Investing in Our Neighborhood Schools

The elementary school to which my infant son is districted—Glenn Elementary—was one of six NC schools (and two Durham County schools) on the short list for possible takeover by the NC Innovative School District. Lakewood Elementary was the other.

Continue Reading

Prison, Dog Training and Three Communities: Walls are not Solid Community Separators

In early October, I helped to celebrate the progress of service dogs being trained by inmates at the Franklin Correctional Center (FCC) near Bunn, NC.  The 18 men are trainers in At Both Ends of the Leash (ABEL), part of the work of Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws (EENP), a Carrboro, NC nonprofit that matches service dogs with people with special needs or disabilities.

EENP pups-in-training live at FCC for about 18 months, from the time they are five-months old until they are ready to be partnered with a client.  Two EENP clients were part of the October event, but will actually receive their dogs on Nov. 4th as part of formal “graduation” held at the Carrboro Century Center.

I had many powerful reactions to the demonstration of skill, and talking with the ABEL trainers.

Continue Reading

Enhancing Community Engagement through Positive Deviance

Anyone who serves on a citizens board, volunteers at a house of worship, or does anything to help other people has experienced frustration. They have a problem that needs to be solved, but they just can’t seem to find a solution. People can quickly become frustrated if their partnership isn’t productive. If you’ve been stuck in a late-night meeting spinning your wheels, you know what it’s like.

A concept that began in healthcare circles decades ago may be helpful for tackling problems in other settings. The term is positive deviance, and it’s relatively simple – where some have failed at a project or task, others will find a way to succeed, even with similar circumstances and resources. These people or groups may be referred to as positive deviants. The challenge is in finding such behaviors and reproducing them for other applications.

Continue Reading

Internships: A job? A civic experience? Maybe some of both.

This semester I have relocated to Washington DC in order to lead the first semester of our new Wake Washington program. My 16 students are all placed in internships across the city in national and city government, think tanks, non-profits, and consulting firms. They are also taking a course on policymaking and another one on constitutional law. Five weeks into the semester, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the value of internships both for students and for the organizations that sponsor them, with particular attention to the kind of civic learning students gain from the experience.

Often, the emphasis on internships and in internship programs is more focused on  Continue Reading

How Can Local Government Earn Trust in the Era of Fake News?

Rebuilding trust in American democracy was a central theme among public communicators who gathered at the City-County Communicators and Marketing Association (3CMA) www.3cma.org conference Sept. 6-8 in Anaheim, Calif.

#3CMAAnnual: “How can local government earn trust in the era of fake news?”

Explaining the “why” as part of a sustained story is a better strategy than regular blurt-outs to engage with the public, said Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole in the opening conference session. Invest in the time to develop key messages. Think about the way people feel about their government. He urged local government communicators to Continue Reading

Community Engagement Transforms Housing

Tenants have courageously started to reverse the downward spiral of the Avalon Trace Apartments, with the support of Greensboro organizations. In December, they told their stories cautiously, anonymously, to university students in the compelling video (view video here). “If you could hear our voices, would we matter?”, describing the deteriorating physical conditions and negligent landlord response. But well-founded fear of retaliation and of being displaced from their homes had silenced most complaints.

Continue Reading

#TakeTheReign: City of Charlotte building citizen connections via social media

Earlier this year, the City of Charlotte’s Communications & Marketing (CC&M) department developed a creative social media campaign to engage the city’s digital following and better understand the topics that are important to Charlotte residents.

As the spotlight on community engagement continues to increase, there is often a simple factor that can be easily overlooked…asking the community what they want to know and how they want to be engaged.

The Campaign

Charlotte is proudly known as the Queen City so it was fitting that the campaign be called The Queen’s 2017 with #TakeTheReign serving as the call-to-action. The CC&M team recognized that 2017 was an important year for the Queen City and that the community needed to have a hand in telling her story.

With an active presence of over 140,000 Twitter followers and nearly 9,800 followers on Facebook, the city knew it had an audience that could be tapped into in a different way. While the main goal was to encourage these followers to stay connected to local government and their communities, the feedback received would also help shape how the city’s story is shared.

Continue Reading

A Snapshot of Police-Community Relations: Denver

Six board members, two staff members, and a dozen empty chairs were all that greeted public safety director Stephanie O’Malley when she walked into a sleek but soulless conference room in downtown Denver. For a safety department under fire for violent conditions at its main jail and allegedly flouting public records laws, and a civilian oversight agency relatively fresh from being enshrined in the city charter, this was an underwhelming sight.

Yet even in a city regarded as a national leader in holding the police and sheriff’s departments accountable, both the pace of reform and the depth of community engagement are far from consistent.

Continue Reading

Engaging New Residents: the Belong In Burlington Initiative, Burlington NC

Glad to introduce Rachel Kelly, Public Information Officer for the City of Burlington

It can take years for a new resident to feel like they are part of a community. The City of Burlington wanted to welcome new residents and make sure that they could immediately feel connected to their new community. To help new residents connect with their new community and ultimately become informed and engaged citizens, the City created Belong In Burlington, a new resident program that launched in January 2017.

I am glad to describe our initiative and hope to inspire other city governments and civic partners for outreach to their new residents. We have wonderful photos and videos of our gatherings.

Continue Reading