I traveled to Chicago on Thursday for Block by Block, community news summit in Chicago. Hosted by Jay Rosen and the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the event was a coming together of many independent local news sites from around the country.
Along with David Cohn, spot.us, I facilitated a conversation on engagement and participation in local news. The room was packed. We discussed some of our failures and successes in encouraging participation through commenting and posting stories as well as a formula for engagement.
As I looked around the conference I realized that I was not really looking at a room full of journalists and editors. The room was really filled with community managers and facilitators. The job of the new media is no longer to create the content but to facilitate and nurture the content and the community that engages with their media property. What amazed me more is that this room full of hundreds of once journos and editors are truly self aware of their new roles.
Because SeeClickFix can not attend a news conference without publicly noting the role of media as the 4th estate and their new tools for implementing that authority I challenged the group to help make Chicago more open. SeeClickFix is looking for community groups and news orgs to embed our widget and encourage alerting to City Hall.
So on to city hall...
I decided to stay in Chicago to participate in a second community workshop conference where one of the subjects is Gov20. I always find the synergies between participating in government and participating in media interesting as SeeClickFix allows citizens to do both with one action. There are many times where I wish that the two industries would collide and work together to encourage greater participation. For now I have to go to multiple conferences.
I'm really excited to be on this panel as it includes our partners and friends from Every Block and IBM who are both encouraging open municipal data and facilitating its implementation at the national level. As well Justin Massa, Metro Chicago Info Center, and Jake Trussell, World Business Chicago, will be representing the local interests of open government and hopefully be able to facilitate the learnings locally post conference.
SeeClickFix's goal for City Hall in Chicago is two-fold.
1) Encourage 311 to publicly respond to citizen complaints that are sent to them and
2) Enable Open311 so that sites like SeeClickFix can connect directly into their business processes for managing citizen requests.
How do we do this? Prove to Chicago that citizens want to communicate in an open fashion.
Will it work in Chicago? We think so it seems to have everywhere else.
If its not obvious and you're interested in why we think participation is important, here's a great example: http://seeclickfix.blogspot.com/2010/09/from-pedestrian-safety-to-safer.html