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January 15, 2015

From Bang the Table

Online communication is not without shortcomings, however, many of those are perceived, rather than real. In this post, I will walk through eight disadvantages of online communication – some real, some perceived – specifically in the context of citizen engagement. Importantly, however, I will also suggest strategies to ameliorate the specific shortcomings.

There are a number of clear advantages and disadvantages of online communication that need to be considered when you are planning a digital citizen engagement strategy.

I have outlined the advantages in some detail in an earlier post.

January 9, 2015

From where I sit, it looks to me that online public engagement is in that phase today.  I wouldn’t necessarily assume that there’s any major consolidation on the horizon — we’re talking about software, after all, not manufacturing — but we are in a period where common language, common assumptions, and a common taxonomy and selection heuristics have not taken hold.  That’s in part because “public engagement” itself doesn’t have a clear definition or universally-shared assumptions (except for the Town Hall Three Minutes at the Mic Model, which pretty much everyone admits doesn’t work).

By Della Rucker [ED: Della is also the Managing Editor of EngagingCities]

Just got confirmation from Routledge this morning that I will be writing a book about the selection and use of online public engagement tools for release late next year!  The book has only a working title so far, but I did write a draft introductory chapter for the editorial board to consider.  It will give you a bit of a sense of where I think I am going with this thing.  Stay tuned for more news as it develops….

January 6, 2015

From Clean-Sheet.org

Follow these simple guidelines to make your data or statistical releases as useful as possible.

  1. Don’t merge cells.
  2. Don’t mix data and metadata in the same sheet.
  3. The first row of a data sheet should contain column headers. None of these headers

Follow these simple guidelines to make your data or statistical releases as useful as possible.

December 12, 2014

from bangthetable.com

A couple of weeks back, during an interview with a community engagement practitioner, I asked what “engagement” meant to him, and how it differed from “participation”. His response surprised me, “as far as I’m concerned, they mean the same thing”. You just replace “engagement” with “participation” or “involvement” depending on where you are.”

I’m not sure if this quite correct. Language is important, and we usually select specific words and phrases because of their specific contextual meaning, cultural fit, socio-cultural history and a whole range of other factors...it is all too easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the way “we”, (you and me) use a particular phrase, is the same as the people sitting next to us on the bus, or across the table during a negotiation, or when we’re trying to design a process based on a shared understanding of desirable outcomes.
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By 

The language of “community engagement” is tricky, and can be a minefield for the uninitiated. In Australia, “community engagement” has come to dominate the lexicon. In other parts of the world other phrases hold sway.

December 4, 2014

bangthetable.com

Before you launch into your next project, ask yourself “is this question we’re putting to the community just a little condescending?” Unfortunately, all to often, the answer is yes. Condescending community engagement is rife in the public, private and third sectors. Why?

Many years ago I hired a consultant on the recommendation of my boss. She was tall, smart, sophisticated, immensely experienced and knowledgeable, immaculately groomed, well spoken, and generally very impressive. So why did the community I was working with take an almost instant dislike to her?

The short answer is that they felt (and arguably were) condescended to.

By 

Before you launch into your next project, ask yourself “is this question we’re putting to the community just a little condescending?” Unfortunately, all to often, the answer is yes. Condescending community engagement is rife in the public, private and third sectors. Why?

December 3, 2014

blog.courbanize.com

To best navigate these public meetings and ensure inclusive public participation, planners have developed toolkits for consensus-building in the face of huge initial disagreement.

The next time you find yourself in an argument with residents or struggling with a tough decision, try these strategies:

Within today’s political climate, we’re all familiar with the gridlock that can result from strongly held opinions.  This delay in process can occur at all levels—we’re seeing it now on major national debates, but it also happens regularly within town halls during public meetings. 

To best navigate these public meetings and ensure inclusive public participation, planners have developed toolkits for consensus-building in the face of huge initial disagreement.

October 31, 2014

Your community panel’s growth can be turbocharged using a variety of strategies. One sure fire method is to embrace a little controversy and engage the community about highly emotional issues.

The single most often asked question I hear in relation to online community engagement is, “how do we get more people to get involved in the conversation?”

It is such a recurring theme that we created a tips sheet on exactly this t

October 29, 2014

More than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline. Without removing crucial deterrents to Internet adoption, little will change—and more than 4 billion people may be left behind.

