Break the Cycle: A Community Working Together to End Violence

In a fast-growing city like Charlotte (N.C.), many factors can contribute to rising crime rates. There is, however, a common driver that has been identified… individuals who know each other settling disputes with gunfire. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) has numerous crime reduction strategies in place including their launch of a Crisis Intervention Team and Community Policing Crisis Response Team but they also value partnerships across the community that join them in efforts to help keep the city safe. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations is a very strong partner in this work and offers comprehensive conflict resolution training to the community. Putting an emphasis on teaching people how to resolve conflict without violence could have a significant impact on issues Charlotte is experiencing. It is critical that conflict resolution be offered to both youth and adults which is why Community Relations has also partnered with schools to offer peer mediation programs. Continue Reading

Selling Civic Engagement: A unique role for the private sector?

I am glad to summarize and link to a story by Dr. Rebecca Winthrop. She is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

We see civic engagement as something up to citizens, civic groups, schools, advocacy organizations and others in the public sector. What about the private sector?

Winthrop asks,While civil society and government have been the actors most commonly addressing  the decline in faith and participation in our democracy, is there also a constructive role for the private sector to play?”

She notes that many companies connect to civic engagement through directing corporate social responsibility dollars to civically-minded activities and by supporting employee volunteerism.

Her main ideas for private sector support of civic engagement are: Continue Reading

Have you ever wondered why young people just don’t vote? Maybe it’s not them, it’s you.

I’m glad to introduce Jake Gellar-Goad, who is a Program Specialist and a founding member of the Wake Forest University nonpartisan voter engagement committee Deacs Decide.

I was participating in a voting rights conference a number of years back where I heard from the Mayor of Takoma Park, Maryland about how their city experimented with letting young people under 18 cast votes in local elections. And guess what? It worked!

Now sure, some of it may have been the novelty of letting young people vote, but from what I heard, the young voters were participating at higher rates of voting than most other age groups of voters. And when you think about our current system—how we wait until people turn 18 and often leave the communities they’re connected with to start college or work—the Takoma Park experiment kind of makes sense. People vote when they feel connected to the communities they are voting in. And that tells me there are two important solutions to getting young people to vote.

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Open Mic, Public Art, and Community Engagement

I am Josh Rosenstein and I am a second year UNC-Chapel Hill MPA student getting ready to graduate from the School of Government. I usually blog over at MPA Matters, but it is a real pleasure to get to write a guest post over here about I topic I love and care about: community engagement.

I get to tell you about puppets, Frederick Douglass and community fun and learning.

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Collaboration: What Makes it Work

One of the better and more practical resources on community collaboration that I have utilized over the years is a little monograph published by the Wilder Foundation titled Collaboration: What Makes it Work (authors Paul W. Mattessich and Kirsten M. Johnson). I’ve long appreciated the practical advice, drawn from the research literature and from observed practice, and how well the authors conveyed that information concisely, in a 75 page handbook. So I was very pleased to see a new, third edition of the handbook was published last year, and I am happy to report that the new edition is even better. Here I highlight some of its key contributions, while offering my strong endorsement and recommendation for anyone doing boundary-crossing work to get your own copy of this resource.

Like the previous edition, the new third edition is focused on collaboration as “a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organization to achieve common goals.” The book is organized around 22 collaboration success factors, grouped within six categories of Continue Reading

From Sugar Between Neighbors to Community Building

Starting the Story - Borrowing Sugar from a Neighbor

We don’t go next door to borrow a cup of sugar very often. Does this lead to community isolation?

Here’s a great illustrated story from YES magazine.

The story starts here….. Continue Reading

Why Support Quality Housing?

High medical costs, short-staffed businesses, low-performing schools, crime and vacant houses, homelessness, frustrations and injustices. An adequate supply of good places to live is not a magic wand but it would go a long way to improving health and stability. The persistent shortage of safe affordable housing consigns people to living in places that pose health risks and to moving frequently in desperate search for better options, resulting in deteriorating houses and transient neighborhoods. Living conditions spiral downward into a deep pit that is almost impossible to get out of. But imagine the difference when people don’t have to worry about leaking roofs and high rents and can focus on their health and families and jobs, on school work and active participation in their communities.  Continue Reading

Seeking the Seeds of Civic Tech in Medium-sized and Smaller Towns in NC

In December, I started exploring if the community-local government partnerships known as civic tech can grow from a few of North Carolina’s larger cities to other parts of the state.  There are about 70 groups nationwide where volunteers use government open data to address community needs through creating free apps or other IT products.

The smallest town with a civic tech “brigade” is Muskogee, Oklahoma, home to about 38,000 people.  Can small towns in North Carolina do the same thing?

I am assessing what level of interest and capability medium- to smaller-sized towns may have for civic tech.

I am glad to report the perspectives from government official in three communities. They show the variations of government readiness, IT and civic resources, and internal and community innovation. Continue Reading

Public Budgets: Understanding Priorities and Money in Local Government

Money may not buy happiness, but it can reveal priorities. Nowhere is that more evident than in government work. People pay taxes and fees and they expect them to cover public services. A few months ago, a large pizza chain turned heads by offering to fill potholes, a task normally reserved for public dollars. The chain reached out to city managers and offered to complete the task as long as they could add their logo to the repair (temporary chalk) and take pictures for a social media campaign. Many people didn’t like the idea, saying the campaign showed a continued degradation of American infrastructure, while others cheered it, saying they were happy to welcome a private company for public work.

Regardless of which side we may take in the pizza-pothole debate, infrastructure and local services are important to our quality of life. Right now, in cities and towns throughout many states, managers are putting together their budget priorities for the coming year. Here’s a primer on how that works and how you can be heard in your community.

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