaboration. Creating this open environment requires reforming not only how the public gains information about policy discussions, but ensuring they understand the complexities and inherent tradeoffs baked into the policy-making process.

By tackling public engagement with this lens, the civic participation experiment known as Oregon’s Kitchen Table works to tackle the challenges associated with collaborative governance by maintaining various in-person and digital platforms for connecting policymakers with their constituents and promoting a feedback loop between both parties.

Continue reading


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.





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

Using augmented reality, gamification, and Pokémon GO! for community engagement

Augmented reality and gamification provide new and better ways for government and nonprofit organizations to engage with more citizens and stakeholders and on a deeper level. First, we will define and differentiate these terms; then, we’ll explore how these two elements combine in the Pokémon GO!, a hot new mobile application with great community engagement potential.


Augmented reality refers to a viewing one’s real-world surroundings with supplemental computer-generated outputs such as sound, video, or graphics. Often, the computer-based platform customizes its outputs based on one’s inputs, using the device’s video or GPS data.

Several government and nonprofit organizations use augmented reality to guide citizens through their facilities and engage with stakeholders. For example, the U.S. National Park Service has released augmented reality mobile applications for several of its parks, including Lassen Volcanic National Park and Washington D.C.’s National Mall. The National Mall application provides a virtual tour guide, helping visitors to navigate the Mall’s 22 memorials, providing history lessons, and sharing lesser-known facts and tips. Lassen’s application allows visitors to explore the science behind the park’s geology, weather, and natural flora and fauna. The Smithsonian Institute’s “Skin and Bones” augmented reality application allows users to put skin over the bones displayed in its Natural History Museum.

Many augmented reality platforms employ one or more elements of game design. Gamification refers to using game design elements to create more game-like and engaging experiences. There are 47 elements of gamification, including providing feedback on progress, issuing challenges, creating mysteries, and generating time pressures. Read more about the elements of gamification here.


On July 6, 2016, the Japanese video game and console producer, Niantic, released the augmented reality game, “Pokémon GO!” The game has quickly become the first widespread augmented reality sensation.

The Pokémon GO! application for smartphones and tablets uses the device’s camera and GPS to add virtual Pokémon — or “pocket monsters” — and their accoutrement (e.g., Pokéballs, eggs, incubators, etc.) to real spaces. Users collect, incubate, and train these virtual monsters in order to increase the size and strength of one’s team; then, users’ monsters battle other users’ monsters at gyms to increase their ranking and win in-game prizes.

Finding and maturing one’s Pokémon requires a user to walk around their community, as measured by the device’s GPS and accelerometers: neither walking on treadmills nor driving count towards one’s walking total. Niantic tagged many of Google Map’s local attractions — such as parks, museums, and other popular destinations — as Pokéstops (places where users can find key Pokémon, game supplies, or accessories) and gyms (places where users’ monsters compete). Users currently have the ability to purchase and drop lures, which turn any location into a Pokéstop and attract nearby Pokémon for 30 minutes. Niantic President John Hanke reported that future releases will allow businesses and other organizations to sponsor a Pokéstop or gym designation at their location. Hanke also reports that future releases will allow organizations to add information about their site to the platform.

Thus far, Pokémon GO! has proven successful at getting citizens to explore new places around their communities. Pokémon GO! has value for governments and nonprofits interested in highlighting less popular local attractions. Additionally, by getting citizens to explore new areas and meet new people, Pokémon GO! has the potential to create bridging social capital, possibly making it a powerful tool for community development. As a result, several leading government organizations are already using this platform to boost their social media presence and increase local attendance. For example, on its Twitter and Facebook pages, the North Carolina Zoo highlighted Pokémon hanging out near certain exhibits (see photo). The City of Norfolk, Virginia, paired Pokémon GO! with its existing Instagram contest by encouraging Pokémon GO! users to post photos of City parks, with the best photo winning a survival pack that includes a sling-back bookbag, water bottle, snacks, and portable phone charger.

 LEFT: NC Zoo official Facebook page, accessed 17 July 2016. RIGHT: Twitter search for #PokemonGo & #innovategov, accessed 17 July 2016. HEADER: HEATSTREET, accessed 17 July 2016.

In addition to encouraging citizens to explore facilities, government and nonprofit organizations can leverage Pokémon GO! to increase attendance at local events by publicizing when and where they’ll drop lures. For more on potential government and nonprofit applications for Pokémon GO!, check out this GovLoop article.


Based on Hanke’s comments, future releases of Pokémon GO! may have the ability to become powerful augmented reality platforms that governments and nonprofit organizations can use to share information about their facilities without the cost or effort of developing customized augmented reality applications, like the National Parks’ or Smithsonian Institute’s. Time will tell whether this application becomes just a temporary success or the basis of a new augmented reality platform. However, based on citizens’ initial reaction to this application, those of us working in government should be asking ourselves: How can we use technology to deliver digital experiences that are as or more engaging than Pokémon GO!?

How Social Media is Reshaping Political Involvement and Engagement

Millennial are getting older, and political interest and engagement is on the rise for this generation. Forbes reports that as millennials are reaching their prime adult years, staying informed about current events is becoming increasingly important. According to a study from American Press Institute, 69% of millennials get the news daily and 85% say that keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them. Although millennials  access news differently than boomers, according to Guardian, they access news regularly to keep up-to-date with new information.

The Millennial Impact Project, a new study conducted by Achieve research agency, investigated how millennials’ engagement behaviors may change during an election year. It also looks at how those changes may be influenced by factors such as political affiliation, location, gender, age, race and emerging candidates. The study, currently in its second wave, has found key trends that explain how millennials view politics and social change.

According to the study, a majority of millennials had posted in the past week on social media about the issues they cared about (as of June 22, 2016). Social media has the potential to influence millennial voters in two specific ways:

1. Participatory politics: Participatory politics, a new political movement that encourages individual engagement and participation in ongoing debates and discussions, takes place predominately in the social realm. Millennials are more demanding that their local and national governments and politicians listen to them and want to be involved in the conversation at all times. Jeff Fromm, contributor for Forbes, reminds us that this is the co-creation generation.

2. Ongoing, real-time conversations: Twitter specifically has changed the political landscape for many politicians. Twitter is typically used as a platform for self-expression and news management, providing local and national leaders with the opportunity to gauge sentiment in real-time in at a rate that has never existed before.

For more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2016/06/22/new-study-finds-social-media-shapes-millennial-political-involvement-and-engagement/#5638410d15de