In October, a neighbor approached me with an idea – an idea he wasn’t quite sure was doable in the “realm” of local government. This particular neighbor lives in a civic association that for some time had been advocating for a dog park to be built within the nearby city park. The City had committed monies to help make the dog park a reality, but the amount wasn’t enough to design and construct the dog park, and the neighborhood was asked to fund the remaining amount. The neighbor approached me with the idea to “crowdfund” the neighborhood dog park.
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project, or venture, by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. Certainly in the past the City has solicited neighbor contributions to help with special projects and programs, however, the novel idea that comes with crowdfunding is the ability for neighbors to donate via internet in increments completely up to them. There’s a target that needs to be hit and if that target is not met then thedonationsmade by the respective contributors will not be charged to either their debit or credit card and the project does not get funded. I was asked to help setup the donation page and legitimize the process. After that, the City would be hands-off in the fundraising process and leave it up to the neighborhood to complete. We setup the project on the web portal Citizinvestor, a crowdfunding tool specifically designed for municipal capital improvements, and the association began driving people to the website to donate.
I chose to write about the concept of crowdfunding, and how it’s being done in Fort Lauderdale, in this space because I’ve been in awe how the neighborhood association has risen to the challenge of getting the dog park funded. It’s not easy to get people to donate money for a government project when they believe that their tax money should be funding it. Yet, the neighborhood has stepped up and taken on the fundraising challenge with vigor. To date, the neighborhood has raised close to $27,000 – currently only a couple thousand short of their goal. Neighbors I’ve never seen before have joined the process and have taken it upon themselves to the help the community by getting this project funded. The association pushing this project has formed an ad hoc committee made up of various residents that have become the liaison between the association and city hall. When the dust settles, and the dog park is fully funded and built, it will be interesting to see if the dog park advocates remain fully engaged in their community and attach themselves to another important project. This could be the start of a great increase in public participation in the neighborhood.
BEST PRACTICE IN P2 – Positive Governing: Building Upon Your Best
By Barbara Lewis
The following is an excerpt from the Colorado Municipalities
IMAGINE YOUR COMMUNITY 15 years from today. It is a vibrant, freestanding community where prosperity has continued, even blossomed. The community is everything you had hoped and wished for, and there is enough money in the municipal coffers to pay for it. What do you see?
In 2005, municipal staff members from Longmont invited community members from all walks of life to engage their imaginations around this question. Hosting a process that involved listening, appreciation, and discernment, they forged strategic directions that still guide the City today.
In the past decade, local governments in Colorado have pioneered a new way of governing – positive governing – in which municipal and community members’ partner to appreciate what works and build their future on today’s strengths. Using an approach called appreciative inquiry (AI), they have flipped problems into opportunities and complaints into shared responsibility. This process has enabled people of radically diverse – even conflicting – backgrounds to co-create new opportunities by focusing on, understanding, and leveraging what fuels success.
Cascade Chapter PI Network focuses on “collaborative governance”
About 40 attended Cascade Chapter’s PI Network on March 20 at the offices of Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc. in Portland, Ore. The professional development and networking event was shared with the Puget Sound chapter by live broadcast to the Seattle offices of EnviroIssues.
Sam Imperati presented “Collaborative Governance: turning conflict into resolution” about the evolution of public involvement to the mediation of high stakes, high conflict disputes when everyone is watching. Sam is the executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management and collaborative governance guru.
Attendees learned theories of collaborative governance and practical techniques used to bring diverse stakeholders to resolution — not just “settlement,” where they walk away unhappy — to help groups make wiser decisions at the intersection of logic and emotion.
Immediately after Sam’s presentation, IAP2 USA Board member Tim Bonnemann demonstrated Zilino, a new online engagement tool for hosting deliberative online forums that enables public participation practitioners to design and manage well structured, well facilitated online dialogues and consultations. A social followed at the Buffalo Gap.
Call for voluntary contributions to the Innovation Project
The renewal of the Certificate Program is now at a very intense and exciting phase: your input and energy are needed in order for the revision to be a reflection of the vast knowledge within the IAP2 community.
