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Online Public Engagement – New Grant Program

Online public engagement is huge these days.

All of the federal /open pages are launched with online public engagement tools soliciting feedback on how to do participation, transparency, and engagement.

There’s been some pretty cool blogs on GovLoop about “making crowdsourcing successful”

As this space unfolds, it’s been cool to see companies like Ideascale collaborate with GSA, Publivate launch in Canada, and now one of my favs UserVoice just launched a new grant program.

See the press release below.


Common Sense California Partners with UserVoice to Launch First-of-Its-Kind “Online Public Engagement Grant Program,” Offering Cities, Counties, School Districts, Non-Profits, and Local News Organizations a Powerful Online Platform on which to Involve Their Residents.

Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif. – February 8, 2010 – Common Sense California (CSC) and UserVoice today announced the launching of the first-of-its-kind “Online Public Engagement Grant Program”, offering free implementation and training of the UserVoice online platform for public participation efforts around the state. This online grant program follows on CSC’s “Citizen Engagement Grant Program” offered in 2008 and 2009, which provided over $200,000.00 to governments, school districts and non-profits to engage their local residents directly on policy decisions ranging from public safety to land use planning.

For the 2010 program, CSC is partnering with UserVoice, developers of the preeminent online idea-gathering and prioritization platform. It has been employed by cities from Santa Cruz to Philadelphia on a variety of issues from budgets to infrastructure planning. UserVoice provided the online infrastructure for the City of Santa Cruz’s 2009 participatory budgeting campaign [http://budget.santacruzcityca.gov/], which earned it a “Gov 2.0” award. Through the Online Public Engagement Grant Program, at least five (5) grantees will be awarded free use of the UserVoice platform plus implementation training – an up to $10,000.00 value. Applications will be received on a “rolling basis” with “Phase I” of the grant period concluding on March 8, 2010. New grant phases may be opened as availability permits.

“Our last two Citizen Engagement Grant Programs were extremely positive experiences, supporting dozens of California cities, counties, and school districts in their efforts to legitimately engage their publics on crucial local policy decisions,” said Pete Peterson, executive director of CSC. “Seeing the improvement in online public engagement tools, we wanted to expand this year’s grant program to offer these same institutions the opportunity to effectively engage their residents online with the award-winning UserVoice platform.” Peterson believes that, while last year’s program was popular, this year’s will be more important: “Everyone has a sense as to the scope of the policy challenges confronting California – from budgets to land use to public safety. What many are still learning is that in our counties, cities, and school districts the situation is more desperate. In this environment leaders are reaching out to their residents to help them work through extremely difficult decisions. We have seen the UserVoice platform both involve and inform local publics on a variety of policy issues – not just budget. We are excited about offering this opportunity to provide this platform along with training free of charge to our grantees.”

For their part, UserVoice is also excited at the prospect of collaborating with CSC on this unique grant program, and see the opportunity as a natural progression for their online platform. Richard White, UserVoice’s CEO, said, “We have been about engagement since the day we first designed this product, and we’re happy to have a partner like Common Sense California to help put the product in the hands of public sector leaders who can really use it to engage their residents in making important local decisions.”

How to Apply

All Common Sense Grant applications will be taken through the Common Sense California website: http://www.commonsenseca.org/about/apply.php

Further information about grant criteria and the selection process are noted on the website.

About Common Sense California

Common Sense California (http://www.commonsenseca.org ) is a mulit-partisan and non-profit organization that promotes citizen engagement throughout the state as a means of producing better policy decisions, and offering Californians meaningful opportunities to participate in their governance. To this end we both support civic participation financially through our Common Sense Grant Program, but also work consultatively, sitting down with civic leaders to talk about ways in which they can more effectively engage their citizens.

CSC also conducts its “Leadership through Civic Engagement” training seminar around the state for municipal and civic officials.

About UserVoice:

UserVoice (http://uservoice.com/ ) is the leading SaaS solution for online constituent feedback and idea management. Since launching a year ago, UserVoice has helped over 32,000 organizations turn feedback into actionable ideas and happier, more engaged users. This simple solution lets you engage your citizens and garner support when you have difficult decisions. The implementation is quick and easy; embed the application, or point constituents to your UserVoice forum and let them vote up the top issues. UserVoice reduces the time and labor cost of collecting feedback while simultaneously increasing awareness and citizen engagement within your community.

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