For a small town, Blacksburg, VA, is surprisingly no stranger to a lot of civic engagement. Next to Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg is home to about 15,000 full-time residents and 28,000 students. A number of local issues drove up community interest in participatory government, and Blacksburg’s technologically savvy policy of open government kept everyone interested and talking -- online. Next they needed to get more voices heard in a common location. They tried a CivicIdeas survey and received a fantastic response: over 1000 respondents.
Entries in citizen engagement (27)
Yesterday, from my hotel room in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I took an opportunity to give an online presentation on The Future of Digital Government, using only mobile devices, to several hundred local government employees from across all of North America. Most people were there to learn about bringing civic engagement online, or governing from the iPad with an agenda app. We delivered on that, and more.
“I tried everything to try to get people more engaged in the life of their city: I did online town halls, I tried to digitize them through America Speaks so people could do voting on their top priorities, we did traditional town halls, but all this was remarkably disconnected to the vast majority of people whose voices weren’t heard,” said California’s Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom. In his new book, Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, Newsom attempts to reconcile that disconnect.
During yesterday’s launch webinar, I presented the positive effect of putting public feedback at the fingertips of government staff and elected officials with our new version of iLegislate. Based on the quantity and quality of the questions that were asked, it seems government innovators are eager to make mobility and community engagement work together.
For me, Newsom’s book Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, can be summed up in one word: inspiring. On a professional level, this subject hit really close to home as I’m part of the team working on our citizen engagement tool: CivicIdeasSM. We want to make it easier for the public to get involved with their government and help improve processes — as is noted in this book, ”two-way is the future.”
Innovation is nothing new. Certainly, we create new methods or tools to achieve our goals, but these creations are always based on the tools and materials we already have before us. Real innovation is often simply asking the question, “what if,” and answering how it can happen with spectacular results. Granicus’ most recent innovation came from the question: What if government leaders always understood what their community is thinking?
From plastic bags to bicycles, Austinites are coming together online to improve their city. When looking for stellar examples of online civic engagement, the results produced by the City of Austin, TX push the city to the top of a very short list, a list that could and should be much bigger.