This time of year you’re probably busy with festive celebrations, but throughout the year countless communities were busy engaging with their residents online. As with any endeavor, those conversations often resulted in unexpected gifts. To close out the year and have a little fun, we decided to abuse a play on words to help tell the story of the GIF(ts) of online community engagement.
THE GIF OF MORE – AND MORE DIVERSE – FEEDBACK
Though nearly 80 percent of Americans believe their community could benefit from a planning process that involves all members of the community, historically just 11 percent turn out for public planning meetings. But this year, online engagement delivered more feedback from more people than ever before in cities like Waco, Texas, where 60 times more people showed up online than in person to give input on the 2040 plan; and Riverside, Calif., where the city and library joined forces to ensure a diverse conversation; and school districts like Wake County, N.C., where almost 15,000 interactions led to significant changes in a far-reaching enrollment plan.
THE GIF OF OPTIMISM ABOUT THE FUTURE
And while communities tackled tough topics like strengthening police-community relationships and raising the minimum wage, citizens also shared their optimism about the future in descriptions that inspired new town branding and photos of what they love about their hometowns.
THE GIF OF CREATIVE IDEAS
The City of Murfreesboro, Tenn., said it best: “The one commonality of great cities and ‘cool’ places to live is that they have great people with great ideas.” And it was a year of ideas, as people re-imagined buildings, transit routes, city slogans and open spaces in unique and practical ways.
THE GIF OF A COLLECTIVE VISION
Communities rallied around the best of those ideas, guided by visions they developed together in places like Cary, N.C., where six months of online input led led to a new “visions and values” statement, and Boulder, Colo., where residents painted a collaborative picture of the area’s arts and cultural life for the next nine years.
THE GIF OF A STRONGER COMMUNITY CONNECTION
If community is really about relationships, then maybe the best gift of all was deeper connections among people and the places they care about most. Opportunities to participate in the creation, redevelopment, and preservation of waterfronts, downtowns, neighborhoods and natural landscapes sprung up in hundreds of communities this year.
We can’t wait to see what 2015 brings! Happy holidays from the team at MindMixer.