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Blogs / Alliance for Innovation Regional Director Stories from the Road / Civic Engagement Innovations Spreading in the Central

Civic Engagement Innovations Spreading in the Central

MN Innovation Lab Action Leader Panel

Over the last two months, the Alliance has traveled accross the country sharing the emerging practices in civic engagement and providing local government innovators the opportunity to adapt them to meet their challenges. We created the Innovation Lab to be a thought, solution, and experimentation workshop series that would bring together leaders at all levels of local government from across the country looking to share, collaborate, and exchange ideas around specific topics. We challenged attendees to leave the event with one ideas they plan to take back with them to adapt into their organization.  Ideas were groups into the challenges of:

  • How to best engage the public to identify community priorities?
  • How to best be socially equitable in community engagement?
  • Identifying the best tools for engagement.
  • How to be better storytellers?
  • How to best put a face on local government?
  • How to make citizens active participants in solving community problems?

We began each event with an action-leader panel made up of private-sector,non-profit, and academic experts on the topic. Special thanks to our action-leaders from University of Michigan, ELGL, Sterling HeightsSEMCOGLaTosch Consultant, Center for Priority Based Budgeting, City of Dallas, University of Texas Dallas, buildingcommunity WORKSHOPHNTB Corp, Engaged Public-Balancing ActHueLife, University of Kansas, Hamline University, Slate CommunicationsCommunity CollaborationStern Consulting, Consensus; Mid America Regional Council (M.A.R.C.), Northern Illinois University, Loyola University of Chicago, Ohio State University, City of Montgomery, and Charles F. Kettering Foundation.     


Chris Adams engages with TX local government innovators to adapt ideas

After a break, attendees were able to engage with the above speakers and their peers about what ideas would work best to meet their challenges.  Some of the more popular ideas discussed included:  

Topeka's Tweet-a-Long: "Think about the jobs your employees do every day, but no one thinks about until there is a problem – inspecting storm-water pump stations, cleaning sewer lines, patching potholes and plowing snow. Imagine showing your citizens the gritty details of those every day, thankless jobs and the tireless, dedicated employees who work them – live on Twitter. Tweet-a-longs let you share those behind-the-scenes experiences with the public in an engaging, interactive and visual way. And your employees get a chance to show off what they do."

Hamilton's 17 Strong Neighborhoods:  "The Sense of Place Committee began the 17 Strong Neighborhoods Initiative in 2013, named to represent the 17 unique neighborhoods in Hamilton, Ohio. 17 Strong recognizes 3 types of built environments in Hamilton neighborhoods: 1) Traditional Neighborhoods: Walkable, densely built pedestrian-scaled city units with public spaces, institutions and commercial spaces weaved within the fabric of the neighborhood.  These neighborhoods are also built on a grid pattern and are mostly composed of structures built prior to 1950. 2) Urban Core Neighborhoods: Encompass characteristics of a Traditional Neighborhood, but differ in the fact that these neighborhoods define Hamilton’s historic and cultural identity, and are Hamilton’s City Center. 3) Suburban Neighborhoods: Single-use zoned, residential subdivisions that may be without public spaces, institutions, and commercial spaces within the area. These neighborhoods also tend to include land devoted to industrial parks, business parks and “big box” retail stores.

Austin's Neighborhood Partnering Program: "Through the Neighborhood Partnering Program, community groups have the opportunity to work with professional City staff to develop, resource, and improvement projects on City property or right-of-way. The results of this process have been amazing: vacant lots transformed into community gardens, ugly retaining walls and cinderblock pool houses into stunning mosaics, and auto-oriented streets retrofitted with sidewalks, protected bicycle lanes, rain gardens, and street art."

This summer, all attendees will have the opportunity to be connected to the governments that have implemented these ideas where they can ask the experts on the ideas how to develop the concept in their communities.  Stay tuned!

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