A new blog reflects a shift in my consulting business: Engage Citizens

I’ve been a bit of a laggard here on LoGro lately. For years, I’ve had something new on the blog everyday but in the last month, I’ve only had a few new posts/week and have not been very active in the comment threads.

What’s up?

Engage Citizens - Vertical - 185wI’ve created a new blog called Engage Citizens as I’m shifting more of my Wigley and Associates consulting work to helping local units of government (state, cities, counties, townships, school districts) use online tools and services to—you guessed it—engage citizens.

I’ve been doing online citizen engagement as a citizen since the early 90’s in my work with Northfield.org and continuing here on Locally Grown Northfield since 2006.

Grandview-Development-Framework-finalGriff Wigley, Scott NealBut it was my consulting contract with City Manager Scott Neal and the City of Edina back in April of 2011 when we created the Edina Citizen Engagement project that helped me see how other local units of government could benefit from something similar.

The Grandview District Development Framework project in particular was enlightening because of how the online tools complemented the face-to-face work of the steering committee, consultants, and city staff over the course of 9 months.

Griff Wigley at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Tim Madigan at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Last summer, I presented and facilitated a session for the League of MN Cities annual conference about my work with the City of Edina titled Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

One of the people in the audience that day was Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan who, a few months later as most of you LoGro readers are aware, hired me to manage the online engagement for a Developing a parking management plan for downtown.

Chris Richardson, Griff Wigley, Matt HillmanShortly thereafter, when I heard that the Northfield Public Schools District had a calendar project in the works, I approached Superintendent Chris Richardson and HR/Technology Director Matt Hillman about adding an online citizen engagement component. I just finished up the Transformational Technology project for them and last week started another online engagement project with them titled A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community.

I’ll continue to post client updates on my Wigley and Associates blog but most of my consulting-related blogging energy will be devoted to the Engage Citizens blog. I’ve also changed my Griff Wigley Twitter username to @EngageCitizens. I’ll tweet all my new Engage Citizens blog posts but you can also subscribe to Engage Citizens via email or RSS.

Now that I’ve got all this in place, I’ll get back to posting more regularly here on LoGro. I’m scheming on a new doodad for y’all.

6 comments to  (Including One Discussion Thread)A new blog reflects a shift in my consulting business: Engage Citizens

  • 1
    kiffi summa says:

    Always glad to see new projects develop, Griff… But… Lo Gro has been really ‘dead’ in recent weeks , and if all the values you originally ascribed to this particular form of citizen engagement were valid then, they still are;I would hope to see this site continue to be a lively discussion environment.

    I think it’s important because few people have the time or energy to engage at the local gov’t level, i.e. at the open mic at council meetings, on the League of Women Voters reports, in non-anonymous newspaper comments … or indeed, anywhere other than over the tables at your favorite coffee shop.

    I was surprised at the low level of participation on the parking study; maybe there was more at the group meetings which I did not attend. And I know nothing of the numbers you have been able to achieve with the school district projects.

    I have long hoped for an alternative news source here, hoping that Patch would develop into that; it appears that will not materialize.

    I think something to consider is why people have participated here?
    I would welcome some comments as to why others have done so…

    Is it an urge to straighten out the facts? or
    An urge to have conversation about a subject, that is just that, i.e. conversation?
    Is there a ‘gossip’ element?
    An ‘open mic’ venue in print?
    What?

  • 2
    Griff Wigley says:

    Kiffi, I’ve always viewed the online conversations here and in other online civic-oriented venues as citizenship 101 with a social twist. They should be fun and interesting in the same way that F2F conversations about issues at a pub or coffeehouse should be. But they’re generally low on the influence scale. Sometimes there are direct real-world consequences beyond the personal but not usually.

    The online citizen engagement projects I’m involved with are one step up on the influence scale because they’re initiated by local governments who have the power to make some decisions on the involved issues. I think they’re on a par with open mic comments and have the potential to be more influential. That’s in part why I’m investing my time and energy in them.

    As for a local alternative news source of the kind of in-depth substance you’re hoping for, it’s a tall order because there’s not a clear path to financial sustainability.

  • 3
    john george says:

    Griff- Looking forward to your new “doodad.” Hopefully, I will not have to download three new programs to get it to work! Technology itself does not excite me.

    Kiffi- I have appreciated Locally Grown as an opportunity to converse with a whole section of the citizenry with which I have no other contact. I feel I need to hear other peoples’ perspectives on issues to hone my own understanding. The nice thing about learning is that we never get to a place where we know everything. I am limited in my interpretation of issues by my own personal convictions, and being able to hold them up to the light of another’s convictions helps me see more clearly. LGN has been a great asset to assist me in that endeavor.

  • 4
    bonnie pangburn says:

    Well… I had started to respond and just saw John George’s reply. I certainly can’t say it any better than that. For me, the added advantage is being able to learn from and communicate with others at any time, as time allows. I have noticed and missed the usual pace/volume of activity on Locally Grown. I’m eager to see your new approach Griff and wish you well in your new endeavors. Thanks for all you do to promote and encourage the ‘public voice’.

  • 5
    Kathie Galotti says:

    I’m sad too, kind of mourning the loss of LoGroNo. I do get it….Griff needs to make a living, and the citizen engagement is what he loves to do and is good at. The problem is, I don’t feel the same freedom on the district-owned site to comment freely. I’m suspicious of the district administration’s intentions (do they really want to engage stakeholders and have an open process, or is this all a giant p.r. move wherein district administrators shove through what the staff wants and point to the website as “proof” they really listened?).

    I have loved LoGroNo as an independent forum where folks can say what they want and there’s no overriding agenda of the host.

    But, at the same time, I get why the model is not economically sustainable.

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