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RE: [betaNYC] A recap from this Wed's #BeyondTransparency kick off meeting

From: Steven C.
Sent on: Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:28 AM

In terms of core Community Board online infrastructure why not have a shared set of open source (but compellingly optional) tools for core functions:

1. City-wide public meeting notification system - Rhode Island has a statewide system. I'd include agendas, meeting documents, and personalized notification options. E-Democracy has research available:

2. Online Group Support for Committees and Task Forces - Create a public way for committee work with full transparency that allows for both between meeting communication and public engagement.

3. Community Board Engagement Forums - Let's be honest, those in power hate how two-way online spaces can be allowed to raise the loudest voices even further. This is mostly because spaces are not created in a more neutral manner nor facilitated effectively. However they can be extremely useful if done right with volunteers empowered to enforce basic civility rules. We call them "Issues Forums" and explain them here: - Every Community Board should have an effective two-way online town hall where the public and community board members/officials can engage each other (and Facebook Pages do not cut it).

4. Community Solution Exchanges - New York City is made up thousands of local people who are passionate about solving similar public challenges in their own neighborhood or community. They are often disconnected from each other. Create a network of thematic online groups where people active with an issue can trade information, knowledge, and experiences to help them act on these issues locally. In Twin Cities we are exploring creating a dozen thematic groups for the 20k users across our neighborhood and city issues forums. We see similar issues popcorning up all across our network and think this could help move more online engagement from talk to more action. Like all these ideas, it needs funding because you need to resource facilitation and sector by sector inclusive outreach. Let's seek pilot funding together.

5. Embrace Neighbors Online - Imagine if your former Mayor had declared an official newspaper or commercial television news channel as a city partner. That is what the city did when it embraced NextDoor specifically rather than establishing/supporting a neutral campaign to help the public find or start online spaces to connect neighbors in the buildings, street, neighborhood or other places of local identity. After 20 years in this field, it is my experience that there is NO other civic tech activity between elections that engages or interests everyday people more than community life exchange online. This online exchange is the starting point for "public" engagement and the demand function for the info people want out of open government efforts. Every neighbors online space that I have seen work has a leader who convenes - how can New York City foster a generation of neighborhood online leaders who inclusively connect their community? How do we embrace the use of whatever technology the community wants to use while helping recruit participation citywide? This is similar to the goal of our embryonic "got milk?" style campaign called ... in the Twin Cities we link to the neighborhood forums we do not host. We have the domain sitting on the shelf too. (I'd like to see a map based site.) My visions is a neutral directory site for NYC and cities around the nation where governments,  community boards, the media and others can reliably go here to make your neighborhood a better place by getting connected. We could also connect the leaders for mutual support, training, and more across platforms.

6. City-wide e-alert system - I don't know if NYC uses GovDelivery or a similar tool, but a key feature is that when people sign up for alerts people are offered additional alert options. People might come in for local crime alerts but then see the weekly community board email newsletter option they sign up. All community boards should be able to use such citywide systems if they exist. With Facebook Pages now essentially dead and Twitter a crazy torrent, community boards need to go forward with multichannel outreach and embrace the continued power of a direct email relationship with the community. Heck, we will probably see more email promotion of Facebook posts saying come here to have your say.

Anyway, let us know if we can be helpful in your efforts.

We might jointly find channels for seeking funding or be a coach and adviser that helps you secure a grant or helps government funders feel more confident that efforts will learn from mistakes of the past.

Over the last twenty years, I've seen generation after generation of build they will come, shoot to the moon projects that fail based on unreasonable expectations. So with some exciting momentum here, I recommend building incrementally and celebrating every small success along the way. Momentum is key with civic projects not likely to be big revenue generators.

Keep your eye on mass and inclusive participation ... how can we actually reach and engage lots of people on a sustained basis so our niche apps will be used? Ask that every step of the way and embrace more open models of neighbor connecting online where you don't have to pay to reach people you helped organize in the first place.

It was a great honor to meet so many of you in NYC the other month - - Let's stay connected.

Steven Clift

P.S. While everyone has their favorite platform, if you believe like me that full email access is absolutely vital for any independent online group effort to succeed, see - We need python coders to roll up their sleeves. Note the design work in progress:

We could technically turn 3 and 4 above on in minutes, but tools like this have to keep up with social media design expectations to be embraced by funders and elites to resource volunteer recruitment and inclusive outreach. (People will use them, but younger users and funders with 30 seconds to develop an impression need better eye candy. They won't take two minutes to size up the value of a space like this that reaches 30% of households. So in the next month or two we hope our diamond in the rough engagement becomes easier to see for outsiders and we can't do that without more volunteer civic tech coding and design engagement.)

Steven Clift - [address removed]

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