By Paula Ellis, VP/Strategic Initiatives
Inspired by the power of emerging technologies and residents’ do-it-yourself spirit, cities across the country are beginning to re-imagine what public participation could be in the 21st Century.
Yesterday, at a neighborhood church in Brooklyn, New York, the City of New York and Knight-funded CEOs for Cities launched Change by Us NYC with help from Knight Foundation’s Technology for Engagement initiative. The website invites New Yorkers to propose community change ideas and seek city money to help make it happen.
It’s a really cool idea that we hope is just the first of many, many, many new notions about how government can really engage with residents who care about the place they live and want to help make it better.
Change by Us, known initially as Give A Minute, began as a CEOs for Cities experiment in Chicago and Memphis, where government leaders wanted to know if you could tap into the wisdom of the crowd to find creative, practical and effective solutions to persistent challenges.
At Knight Foundation, where we believe that informed and engaged communities are better places to live, work and play, we’re excited to help support this burgeoning movement. And with more than 700 articles of feedback provided to the NY site so far, we’re proud to be involved.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith also expressed his excitement, saying in an official release, “Change by Us NYC will be a social network for grassroots leaders. New Yorkers have long been active in greening our city and improving our quality of life, and thanks to this new website, volunteers, professionals, and city agencies will have the opportunity to collaborate on issues like sustainability like never before.”
Several major news providers have already picked up the story, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which broke down the site’s easy-to-use layout, saying, “Users can contribute in three different categories: ideas (anything from a complaint to a suggestion or question about city life), projects (a concrete course of action) and resources (information about available tools from the city or community organization that can help). The interface also has a map view, making it easy to find proposals tied to any part of the city.”
Change by Us, with Knight support, will soon spread to San Jose and Philadelphia. CEOs for Cities, working with the NY-based Local Projects design firm and its innovative leader Jake Barton, hopes that’s only the beginning. They want to see “Crowdsourcing Cities” from sea to shining sea. To propel the movement, they’re trying to invent a common platform that can be customized for special local needs and write a step-by-step guide for urban leaders.
This is just one of the ways we think that new technological tools, in the hands of innovative community members and their representatives in government, can put citizen action at the center of community change.
Give us a shout or take part in the twitter chatter if you – or someone you know – is serious about creating opportunities for residents to take action and co-produce solutions with your local government.
Our crowd needs your wisdom!