Unprecedented collaboration of government, local groups & digital tech leaders promises to reshape community engagement and city service delivery
Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and OpenPlans (a New York-basedtechnology non-profit and the creator of Streetsblog.org) today announced the launch of Speak Up New York: the first web-based platform in New York City, sanctioned and supported by a government office, that will use online technology to transform the relationship between municipal government, community groups, and citizens.
Speak Up New York held its first organizing meeting on June 11, 2010 at the OpenPlans offices in lower Manhattan. Participants included: Beth Noveck, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government; Steven Clift, founder of E-Democracy.org; Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup.com; Joseph Porcelli of neighborsforneighbors.com; representatives from numerous community boards and block & neighborhood associations; and many others representing the fields of web technology, news, media, and community organizing.
At the close of the daylong meeting, participants agreed upon the community-based activities and advocacy to be supported by the new web platform, and the collaborative work plan that will create Speak Up New York.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is working with OpenPlans to develop and launch a 1.0 version of the Speak Up New York web platform before the end of 2010. The goal is to create a website that provides:
- Online tools to help community groups self-organize. Speak Up New York will integrate the best online communication and participation tools (blogs, discussion forums, issue reporting tools) to offer a solid starting point for citizens looking to get engaged online.
- Educational materials on community building and navigating government. The new web platform will make local government more accessible and promote civic awareness through online workshops and trainings on topics such as: “What community groups are around me?”; or “How to start a tenant association”; or “Understanding the land use process.”
- A Platform for communities to connect with and learn from each other. Speak Up will leverage the expertise and commitment of community boards and civic associations while also opening up local government to new voices by aggregating the most relevant news, commentary, events, groups, and other civic information related to neighborhoods (e.g., community board votes, neighborhood blog posts, topical discussion groups).
In parallel, OpenPlans and Borough President Stringer are building on the successful Friday event by hosting an ongoing series of ”meetups” with community activists, technology leaders, community board members, and experts in online communities toinform the development of the Speak Up New York platform and begin building related web technologies for NYC communities. This activity will be taking place online at http://mbpo.org/SpeakUpNY.
United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, Beth Noveck, attended the June 11 meeting and discussed the future of the open government movement.
“The community boards are a unique strength of New York City democracy, but we need to provide the tools to enable the boards to remain vital in the 21st century. We have to move beyond the model that says you have to spend three hours on a Tuesday night sitting in a conference room if you want to participate in local government,” said Borough President Stringer. “The next generation of city leaders and activists simply won’t be bound by that.”
“Everyone in city government who cares about strengthening community-based democracy must catch up with the transformative changes we’re seeing all around us,” continued Mr. Stringer. “This project is about coming to grips with the way people are living, talking, and organizing in New York City today. I could not be more appreciative of the extraordinarily talented cast of characters who are devoting their time, energy and inspiration to the effort.”
“OpenPlans is thrilled to work with Borough President Stringer to build the best platform for community engagement and online activism. OpenPlans commitment to transparency and responsiveness in government and our deep technical expertise makes us an ideal partner for this important work, said Dan Kohn, Executive Director of OpenPlans. OpenPlans, a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit, informs and engages communities through journalism and open source software. Their projects include Streetsblog, GothamSchools, and OpenGeo.
Speakers at the June 11th event included:
- Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
- Beth Noveck, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative
- Nick Grossman, Open Plans
- Steven Clift, http://e-democracy.org (via video)
- Kyla Fullenwider, Good Magazine
- Justin Krebs, Living Liberally and the West 45th Street Block Association
- Joseph Porcelli, http://neighborsforneighbors.org
- Shin-pei Tsay, Transportation Alternatives
- Matthew Washington, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 1