Engagement Commons: A new tool to empower civic engagement

communities / Article


The Public Art App, available in Engagement Commons, allows users to discover art in various cities. 

In April, Civic Commons officially launched the Engagement Commons in beta. The site, which has curated more than 150 engagement focused app entries is now open to the community. It invites people to jump in, start trying it out, and submit ideas for how to make the platform even better. For the next phase, the site is looking to add more context, by providing the stories and narratives behind how these apps are facilitating results in communities. 

By Nick Grossman, Civic Commons Executive Director

With the explosion of open data, we’ve seen a proliferation of civic software aiming to get community information on everything from road closures to restaurant inspections into people’s hands.

The apps have great potential for engaging people in improving their communities. But often the people closest to the data -- city leaders and staffers -- have a difficult time finding and weeding through all the software to determine what’s right for both their needs and their community.

That’s why we’re building Engagement Commons, a comprehensive catalogue of civic engagement software. It’s a project of Civic Commons, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Technology for Engagement Initiative, which funds projects that use technology to inspire on-the-ground action.

Specifically, Engagement Commons is a dynamic wiki, an editable catalogue of applications that foster civic engagement. The catalogue will include comprehensive information regarding the purpose, features and uses of each application; reviews of each app; technical requirements and options for deploying the app; as well as listings of locations each app is being used in.

Want to encourage art creation and appreciation throughout your city? Search the Engagement Commons to find tools like Public Art App. This innovative app currently allows community members to define and discover art throughout the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco. Open source, this app can be deployed anywhere.

How about putting the power to improve the community back in the hands of the people? Check out SeeClickFix. This application allows anyone to report and track non-emergency issues, anywhere. In turn, empowering both government departments and community groups to resolve the cities issues.

These are just two of the many applications that will be available for discovery in Engagement Commons.

As Damian Thorman, Knight Foundation’s national program director said, “We hope this new platform will allow cities to find creative ways to better connect to and engage their citizens in real time.”

So keep an eye out. Engagement Commons will be up and running spring 2012.

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