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Civic Engagement Tool Give a Minute Heads to New York City

A giant virtual suggestion box for New York residents will launch in May, asking citizens for ideas on how they'd green their city.



New Yorkers, get ready to have your say about the role sustainability plays in your city. Give a Minute, the civic engagement platform, is headed to your town, and is looking for the best ideas to green your neighborhood. I first wrote about Give a Minute's launch in Chicago back in November, where an incredible 2,000 ideas flooded in for improving Chicago's transit culture.

Give a Minute works like a virtual suggestion box: It poses a question to urban residents through viral and traditional marketing, and encourages them to respond via text, Twitter, or a website post. The ideas are then aggregated on Post-It note style graphics on a giant digital whiteboard.


The platform was designed by Local Projects in partnership with CEOs for Cities and the Rockefeller Foundation, and in New York, it has a big-time sponsor: Give a Minute's question asking New Yorkers how they'd green their neighborhoods will be included with the rollout of PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Bloomberg's massive sustainability program, in May.

The coolest thing about Give a Minute is that it gives big-time politicos and heads of government agencies a chance to actually respond to the suggestions from city residents. So Mayor Mike can actually "endorse" an idea that he likes and offer feedback that goes directly back to the person who suggested it. We think he'll actually comment, too, since Bloomberg is totally behind the idea, offering this quote: "This kind of open call for ideas—or 'crowdsourcing,' as it's called—has helped cutting-edge companies like Facebook and Netflix improve services and save money. And with more than 8.4 million people in our crowd, imagine what we can come up with."

Since the first launch in Chicago, Local Projects' Jake Barton and his team have been streamlining and improving the application, and the platform now allows people to create "action groups" around specific things that need to happen to make ideas reality. If you input a specific idea like rain barrels, you're immediately invited to join the appropriate action group in your neighborhood. "The city has resources to actualize some solutions, from planting trees, to mitigating storm water, to creating pocket parks," says Barton. "But it's wider then just the city, as neighborhood groups can use this to organize around an idea, raise funds through Kickstarter, meet face to face through Meetup, or create an advocacy group by getting more people on board."



Give a Minute's new incarnation is exactly the kind of translation from awareness to action that we've been hoping a web-based tool like this can provide. Barton says the way it will be set up for New York, it should be able to accommodate all kinds of ideas. "Big ideas can get enough attention to really create change, grants, and be implemented, and that small groups can gather their neighbors together to address very local issues," he says. "The project is really looking for change at all scales, and ideally it brings together the city and its collective resources for positive change."
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