In a little more than a generation, the Internet has grown from a nascent technology to a tool that is transforming how people, businesses, and governments communicate and engage. The Internet’s economic impact has been massive, making significant contributions to nations’ gross domestic product (GDP) and fueling new, innovative industries. It has also generated societal change by connecting individuals and communities, providing access to information and education, and promoting greater transparency.

October 27, 2014

Open data is the future – of how we govern, of how public services are delivered, of how governments engage with those that they serve. And right now, it is unevenly distributed. I think there is a strong argument to be made that data standards can provide a number of benefits to small and mid-sized municipal governments and could provide a powerful incentive for these governments to adopt open data.

By Mark Headd

This is an expanded version of a talk I gave last week at the Code for America Summit. The video from my talk should be up shortly.

An uneven future

“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”
William Gibson. The Economist, December 4, 2003

October 22, 2014

In our work with America’s cities and a cross-section of public and private sector leaders, we are learning a lot about what works — and what doesn’t — to lead and drive this kind of change. But these aren’t just lessons for the social sector. Much of what we’ve learned is relevant to leaders of any type of organization or partnership that want to catalyze change in the face of complex challenges.

by Ben Hecht

Change on a grand scale requires people to come together in new and different ways, and to reimagine what’s possible. This kind of change is hard, but it’s not impossible.

October 21, 2014

Social media can be a beautiful thing. With unlimited possibilities for connections with billions of people worldwide, friendships can be strengthened, families can connect across the globe, and loyal customers can become raving fans, even friends, of your organization. But like most things, social media has a dark side – the side that lets users openly express their unfiltered anger, frustration, even full on rage toward organizations and other people. Some individuals, known as trolls in Web vernacular, even purposefully try to provoke more outrage from other people in comments or tweets. Besides the obvious question of how one finds the time to argue with others online, the question of how to deal with digital discord is one that many organizations struggle with. We’ve pulled together a few tips to help you create a more harmonious online community, and to continue to help you cultivate productive online engagement.

By Amy Larsen

September 18, 2014

Today, Chicagoans can easily see how and where city services are being deployed, find early learning programs, learn of local incidents of foodborne illnesswait time estimates for popular public amenities, and enjoy other benefits of open government data -- thanks to the efforts of the Smart Chicago Collaborative.

It wasn't by accident that access to this data was made easy (and even fun). Nor was this success attributable solely to talented developers. The Collaborative has cultivated a community of paid civic user testers to make sure their civic apps meet the needs and expectations of Chicagoans -- an approach that can be emulated in other communities.

by: Amy Gahran

September 16, 2014

What does it take to create robust, effective transparency legislation? Here are some guidelines.

At the highest level of abstraction, I suggest drafters:

  1. Understand the context
  2. Use flexible implementation authority
  3. Create external checks on implementation
  4. Make information public by default
  5. Build in feedback loops
  6. Keep close watch on cost
  7. Watch out for tricky legislative language
  8. Figure out where to embed a program

September 15, 2014

Over the last several decades, a technological boom has changed the face of the planet. Just as it has changed everyday life, so too has it changed the way our country is governed. Let’s look at a few of the problems we are currently reflecting on—and the technological solutions that could turn them around:

By Tom Spengler

From the day our government came into existence, there have been large challenges to overcome, whether governing just one city or an entire country. From providing disaster relief, to managing public transportation and roads, to leading the way for more sustainable community development, the government has a lot to focus on.

September 11, 2014

From the periphery, planning and community engagement seems easy. You schedule a few public meetings. You talk to a few folks, confer with a few experts and put together a plan for the future of a community. Easy? 

Nope. Planning and public engagement processes are never easy. The fact that most engagement processes fail is hardly a secret.

By Simon Lapointe

We all make mistakes and we all have failures. Over the course of our professional lives we can all count on having a few epic fails.

From the periphery, planning and community engagement seems easy. You schedule a few public meetings. You talk to a few folks, confer with a few experts and put together a plan for the future of a community. Easy? 

Nope. Planning and public engagement processes are never easy. The fact that most engagement processes fail is hardly a secret.

