By Luke Fretwell
January 3rd, 2011
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There's no question Newark Mayor Cory Booker deserves the accolades he's received for responding to constituent needs during the recent blizzard that hit the East Coast. It's inspiring to see a politician step out from behind the desk and photo opps to do something tangible and meaningful where people can witness it firsthand. Who doesn't love a diaper-delivering mayor?
What surprises me most about this story is that our elected officials should have a more proactive plan in place when it comes to something as obvious as snow. Every government should have an established, modern era snow plan that includes both government officials and citizens.
Here's what we know about snow and people:
- It will snow (if you get snow where you live).
- People will complain when it does.
- People are good and want to help.
Here's some quick thoughts for public officials on what to do when snow might fall where you live.
Create a centralized reporting platform
Booker's use of Twitter is a great example of how it can be used to respond to citizen requests quickly and informally, but it's by no means a great citizen service platform. Whether it's SeeClickFixor Ushahidi, government needs to establish a centralized, two-way service platform in order to be efficient and effective during a crisis. When the next snow storm hits, people will know a) where to report an issue b) help resolve one or c) have real-time insight into how assistance is progressing.
- Shows citizens they're not the only ones in need.
- Lets citizens help prioritize.
- Opportunity to highlight other government Web services and how citizens can leverage.
- Gives media a powerful visual (they love that).
Encourage citizens to help
There's something incredible about the human spirit when adversity strikes. Whether it's patriotic pride or a civic adrenaline rush, people will help if you ask. Leaders should acknowledge they need help, especially in uncommon scenarios like a blizzard, earthquake or any other crisis situation. Having a platform to reference will allow you to manage this civic surplus effectively.
Praise quickly and openly
When government service staff or citizens respond they've resolved a request, thank them quickly via Twitter, Facebook or other public mechanism. When people see they've been acknowledged, they will work harder and others will begin to participate. Once the snow has cleared, honor these good citizens. Create the 'Golden Snow Shovel Awards' and bring the community together. Make it a regular part of your administration's appreciation agenda.
Booker is the first recipient of GovFresh's 'Golden Shovel Award.' I just hope him and other public leaders get proactive and build platforms in preparation for when the next blizzard hits.
For a more articulate post on this issue, read Patrick Meier's Why Crowdsourcing and Crowdfeeding may be the answer to Snowmageddon.