The ways you choose to contribute to the project may include:
- Offering materials you have that you think will contribute to the revision of the certificate program, i.e. suggestions for learning activities from your own experiences, conference papers that you recently gathered, articles that you found interesting, etc.
- Offering videos that you have seen (on YouTube or elsewhere) or that you produced or your organization produced, or case studies you have developed or found
- Whatever you think will contribute to improving the public participation learning experience
As the Certificate program has not been renewed for many years, we are aware that some interesting new materials have been developed to respond to the changes and developments in practice. We welcome those materials and will acknowledge all contributions in the new training materials.
If you would like more in-depth information on what content of the current Certificate program will be renewed you will find it in Annex 1; you will find a proposed content framework that indicates which scale of revision the contents are subjected to.
Please feel free to suggest or indicate materials that apply to different sectors, or various countries.
Click below for more information:
Public officials and public participation practitioners don’t always pay enough attention to publicity—ensuring that the public knows about their opportunity to participate. It’s never easy (or necessarily cheap) to do enough publicity such that a person couldn’t possibly miss hearing about a public participation opportunity. After all, many of us pay attention to a disparate array of news and information sources, online and offline, sometimes inconsistently. But if an agency does not adequately publicize the event, it could easily (and perhaps justifiably) attract critics who think they don’t really want the public to participate—they’re just doing the bare minimum to post “public notice.”
All of this came to mind when I bought the print version of the Sunday, November 13th edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel during the IAP2USA face-to-face board meeting in Milwaukee. On page 7B of the local section, the paper included a medium-sized ad entitled, “REGIONAL HOUSING PLAN: HAVE INPUT – ATTEND A PUBLIC MEETING.”
While not particularly eye-catching or enticing, the ad does provide helpful information for the public. The ad goes on to explain what the plan is designed to address, a website for more information, and a phone number one can call. It also lists the dates, times, and addresses of the meetings over the course of a multi-week period; the meetings seem to be geographically dispersed and are scheduled at a time that more people would be able to attend (towards the end of or after the typically business day).
The ad also informs the reader of how the meeting will be formatted—an informal “open house” format where the public can meet with staff, ask questions, and provide input, along with a single public hearing opportunity later on. And for those who can’t make any of the events, the ad includes ways to submit comments in writing and by phone.
As helpful as the ad might be, and as much as it speaks to the varying ways people may want to participate in a process like this, it points to a few ongoing challenges for the field of public participation and for governments seeking to do it well. For one thing, ads like this one probably won’t get all that much attention. The ad is buried towards the back of the local section, engulfed by other ads that are more eye-catching (graphics, use of color). For another thing, the ad does not make it clear to the reader how input from the public will influence the regional housing plan, or even what specific questions they want the public to address; topics are mentioned but they are fairly generic and difficult to consider in the abstract (“the balance between jobs and affordable housing,” “housing discrimination,” etc.). The ad also does not mention opportunities for the public to deliberate among themselves about the best way forward for their community. In and of itself, that might not matter—in some cases, governments may not be able to involve the public more deeply than that. But one would think that such a massive undertaking as a regional housing plan in a major metropolitan area would benefit from hearing how people with multiple perspectives view the issues and what common ground they can unearth that would help policymakers or plan writers.
Some time ago, the TED Talks series included a lecture from someone who took an ad for a Nike shoe and formatted much the way this housing plan ad looks—suggesting that no corporation would design an ad this way, if their ultimate aim is to attract attention (instead of to meet legal posting requirements). I’m inclined to give the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission the benefit of the doubt—I suspect they really want public input or they wouldn’t schedule nine open houses and a public hearing and maintain a phone line or a website. Nevertheless, their ad points to the need for governments and public participation practitioners to examine carefully how they make the public aware of their opportunities to participate and to scrutinize the “ask” they make of the public in that publicity. The more noticeable, widespread, and clear the publicity, the more likely the input will benefit the process as a whole, and even enhance trust between the public and the agency.
What do you think?
We have a new IAP2 USA member who is seeking examples of community guidelines or policies developed by local governments. He is especially interested in involvement in parks projects but any general guidelines will be useful.
Please post if you have any guidelines or policies you want to share. We will also collect your postings and add to the IAP2 USA resources page which is currently in development.
Theresa Gunn, President