September 10, 2014

A 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that open data could add over $3 trillion annually in total value to the global economy. Yet for all of the evidence of economic and societal benefits from open data, states vary widely in the degree to which they have embraced the idea. This report provides a snapshot of state efforts to create open data policies and portals and ranks states on their progress.

by Laura Drees and Daniel Castro

September 9, 2014

Start with basics. Big data seems daunting as many cities don’t have the money or requisite skills to advance such a strategy. Cities do not need to go straight to big data—it can be overwhelming. Municipal leaders need to just pick a few discrete areas to begin. A place to start is to simply ask how do you measure performance? Do you have a stat-like program or another way of gathering basic data? The goal should be a continuous effort that provides value in specific areas and which produces useful insights into what is and is not working. Analytics can highlight recurring problems and their causes. A framework can then be established to resolve the underlying causes, which can then translate into continuous results. This whole process involves asking realistic questions that drive solutions.

September 8, 2014

Last week I had a great time teaching a webinar with Susan Stuart Clark of Common Ground for the National Council on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD).  We were talking about online strategies for getting people involved in local government planning and decision-making, and we had close to 100 people participation.

In the week before the webinar, NCDD asked for questions from the people who would be attending, and man... we got a ton. We only had an hour for the session so there were a lot of questions that probably got lost in the wash of participation.  So I went back through them after the webinar and made sure that I had at least given some kind of response to each one.  I initially did this so that NCDD could share it with the participants, but I figured many of you would find it interesting as well.

By Della Rucker  

NOTE: This piece was initially written for the Wise Economy Workshop.  Della is also the Managing Editor of EngagingCities.

September 5, 2014

I really liked this approach because

i) it created a good reflection on the current process
ii) it clearly identified the different perspectives of different stakeholders including contradictions iii) it got different constituencies to work together to create solutions based on the reflections and lessons learned
iv) it created an element of friendly competition (gamification!)
v) it was fun and people were very engaged
vi) in the end we were able to identify some of the best ideas from each proposal which will be taken forward in a smaller redesign group. 

September 3, 2014

At the top of nearly every public sector organization’s priority list is how to better engage the citizens it serves. Boosting stakeholder engagement was rated the highest communications objective for 2014 among nearly 40 percent of government respondents in a survey by GovDelivery, a digital communications service provider.

August 29, 2014

Production APIs done right require stewardship – this includes ensuring adequate reliability, authentication, versioning and a host of other things that building a demo API does not. If developers perceive that an API is unstable or lacks proper stewardship, they won’t invest the time building services that take advantage of it.

By Mark Headd

Fresh off a week in San Diego for the annual Accela Engage conference (where Tim O’Reilly gave a keynote presentation) and some stolen hours over the weekend for hacking together an entry in the Boston HubHacks Civic Hackathon, I’ve got government APIs front of mind.

August 27, 2014

Cities across the nation are under financial pressure. They lack the public funds to create more opportunity by investing in economic development, human capital and physical infrastructure. Private capital could go a long way towards meeting these investment needs. Too often, available private capital cannot be put to work in our cities because the mechanisms to attract and deploy capital are not in place. It’s as though private capital is an airplane, circling overhead, without the landing strip or the air traffic control needed to touch down safely. Even in a time of scarce public sector resources, there are things that city leaders can do to help put capital to work in their communities.

by David Wood, Robin Hacke

August 1, 2014

But anyone doing this work knows that, in application, it can be messy and confusing. To stick with the recipe analogy from my recent blog about the yummy tensions of collective impact, feedback is the binding agent that holds all of the other ingredients together. But it isn’t something that you can just throw into the mix. It has individual, flavorful elements that have to be carefully incorporated into the larger process. When done well, this creates an enabling connective tissue upon which the Collective Impact partnership can thrive. - See more at: http://www.livingcities.org/blog/?id=339#sthash.bleWeJoQ.dpuf

by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson

July 30, 2014

1) Don’t ignore your users; bring someone in to represent them

Consultation should be considered from a user’s point of view – which sounds obvious right? But this is all too often forgotten amidst the document creation, planning and bureaucracy. To help solve this, Defra invited Ruth Chambers, Vice Chair of Defra’s civil society advisory board, along to the consultation session. Ruth highlighted the importance of setting out expectations early on and sustaining engagement. She also advised that departments should be honest with stakeholders about changes or challenges to help ensure they are engaged in both the topic at hand and the process.

by Rowena Farr

Working with Defra for the past 18 months, I was pleased to be invited to one of their department training sessions on running effective consultations. Here are some tips I picked up:

1) Don’t ignore your users; bring someone in to represent them