Witnessing Deliberative Democracy Up Close

We are glad to share the reflections of Billi Jo Maynard, who worked at Public Agenda this past summer. Public Agenda is a national, non-partisan group which seeks to forge common ground and improve dialogue and collaboration among leaders and communities. They focus on critical issues, including education, health care and community engagement. The post originally appeared here.

Here is Billi Jo’s Post:

Throughout my undergraduate studies as a political science major, I have come across the subjects of community engagement and public deliberation before. However, until this meeting in Canarsie, I had never had the privilege to witness them firsthand.

Late on a Monday evening in July, roughly 30 people gathered at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church to discuss the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie. Canarsie is a culturally vibrant community that for decades has welcomed many immigrants from the Caribbean. The participants at the meeting had come together to address a range of environmental and economic challenges facing their neighborhood, especially the long-term impacts of Superstorm Sandy and attempts to prepare for future disasters. Throughout my undergraduate studies as a political science major, I have come across the subjects of community engagement and public deliberation before. However, until this meeting in Canarsie, I had never had the privilege to witness them firsthand. Continue Reading

A Better Group Experience

How can we gain more from group interactions? We’re happy to repost a reflection to help answer this question written by Victoria Fann and originally posted here.

Also, check out another one of her reposts where she discusses her Ben Franklin Circle here.

Here is Victoria’s Post:

As Ben Franklin discovered hundreds of years ago, something magical happens when a group of people get together to engage in meaningful conversation: that circle of individuals becomes something far greater than the sum of its parts. A powerful, dynamic energy emerges from the group collective and creates access to all the combined energy, tools, inspiration, the information, wisdom, insights and resources of that group of people.

In this context, people are able to share great levels of wisdom, become vulnerable with each other, establish a higher level of trust than they would in a social setting and have a deep level of intimacy with people they barely even know very quickly.

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#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.

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Changing the Conversation

On a Monday night in late September 2016, community members filled the Charlotte City Council Chambers to capacity. One by one, they expressed fear, anger and frustration about the officer-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the state of the community. The response to what was heard both in the Chambers and during days of protests would prove to be a defining moment for the city.

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Building a Better Community Through Neighborhood Leadership

Collaboration with neighborhood leaders is an instrumental component to the success of engagement initiatives for local government. The partnership, sharing of ideas and exchange of knowledge can lead to lasting benefits for the community. The City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood & Business Services (N&BS) department has spent over a decade building programs to help communities thrive through engagement, trainings, board retreats and awards.

The Neighborhood Leadership Awards only recognizes superior work in Charlotte communities, particularly those communities that receive assistance through the City’s Neighborhood Matching Grant program for projects such as community gardens, neighborhood watches or playgrounds.

However, the program is part of comprehensive approach to impact neighborhoods several other components such a semiannual board retreats for communities. Continue Reading

Engaging Local Government Staff as Citizens to Support Local Farm and Food Entrepreneurs

I have spent the past few months settling in to my new role with the NC Growing Together Project, (NCGT) which aims to bring more local food products into mainstream wholesale markets across North Carolina.

One of my roles is to engage planners, economic developers, and small business assistance providers in understanding the local food supply chain in North Carolina and identifying ways to create an enabling and supportive environment for farms and food entrepreneurs.

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It’s been a really fun experiment to flip the engagement process upside down – thinking about creative ways to engage the local government staff in cities, counties, and towns in their local food system, both as citizens and as professionals. Continue Reading