Posts Tagged ‘texas’

The City of Round Rock, Texas and the Tool Lending Center

November 5, 2015 2 comments

Ryan Hendersonby Ryan Henderson, City of Fort Lauderdale
October 27, 2015

Back in May I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Neighborhoods USA Conference (NUSA) in Houston, Texas. With other Fort Lauderdale staff, all within the Division of Neighbor Support, we conducted a number of workshops on a wide variety of programs that had produced successful community building partnerships within the city’s neighborhoods. The workshops, however, were truly secondary to our real focus at the conference as we were presenting our Adopt-A-Neighbor Program for the Best Neighborhood Program of the Year Award and we were intent on sharing the story of how the program developed and then flourished to make such a strong impact in Fort Lauderdale. In the ballroom, before the judges, we were joined by three other cities that were there to present the programs they had developed and programs equally qualified for the coveted award. One of those cities was the City of Round Rock, Texas.

Round Rock, Texas, a city of about 110,000 and located just north of Austin, made a commitment in 2014 to make neighborhood revitalization a top priority. The commitment declared wasn’t so different than that which Fort Lauderdale had made – a commitment that spawned the idea of the Adopt-A-Neighbor Program. Similar to how we approached the idea of community revitalization, Round Rock saw the necessity of bringing the community together to approach this commitment through a unified, publicly engaged force.

tool-lendingTheir idea was to create a “tool-lending center.” The Tool Lending Center (TLC) works like a mobile library, that is a tool library hitched to the back of truck, where groups are given the opportunity to check out tools for neighborhood projects and then return those tools once they are done with them.

The Tool Lending Center is designed to be deployed for organized projects such as neighborhoods cleanups or other beautification projects where volunteers such as scouts, church groups, school groups, etc., are organized and available. Currently, the TLC does not issue tools on an individual basis – probably for the best as it encourages individuals to “team-up” and tackle communal issues rather than those of the abled individual.

On all accounts the TLC has been wildly successful in Round Rock. In the program’s inaugural year, the TLC was deployed 20 times with over 800 volunteers contributing 3,300 hours of service. Of the 20 deployments, six were neighborhood cleanups that included 3,173 homes. The cleanups resulted in 209 tons of garbage removed from neighborhoods, and volunteers worked on 72 homes of residents who had a genuine need because of age, disability, or other special circumstances. It should also be noted that the program would not have been made possible if not for the generous donation of Home Depot who donated $6,250 worth of tools.

During the City of Round Rock’s presentation for the Best Neighborhood Program of the Year Award at NUSA, they showed a video detailing the program and the program’s success. Throughout the video were people smiling as they came together to help others take on blight.

I believe it’s safe to assume that many of the individuals in the video, indeed many of the 800 volunteers that have contributed to the program thus far, don’t always come to city hall meetings on the first and third Tuesday of every month. They don’t go to City Hall to meet with the Mayor, the Council Members, or the City Manager – truth be told, they may not even now the names of their elected and appointed officials. They probably don’t participate in the government process through means which we commonly associate with public participation.

Yet, all of the volunteers that have come together through the Tool Lending Center Program, all of the individuals that have built community through sweat and muscle, are public participants and publicly participating in democracy in a joyous, meaningful way. I’ve come to view this type of public participation as the most rewarding. I love the participation where people take time out of their lives to make an impact in others’ lives through hard work and compassionate effort. This is in no way a rebuke of the public participation that takes place in City Hall and shapes policy – participation of that sort is incredibly important for a democracy to sustain itself. However, cities need to start thinking about public participation the way the City of Red Rock, Fort Lauderdale, Birmingham, Alabama, and others have. It’s up to more cities to follow Round Rock’s lead and provide opportunities for individuals to participate in democracy outside the walls of City Hall.

Learn more about the City of Round Rock’s Tool Lending Center.

