Last year, we published this post about MindMixer, an online tool designed to bring citizens and officials together to brainstorm on ways to improve their cities. MindMixer has partnered with over 100 government organizations across the U.S.to provide a flexible, convenient interface for local collaboration.
Now the online community engagement service has joined forces with the City of San Francisco and its new Office of Innovation to create ImproveSF, a site devoted to providing ideas for and feedback on municipal projects. San Franciscans can submit ideas to challenges, vote on proposed projects or challenges, and review others' submissions. Office of Innovation staff oversee the proposed challenges and help to judge the submitted entries. Participants are awarded points for submitting ideas, which they can redeem for prizes in the site's Rewards Store.
One of the challenges currently open for voting is "What are the best ways for SFMTA to improve your transit travel time?" which includes a list of six possible solutions for citizens to review and comment on. While I would like to see the option to submit an original idea to this challenge outside of the six provided, this sort of online voting system is a great start to encouraging dialogue between San Francisco residents and those in charge of planning and decision-making.
Providing an interface that allows for public comment and collaboration 24 hours a day, 7 days a week goes a long way towards opening up discussions that used to be limited solely to public meetings. For those who can't make meetings because of scheduling conflicts or mobility constraints, MindMixer's ImproveSF is especially empowering.
More and more cities are getting on board with online community engagement as a way to reach out to citizens for broader, more diverse public feedback. We'll keep you posted on the latest trends from MindMixer and other innovative public outreach tools in the coming weeks, some of which have been submitted for this year's Living Labs Global Awards. Stay tuned!
~ Allison Bullock