A new application by Local Projects helps citizens to give their communities specific feedback.
Supposedly citizens have a say when it comes to what happens in their communities. But public engagement in the form we have it now isn't fun or effective: It often entails attending a long, contentious meeting that's framed around the concept of conflict. People don't feel their voices are heard on issues in their own neighborhood, and they don't believe that a letter or email will be read by the right people. Give a Minute is a new application designed by Local Projects that's like a 311 (or basic civic services hotline) and a virtual billboard for citizen ideas: It allows people to register direct feedback to their local government, and places them in a public forum.
Orchestrated by CEOs for Cities, as part of its U.S. Initative, the pilot program launched this week in Chicago, where billboards and bus shelter ads ask a question and direct citizens to either text their answers to a number or input it online. When people submit their ideas, it gets registered on a Post-it graphic that appears on the website. Here's the thing though: The best ideas get a text or email back. There are certain city leaders—three in the case of Chicago—who are charged with sending personal responses to their favorite ideas, which makes people feel like their ideas are valued. Plus the city wins, too, because they'll be able to identify an established network of engaged people who they can reach out to when they want support from the community—like a ground team. Give a Minute is also launching soon in New York, Memphis, and San Jose.
Right now the question for Chicago asks residents what would get them to walk, ride their bike or take transit more. This question was chosen so the answers could be collected for an upcoming event in Chicago, where participants will be talking about connectivity and mobility. Future questions could be posed by community leaders, even local celebrities, to bring attention to various causes. It's a simple app, but you can easily see how this could be scaled, to reach through many parts of government. Imagine having essentially a direct line to the mayor's office, or find out what's going on with a transit line in your neighborhood. Unlike simply firing off a missive on Twitter, it gives both parties—government and citizens—a sense of accountability.