Citizen engagement is a key element when it comes to improving a city. Administrators want to get citizen feedback on projects and citizens want their voice to be heard – but the current strategy of community consultations/meetings isn’t always as effective as we’d like it to be. Residents may not hear about meetings being held, have other commitments, be reluctant to voice their thoughts in front of a crowd, or feel uncomfortable with the direction that public meetings often take. Alissa Walker, contributor for GOOD, notes that “public engagement in the form we have it now isn’t fun or effective: It often entails attending a long, contentious meeting that’s framed around the concept of conflict. People don’t feel their voices are heard on issues in their own neighborhood, and they don’t believe that a letter or email will be read by the right people.”
Give A Minute is a new initiative led by CEOs for Cities and Local Projects that is trying to reinvigorate citizen engagement through a new form of public dialogue. Billboards and bus shelters boldly pose a question asking residents to suggest ways to improve their city. Citizens can then answer the question by texting answers to the number given or can go online to share their ideas. The responses are then loaded onto an online project wall in the form of virtual sticky notes for others to see and build upon.
The site aptly states:
It only takes a minute to think about improving your city, but your ideas can make a world of difference. “Give a Minute” is an opportunity for you to think out loud; address old problems with fresh thinking.
Chicago is the first city where Give A Minute is being used – with New York, Memphis, and San Jose next in line. The questions that each city is asked are specific to local issues – for Chicago the question is: “What would encourage you to walk, bike and take CTA[transit] more often?”
What makes this project so interesting and exciting?
1) The collaboration between citizens and city administration: As Maria Popova at Big Think says, Give A Minute is “asking entire cities for [innovative] ideas, then collecting and passing them on to the city’s leadership for grassroots, citizen-driven yet streamlined civic change”. It’s a great way for residents to identify what is important and then constructively work with policy makers to make the change.
2) The interactive nature: Citizens can provide multiple answers, see what others in their city are thinking, and share each others ideas.
3) The constructive feedback: Local community leaders, administrators, and occasionally celebrities who are invested in the topic will personally respond to their favourite ideas and continue the dialogue.
4) The forward momentum: People who have similar ideas will eventually have the ability to link up with each other as well as community leaders to help bring the ideas and proposed projects to fruition.
I first heard about Give A Minute at the Urban Next Summit in San Francisco a few months ago. At the time the program had yet to be launched so it is very exciting to see it up and running with so many responses already!
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Have a great weekend!