How Some Cities Have Tapped Into Citizen Ideas

Genuine conversations occur when people are truly interested in what you have to say. Some cities are genuinely interested in the ideas their employees and citizens have and they put forth an effort to communicate that interest. A recent Next American Cityarticle highlighted how some city’s have tapped into ideas from employees and citizens.

Philadelphia – Sent out numerous emails to 20,000-plus city workers seeking their ideas for addressing city issues. In response, the city received over 80 viable ideas.

Milwaukee – The Mayor’s Office teamed up with local organizations Art Milwaukee and NEWaukee to create a campaign seeking citizen submissions that included a website, social media program and collaboration with a local radio DJ. Over a 10 day period, 150 submissions were received.

Lexington, Ky. – Mayor Jim Grey, put together a series of telephone, social media and in-person town halls to give everyone a chance to participate. The telephone town hall, turned into a 7,000-person conference call that resulted in 440 ideas from Lexington citizens.

Obtaining ideas is but one step in the process of engaging citizens. Evaluating ideas and determining which ones to proceed forward with is critical.

In Philadelphia, seven submitters were chosen to give 10-minute presentations to a panel of judges.

Milwaukee organized a party, inviting the public to come and hear the top 10 ideas. A panel chose the winning concept — conversion of vacant lots into urban farms and homesteads — and appointed the idea’s originator as a project manager.

Inspired by the very town halls from which ideas were culled, Lexington decided on a proposal that creates a platform for engaging citizens in city planning and problem solving.

What do you think about the methods stated above to obtain and evaluate citizen ideas? What other approaches are you aware of for obtaining citizen ideas?

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Ami Wazlawik

I like the idea of multiple channels of communication in the Milwaukee and Lexington examples, as that gives more people the opportunity to participate in the process.