Some news on the two Northfield-related citizen engagement projects that I’m working on:
Left: my photo of the NDDC’s Ross Currier, navigating icy sidewalks last week to distribute invitations to residents who live near downtown, inviting them to a residential stakeholders meeting this Thursday, 8 pm at the Northfield Public Library. Details here.
Right: a screenshot of the Northfield School Calendar Conversation straw poll that’s now live. Details here.
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.
I’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.
But 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.
Last 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.
Shortly 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.
Yesterday morning, I put on my Wigley and Associates consultant hat and had a meeting at the Northfield Public Schools District office with Superintendent Chris Richardson and Matt Hillmann, Director of Human Resources and Technology.
I told them to get their hair done for the meeting and that we’d also be practicing to use our index fingers for tablet use. As you can see from the photo, my coaching was more than marginally effective.
So they hired me to help add an online engagement component to the public meetings planned this month for the proposed ‘modified balanced calendar.’ And like the development of a downtown parking management plan for the City of Northfield, this project with the District won’t happen here on LoGro. As soon as we have the blog site for it set up, I will announce it here.
And like I blogged back in December about my contract with the City of Northfield, this contract will change the nature of my blogging here on LoGro about the School District, i.e., my relationships with the District’s leaders take priority over my public opinionating about them or the District. And I now have a conflict of interest when it comes to opinionating on District-related matters.
If I blog about anything related to the District or its leaders, the tone of my blog post will be along the lines of “Here’s something interesting. What do y’all think?” Essentially, my role will be more of a moderator. The opinionating (praise or criticism) will have to come from all of you.
I warned y’all in my December 10 blog post, A lunch portends changes for LoGro. It’s now happening. I’ve got a contract with the City of Northfield, wearing my Wigley and Associates consulting hat, to create and manage the online platform for a City project: Developing a parking management plan for downtown.
That’s a link to the new blogsite for the project where all the activity will occur (not here on LoGro, which is why I’ve got comments turned off for this blog post.)
I’ll be teaming up with Ross Currier, Executive Director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC).
I’m pretty excited about doing this, actually. I hope you Northfielders who follow things here on LoGro will participate there, not only to help create a downtown parking management plan but to help me and the City get better at managing public projects which need a significant amount of genuine citizen engagement.
See you over there!
I had lunch at Chapati last week with Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan, NDDC Executive Director Ross Currier, and Chris Heineman, Northfield’s Director of Planning and Community Development. We were discussing the details of my proposed contract with the City to provide online citizen engagement services for two-month project starting Real Soon Now.
I’ve long contended that if I ever was appointed to one of the City’s boards or commissions, it would change the nature of my blogging about the City. And I’ve recently written that this would also be true if I ever got a consulting contract with the City. I think both situations demand that my relationships with the City’s leaders take priority over my public opinionating about them or the City. And in the case of a contract, I’ll have a conflict of interest when it comes to opinionating on city-related matters.
If I blog about anything related to the City of Northfield or its leaders, the tone of my blog post will be along the lines of "Here’s something interesting. What do y’all think?" Essentially, my role will be more of a moderator. The opinionating (praise or criticism) will have to come from all of you.
I may stumble, as I’ve been freely opinionating about the City here on LoGro for seven years. If you catch me going over the line, speak up.
Northfield Mayor-elect Dana Graham stopped by my
corner office stand-up table at the Spur this morning. He’d finally gotten some sleep after being up all night for the election on Tuesday so he was more than marginally coherent.
Lately I’ve been
sermonizing lecturing brow-beating suggesting to him and a few other city officials that the time is ripe for using a variety of online tools to ramp up citizen engagement. The City’s new website will launch early next year but the technology by itself won’t automatically make citizen engagement happen.
So I proposed a few different ways that he could do a "Q&A with the Mayor-elect" here on LoGro and he opted for a live, one-hour text chat.
Here’s the FAQ:
WHEN IS IT? Monday, Nov. 12, 8-9 pm.
WHERE? Right here in this LoGro blog post. I’ll move it to the top of the page on Monday so it’ll be easy to find.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PARTICIPATE? If you’re reading this on an internet-connected device, you’ll need nothing beyond what you’re using now.
HOW DO I PARTICIPATE? Just type your comments or questions in the text box. I’ll select the ones that I think are best for Dana to respond to.
WHAT?! HE MIGHT NOT EVEN SEE MY QUESTION OR COMMENT? Correct. I’m the
WHAT IF I CAN’T ATTEND? You can submit a comment or question ahead of time. Attach it to this blog post just like any comment. I’ll archive a transcript of the chat here so after it’s all over, you can read what happened at your leisure.
The July August issue of the Citizens League’s monthly newsletter, MN Journal has an article by evaluator Bill Johnston titled The final analysis: What MAP 150 taught us about citizen involvement and engagement (p. 7). It includes this startling statement: "Dialogue is more important to citizen perceptions of authentic involvement than the effect on outcomes." He explains why… and I’ve excerpted some other interesting findings. (continued)
Continue reading What Northfield can learn from the Citizens League about citizen involvement