Heading into the second decade of the 21st century, we constantly hear about how social media, geolocation, mobile apps and similar technological innovations are changing the way we interact with each other. But how are they changing the way we interact with our governments (particularly local governments)? Are they offering new opportunities for civic engagement? Are they changing the way residents view their role in local government, creating new opportunities for citizen involvement? Or are they cementing old ideas of citizens as customers by facilitating the delivery of government services?
These questions are of particular interest to those of us at the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership as we seek to help solve public problems by promoting citizen's participation in governance. We have created this blog to provide up-to-date information relating to what is being called "Government 2.0." We hope what you find here will help local governments and their residents make the most of the technology available for genuine citizen engagement.
The US government offers grants to a variety of organizations across a variety of issues. But how do potential recipients even find out what’s available? A new website, GrantsCase.Com, aims to help remedy the “grant education” problem:
The new website, GrantsCase.com, is a collection of resources compiled by the two companies that will help remedy government’s education problem, Ha said. The site’s first section is a uniform guidance quick reference.
“The uniform guidance is grant reform and legislation that all organizations receiving federal funds need to follow,” Ha explained, adding that the information is typically available in paper form, but they’ve done the work to simplify and digitize it.”
You can read more here, and explore the grant resource website here.
A recent MacArthur Foundation press release highlighted how Connect Chicago is seeking to increase digital technology skills among Chicago residents. Connect Chicago is a network of over 250 places in the city that offer internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources for free. The goal? Better engagement:
The MacArthur-supported program will provide coordination and community building across city programs, invest in digital training programs that are accessible to every resident, and support new, promising approaching to digital training and connectivity.”
To read more click here. To learn more about Connect Chicago including locations, click here.
“Civic engagement doesn’t happen by default. Technology can help government leaders reach community members.” So argues Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in a recent article on Government Technology:
Democratic governance, in other words, does not furnish an engaged public by default: It is the charge of government leaders to call it into existence. The leadership of the New York City Police Department has taken this lesson to heart, leveraging technology to augment the constructive potential of the public voice.
Goldsmith looks at the tools the NYPD has used over the course of two decades to make public safety data more transparent and accountable, and notes how advances in crowdsourcing technology such as IdeaScale “have demonstrated their capacity to create new “publics” in which citizens are not only heard, but also empowered to participate in the production of their own civil society.” You can read more here.
Contributor: Brian Stewart, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’17.
The Daily Cardinal’s editorial board recently explored the importance of engaging citizens prior to and beyond presidential election. It looked specifically at the impact of social media on the engagement process, making a case for local engagement in particular:
“National elections are easier to participate in. The candidates are more well-known and media coverage is far more salient. Voting in local elections requires some motivation to educate ourselves about these races.
However, the trade-off is worth it. Looking at our Facebook and Twitter feeds, many of our friends may blame national politics for local issues. Taking action in local elections can alleviate this divide and move us away from the passive, armchair activism of social media.”
Using the metaphor of tending a garden, Matt Leighninger, shared the importance of “Tending the Garden of Civic Tech” with readers on Medium and EngagingCities last month. He explored how technology has offered new and innovative ways for people to engage with their governments, and how governments have a field of tools to put forward to feed their citizens. Once again, it’s a question of purpose determining platform:
“Known collectively as “civic technology,” these online tools can help us map public problems, help citizens generate solutions, gather input for government, coordinate volunteer efforts or help neighbors remain connected.
…Some of the most powerful innovations are relatively simple technologically. These are “hyperlocal” online forums that connect residents who live in the same neighborhood, or parents whose children attend the same school. These forums have spread dramatically, starting with simple listservs, then Facebook groups, then slightly more sophisticated platforms promoted by nonprofit groups (such as e-democracy.org, localocracy and Front Porch Forum) and an increasing array of for-profit enterprises. They combine the power of the boundless Internet with the power of local face-to-face relationships.”