Guest Blog Post: Getting Folks on Board – by Mac Farr

3971962299_f29acecb60 After spending nearly a decade in the financial services sector in New York, Mac and his husband moved to Detroit, where they're restoring a 100 year old home in the Indian Village neighborhood of Detroit.  Mac formerly served as Mike Duggan's finance director in his campaign and transition committee, and worked on the restructuring of the delivery of city services through the summer of 2015.  Currently, Mac is the executive director of the Villages Community Development Corporation, a 501(c)3 non-profit that seeks to elevate the quality of life along Detroit's east side.

I was happy to be able to pitch in on the implementation of Improve Detroit, the Motor City’s iteration of SeeClickFix when I worked for the City of Detroit.  From the outset, it was apparent that we would be faced with the usual situation of early adopters that were heavy users versus everyone else.

We have two curves to bend, particularly here in Detroit: first, the perception that city services just aren’t available, and second, that you harness technology instead of making a phone call to a department or division worker sitting in an office downtown.  If you don’t think the services are going to come, why bother? And if you have no experience with using digital technology in order to order up some of those city services, how do you get past that?  

Since its roll-out, I’ve been a SeeClickFix acolyte.  I have it.  I use it.  And I have a pitch that I use whenever I encounter something very common in Detroit: complaining. ‘This light doesn’t work,’ or “they didn’t pick up my garbage”; to which my inevitable response is: “let me show you something.”  I pull out my phone, and I show them.

You can tell people things or you can show them. I’ve found that showing people, rather than describing or writing or any other sort of nonvisual communication, is the most effective. Showing your neighbors who care, the folks that want to see things cleaned up... that’s going to be the most effective manner of truly making SeeClickFix have an impact.

It’s All About Getting Involved

I don’t think there’s some grand system that we come up with to get folks plugged into Improve Detroit or SeeClickFix, or any other municipal app that directs the delivery of services.  The fact of the matter is that you’re going to have engaged residents who love the feeling of ordering up some tree trimming or snow removal or any other of the services that they need, and you’re going to have apathy.

So deputize yourself as a superuser; be a SeeClickFix missionary; spread the gospel of digitally requesting those services your hard earned tax dollars pay for! When you show them, have them download it and have them log another complaint because the effect is magnified once you actually give someone the ability to do this themselves. The more recruits you engage, the more orders the city will get.  The more orders the city gets, the more things are going to tighten up in your neighborhood.  

And the more things tighten up, the better off we all are.