Wisconsin foundation develops innovative digital signage project with MIT Center for Civic Media

communities / Article

MIT Center for Civic Media, working with the Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County, is launching the first phase of the Sameboat project. The goal of Sameboat is to take important community information and push it out to everyday places that people commonly frequent.

The signs will make it easier for  community members to find out about free and low-cost events and services in the area.

”The first phase involves a fairly inexpensive digital signage network that goes into community spots where people already gather,” says Rick Borovoy, research scientist at MIT.

Here's a short video explaining the project.

The sign content is community-sourced from local partners hosting services and events.  Examples include: free student breakfasts at participating schools during the summer; area Farmers’ Markets; Wisconsin Rapids Zoo hours; free dinners at the Neighborhood Table; basic skills workshop at the Jobs Center, and food pantry screening hours at North Central Community Action Program.

“Our community wants to make sure people are aware of local services and events being offered,” adds Kurt Heuer, Chief of Police at Wisconsin Rapids Police Department. “People should look to the signs to learn about essential services and events in our area.”

Last month a team from both organizations installed signs in Walmart, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the Wisconsin Rapids Job Center.

Phase two will launch this fall, when the Community Foundation and MIT team hope to push event and service information into hyper-local print publications such as the Buyer's Guide, a free circular, and "backpack mail" distributed through elementary and middle schools.

The Sameboat project comes out of a year-long collaboration between MIT Center for Civic Media and the Community Foundation, which focused on ways to match digital technology with citizen information needs and community challenges.

“In essence, our foundation provides MIT with a ‘community lab’ for technology experiments that foster civic engagement.   MIT benefits from our rural community experience which help inform new information tools for broader audiences,” said Kelly Lucas, President and CEO of the community foundation.

The foundation is a two-time information challenge winner.

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