Tag Archives: technology

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


Technology Spotlight: Utah’s Walking School Bus App

In August 2014, the Utah Department of Transportation’s Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP) launched the “Walking School Bus App”. This mobile app provides a platform for parents to coordinate walking groups for their children to and from school, with the supervision of one or more adults. Parents using the app can create or join existing walking groups with students who live near them. Parents sign into the app, which notifies other parents when the trip to or from school starts and ends. A form of “carless carpool”, this effort purports to reduce traffic and increase safety around school zones[1]. Most of the users and walking groups have been in Salt Lake County, but the app has been used “as far north as Cache County and as far south as Washington County”[2]. The UDOT is hoping that data from the first years of implementation will help provide a baseline for identifying areas where they should focus on, in terms of improving pedestrian and motorist safety.

In 2017, UDOT introduced prizes incentivizing the use of the Walking School Bus App[3]. Those who used the app in the months of March and April, 2017, were automatically entered to win prizes each time they used the app. Prizes included overnight stays and breakfast for parents at Utah’s top ranked bed and breakfast, brunch with the Utah Jazz Bear, $500 for the winning Walking School Bus group’s school, scooters, bikes, and helmets for students, and gift cards for parents in weekly drawings.

Between August 2014 and June 2015, over 500 Walking School Bus groups were created, 91,000 car trips reduced, 88,000 miles walked, 8.8 million calories burned, and 37 million car emissions saved[4]. This app seems to leverage Utah’s social capital to solve a community need, while also positively addressing traffic, public safety, and environmental concerns. Several other communities have followed Utah’s lead in creating their own Walking School Bus programs.


[1] http://blog.udot.utah.gov/tag/walking-school-bus-app/

[2] https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865630430/Walking-School-Bus-app-a-huge-success-in-first-year.html

[3] http://fox13now.com/2017/03/21/earn-prizes-for-walking-to-school-with-udot/

[4] http://blog.udot.utah.gov/tag/walking-school-bus-app/

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.

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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

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

Gaming for the Greater Good – Community PlanIt

Looking to increase the diversity of participants in your planning process, cultivate civic learning, and receive better data about stakeholder views? “Community PlanIt is a game that makes planning playful, and gives everyone the power to shape the future of their community.”

Community PlanIt (CPI) is an online, social game that engages communities in local planning. The basic structure of a CPI game is a series of time-limited missions, where players are prompted to complete a series of challenge questions. Players receive coins (in-game currency) for most game actions, and certain actions such as commenting, liking, and sharing are reinforced through badges. Coins function to rank players’ performance in the game, and also serve as a currency that can be spent on “causes” which are local projects that benefit the communities playing, such as college application assistance for low-income youth or funding a neighborhood bike program. Players with more coins accumulated have a greater impact on which causes win. While competition is key to players’ motivation, cooperation and sense of community are fostered through easy comment filtering tools and weekly emails to players that summarize game activity. At the end of the game, the distribution of coins to causes is meant to represent the community’s general sentiment.

CPI is more than an online game. Each implementation is part of a process that involves community outreach and content creation prior to game play, and is followed by a face-to-face community meeting that also serves as the game finale. There, players and non-players are invited to debrief on game results and plan for next steps. Once the game is complete, the data is available to planners and community organizations via an interactive data visualization tool as well as spreadsheets. Most simply, this data can verify the relevance and urgency of previously identified issues. The “thick” responses elicited by CPI’s unique design can also help reframe these issues, and even highlight new or emerging issues that had escaped prior notice. Lastly, CPI’s accessibility can help clarify the relative weight or magnitude of public opinion about particular issues.



Eventbrite.com is an online event management tool. The stated mission of Eventbrite is “to bring the world together through live experiences.” This tool allows organizations to
  • create and customize and event page
  • let attendees sign up and pay online
  • allow organizations and attendees to share the event on social platforms
  • track as attendees visit, sign-up, and pay
  • manage all these moving pieces
  • PLUS 24 hour customer support
Eventbrite is FREE for free events which is very appealing to non-profit and government organizations. There is a small fee charged when payments are collected, but this price can be worked into the fee as its collected from the attendees.
Salem Chapel – an 1,000 person non-denominational church – used Eventbrite to advertise and organize a week-long Community Service Project. The church worked with 8 community organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, the local school system, Pregnancy Support Center, Rescue Mission (supporting the homeless), Crisis Control (paying bills for those in times of crisis), and the Shepherds Center (supporting the elderly) to run a variety of projects at different times and on different days. Salem Chapel needed to organize over 1,000 volunteers as they signed-up to serve and then distribute appropriate information. Information for each volunteer was different depending on where they chose to serve, how often they chose to serve, and their age.
Eventbrite allowed us, the event organizers, to create an online platform that facilitated:
  • the church to advertise
  • the volunteers to see information about all opportunities
  • the volunteers to sign-up in as many ways as possible (while keeping volunteers under 18 to only projects for them)
  • the church to organize those volunteers
  • the church to communicate appropriately with each category of volunteer
  • the volunteers to donate as needed
The event “Crash the Dash” was a huge undertaking for a small church staff, but we knew that if we could keep the processes streamlined and organized; the volunteers and organizations could have a positive experience.
Eventbrite is innovative because it made running a complex event, involving many different moving pieces, efficient. The site can be set up in minutes and can be run through an organization’s already existing website. Additionally, to appeal more to non-profits, there is a 501(c)3 discount. Eventbrite provides easy to use resources to understaffed, underpaid organizations and makes them look good.