GovTech: “Here are five platforms that are helping redefine civic engagement.
Neighborland: A new way to rally residents
If you’ve ever tried drumming up support for a neighborhood project, you know firsthand how difficult the effort can be. From diverse work schedules to just plain indifference, capturing a community’s attention and rallying residents on an issue can seem impossible at times. Neighborland was created to make that task easier.
The online social engagement platform helps citizens and public officials connect on ideas and plans for a community. After creating a profile on Neighborland, users can post questions or ideas using words and pictures. The posts can be categorized by topic, and users can suggest related actions such as fundraisers and meetings….
Textizen: An easier way to give opinions
Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, struggled to collect feedback from parents. To simplify the process, the district deployed Textizen, which makes sharing comments and responding to survey questions as easy as sending a text message….
Voterheads: Early warning on important issues
It’s a scenario every local government is likely familiar with: There’s a council meeting and while decisions are being made on behalf of everyone in the area, only a small percentage of the population participates in the process. But once a decision is made, citizens complain about the result….Voterheads, a free online engagement platform that alerts citizens via email when their city, county or school board is discussing a topic that they’re interested in. Using a sliding scale, users indicate their degree of opposition or support of a topic like taxes, at which point the system decides if or how quickly that person should be notified about an upcoming public meeting….
Community PlanIt: A game with real-world results
Eric Gordon, an Emerson College professor, creates games and other digital tools that energize civic participation. He runs the university’s Engagement Game Lab and develops programs to make community planning fun and interactive for citizens.
One of his creations is Community PlanIt, an online game that solicits comments from residents about their neighborhoods. City administrators analyze the feedback to make more informed choices about community development….
Open Town Hall: Letting cooler heads prevail
Democracy is a messy process. James Madison said that faction and discord are “sown in the nature of man,” and have “divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.” Winston Churchill once noted, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”…Peak Democracy’s Open Town Hall moves the public meeting process online, acknowledging some 21st-century realities and offering a few other advantages too….Open Town Hall requires registration, and the topics are presented by the jurisdiction. Rather than restricting input, said Cohen, it broadens the appeal of participation and brings in many more moderate views. Open Town Hall also requires a geocoded address so that input on an issue can be evaluated based on its location. The names and locations view can be turned on or off, depending on the issue and the jurisdiction’s wishes….
3 Platforms to Watch
Placehood.org: Billed as a “virtual place to discuss real places that you want to see transformed,” Placehood connects citizens, developers and city planners. The goal is to repurpose or improve underutilized properties, while letting users comment about a place, post improvement ideas, add images and gather support.
Outline.com: This platform visualizes a public policy’s impact on the state or local economy by simulation. Outline lets citizens perform what-if analyses on budgets and policies and provide feedback to the government. The simulator is being piloted in Massachusetts, and the company hopes to grow the number of users this summer.
PlaceSpeak: Launched in Canada, the online community consultation website connects citizens with local issues. Users’ addresses are verified, allowing the government or organization to specify areas where it would like to get feedback from or generate ideas about.”