Member Spotlight: Tina Geiselbrecht

August 25, 2015 Leave a comment

tinageiselbrecht2Tina Geiselbrecht is a Research Scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). She leads the Public Engagement Planning program, a two year old program whose mission is “To advance the practice of public engagement through research and innovation.” Sound familiar?

Texas A&M has the largest university-based transportation research institute in the country. They’re interested in things like pavement markings, traffic operations, pedestrian safety, transportation planning, and policy development, primarily at the state level.

Tina came to TTI with a M.A. in Geography from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University) and a B.A. in Economic Geography from the University of Texas. “My primary focus is on research that agencies and organizations can use to better understand their constituents and customers. We collect quantitative and qualitative data to help agencies develop plans and programs.” Tina is involved in efforts to use innovative techniques and technologies to change how people engage with one another and their communities, and recently looked at how online communities can help policymakers understand what issues are important to their constituents and ask questions to better understand multiple perspectives. “The greatest challenge is to convince sponsors of the return on investment of that level engagement. They want to know that it will garner meaningful engagement and help the community be supportive of the decisions that are made.”

Back to the Future
Some of the projects Tina is involved in may seem futuristic, but in reality they’re not too far down the road.

“We’re looking at connected and automated vehicles, and the transportation infrastructure we would need to put into place to support them, for example, our engineers are working on what pavement markings these vehicles would need on the roadways. The public engagement questions center on things like ‘How do we identify the issues people will have with these new technologies so the engineers can design ways for people to accept them?’ It’s one thing to say we can produce automated vehicles, it’s another to trust them to pick up the kids at school and bring them home. We’re innovating faster than the public can absorb, in transportation and in public engagement, begging the question ‘How do we use technology to facilitate these discussions?’”

Tina joined IAP2 USA when she took the Foundations course in 2012, and the Certification Task Force after having attended the 2013 North American Conference in Salt Lake City. “The conference was wonderfully exciting and invigorating, and I wanted to get more involved!” She joined the Certification Task Force just as it was getting underway.

“I felt like I couldn’t be an effective P2 evaluator without fully understanding both sides of P2. The practitioner side – the people conducting meetings and deciding which tools and techniques will be most effective to reach a particular stakeholder group – and the evaluation side, knowing how well an effort worked and being able to effectively evaluate outcomes. The Certification Program we’ve created focuses on the core competencies that every P2 professional should know.”

Where Do I Start?
“The best advice I have is go to the conference and find ways to get involved. I didn’t know any of the people on the Task Force going in and have developed lasting professional relationships along the way. The conference is rewarding, exciting, and fun, but more than that get involved in a committee or a task force to connect more deeply with people and learn from one another.”

IAP2 Talks: 2013 IAP2 USA President Larry Schooler, City of Austin

April 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Larry Schooler: The third video from the September 2013 North American IAP2 conference features an IAP2 Talks presentation provided by the 2013 IAP2 USA President Larry Schooler. Larry proposes intriguing ideas about how to recruit and train volunteers to facilitate public conversations within existing groups. He showcases a number of existing programs that have incorporated the ideas he promotes including Portsmouth Listens, Countywide Community Forums, Project Civil Discourse, and Conversation Corps and closes with suggestions for how to rely more on citizens to greatly expand our reach.

IAP2 Meetup In Austin, TX: November 5

November 2, 2010 5 comments

Update 11/05: We’ll be meeting for snacks and drinks at Guero’s (see comment below for details).

Following the NCDD 2010 Austin Conference this Friday, November 5 (see list of attendees), a few local IAP2 members will be getting together for snacks and drinks to discuss the future of IAP2 USA.

St. Edwards University
Ragsdale Center
Mabee Ballroom (3rd floor)
3001 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

The conference is scheduled to adjourn at around 5pm. We will gather at the registration table and then head someplace on South Congress (like Guero’s) or maybe 219 West downtown.

To RSVP, just leave a comment below or email Larry Schooler (larry.schooler AT Or just show up and meet us there.

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