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How to Get Citizens to Dig Each Other Out After a Snow Storm

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Joseph Porcelli

On December 26, 2010 a #snowpocalypse dumped a ton of snow in the NY, NJ, CY tri-state area. In Newark NJ, as a result of the storm, something very cool happened. Mayor Booker’s (@CoryBooker) constituents began tweeting request for shoveling at him AND he responded and began digging people out. Cooler than that others started showing up to help him. That gave me an idea.

I started wondering if I could coordinate a crew of neighbors to go out and shovel neighbors in need. I also wanted to solve the bottleneck Mayor Booker created by NOT having to physically be at every location needing to be shoveled out. In 2010, I launched the first pilot of what is now called #SnowCrew in Boston. It worked, but the process was directly dependent on my having to plot shoveling requests and direct crews to locations. I was proud but not satisfied.

In 2011, I wanted to see if I could create a system that did not require the intense facilitation required to plot requests and coordinate movement of the teams. It turned out this could be accomplished using SeeClickFix.com and it worked and required much less coordination. I still needed to do some work getting the word out and provide support to those who could not plot their own needs, but it took me about 80% less time.

Forward to present day. Beginning this morning, Boston is expecting a “historic blizzard” with up to 3 feet of snow. Yesterday I activated #SnowCrew and already elderly, disabled, and sick neighbors have began adding shoveling assistance requests.

Here is how is works:

There is a page on NeighborsForNeighbors.org (a social network like GovLoop but for Bostonians I founded) called SnowCrew. As you can see below, neighbors can add shoveling assistance requests which notify nearby users on SeeClickFix when a neighbor needs help. I also tweet out new request using #snowcrew. It works and it’s awesome!

While we’ve been able to prove this works on the neighborhood level, this storm called #NEMO will provide me an opportunity to see what can happen at the city level. Wish me luck.

I hope my posts sparks your interest and expand what you think is possible using technology that is readily available to any organization and citizens.

What problems do you envision could be solved utilizing this kind of technology; technology that empowers citizens to solve problems in partnership with government?

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