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.
Crowdbrite is an online collaboration space where community members can give feedback (or interaction-light, in some cases) on various community projects. The tool is designed to take brainstorming online and also comes with a mobile app. Ideas are put up as a virtual canvas and participants add sticky notes with comments and ideas to the canvas. It appears that it has had its most success or traction with city and street redevelopment projects.
Unfortunately, I found the tool to be confusing. While it is free for the participants (people adding input), organizations must pay. Sadly, it’s unclear what you’re paying for and how you can really use the tool. The website isn’t very user-friendly and seems like older technology. For me, that’s a turn-off. I also wonder how much work it is on the part of the local organization, as it seems like it wouldn’t just easily work “out of the box.” I obviously have concerns about this technology and believe that it may not have enough to take hold in its current form.