Sunday, October 11, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments

Finding Allies on the platform - PDF, Open Cities, Gov20, Walk 21 and VeloCITY

The past few months I have traveled to five conferences that are all helping to blend citizen and government responsibility.

The First conference was PDF in NYC put on by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifrey. Earlier in the month it was Grand Rapids for VeloCity put on by Carol Coletta and DC for Gov20 put on by O'Reilly and Co. This week was split between NYC and DC for the Open Cities Conference, put on by Next American City, and Walk21, put on by NYCDOT.

The conferences were a mix of a meta conversations on how citizens might be using new media to improve cities (GOV20 and Open Cities) and grassroots conversations filled with groups that are using these new tools (veloCITY and Walk21) to improve cities. As keepers of a global tool for very local communities all events were valuable places for SeeClickFix to participate.

All conferences were evenly filled with Government Officials (many from the Obama Camp as well as local gov.), Media, Community Groups, non-profits and Private Businesses all looking to improve the public space and the way we interact with government.

What I've taken from all of these events is that like any good unification there are allies on both sides of the line looking to engage. And, as Bill Schrier City of Seatle - CIO, said at Open Cities "You have to find your allies."

The way that the Obama camp finds its allies is by attending events like this and making sure to end their speeches with statements like "you need to tell us how to improve" or simply, "please help us!" leaving the crowd with an understanding that communication and assistance goes both ways and the doors are open.

For groups like SeeClickFix its easy to find allies at conferences like this but finding them is only a first step. Finding out why they are our allies is what proves most valuable and the reason why we are there.

Here's a good example: When we first started pitching government on SCF we talked accountability and transparency. From events like these we've learned that accountability and transparency are stronger points for Citizens.
For our allies in government cost savings and aligning with engaged citizens are better speaking points.

Answering Questions like these will go much further towards accountability and transparency than speaking just to those points:

-How can you get a citizen to be involved in the process and possibly reduce overhead?

-How do you get a citizen to be more involved in their government so they better understand the burden?

-How do you get broader groups of citizens more communicative so that governments can make more educated decisions?

-How do we engage citizens from all walks of life when there is currently a dramatic participation gap in the US (much more real than the digital divide in personal opinion).

We think that SeeClickFix answers all of these questions and can allow communities to identify their allies at the local level where change is most needed and most likely to occur. 100's of new public officials are receiving updates this week from SeeClickFix issues in their community as a result of the new website and the ease of creating watch areas from existing town boundaries. If history repeats many of the civic allies in those communities will start to show themselves on SeeClickFix will start working to improve their communities together.
With SeeClickFix we are even seeing some government allies use the tool as private citizens to escape the restraints of bureaucracy and force change from the outside.

Can you use tools like SeeClickFix to find allies in your community? We think so.

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