Since starting Clue Into Cleveland, I’ve enjoyed writing about ways to get out into the city, find something fun to do and get engaged. Today, though, is all about a way you can get start getting engaged in what’s going on around and within Cleveland from your computer.
The Civic Commons started as a project of The Fund for Our Economic Future, where social media and journalism would be used to bring more people together to focus on issues that affect the whole region.
Similar to how Twestival was using ‘social media for social good,’ Civic Commons is ‘social media for civic good.’ The site’s an open platform where anyone can “Join the Conversation” about the civic topics important to them.
There are conversations about sustainable communities, Cleveland school cuts, the debate over Oakwood Commons, and suburban sprawl, among many others. Users have the option to comment, rate a remark as Persuasive, Informative or Inspiring, or start a conversation if there’s something new they’d like to get people talking about.
And because the site is about transforming these conversations into civic change, you can suggest an action to take. With a variety of community leaders involved in the forum, you’re sharing your feedback and suggestions with those who are often involved in the issues offline.
To make it easy to navigate through topics and find what’s important to you, the team behind The Civic Commons organizes and manages the platform. You can browse through the conversations that are most active, newest, popular and featured. Or if there’s a particular issue you have in mind, such as the Ohio State budget, The Civic Commons aggregates all of the conversations and resources for that issue into one sub-space.
Beyond organizing content, The Civic Commons promotes 7 principles within the individual conversations which ensure the conversations are capable of being productive collaborations. Through diversity, civility, transparency, credibility, entrepreneurialism, participation, and realistic optimism, the site creates an environment where each user feels as comfortable as possible sharing their opinions — even when they are challenging ones.
One of the topics I’ve been particularly interested in since joining has been The Flats Forward project. When I moved here a few years ago, the Flats was not one of my favorite neighborhoods. There weren’t a lot of places there that piqued my interest and I found it difficult to navigate to (my first trip – where I was even using my phone’s GPS – resulted with me driving in circles for 45 minutes and ending up on the wrong side of the river).
When I heard about the revitalization efforts, I’ll admit I was a little cynical about whether or not it would happen or if it was just a pipe dream. It’s not unattainable, though, and hopefully with some of the different approaches the city and some stakeholders are taking to the development of the neighborhood, there will be more chances for the community as a whole to get involved and express their opinions.
The Civic Commons is a huge part of a joint effort to promote this involvement. Resources are available that educate citizens on current and future land use, the history of the area, and the challenges due to the area’s infrastructure. Additionally, the site has set up a variety of conversations to address the questions involved in the project.
They want users to discuss what we like that’s already in the Flats, what’s missing that we want to see in the end result, what are our concerns about the execution of the project, and what infrastructure needs and solutions are out there. And by conducting engagement activities and community meetings for residents, property owners and organizations in the Flats, The Civic Commons has been doing an excellent job of moving the conversation forward on the streets.
It has definitely helped amend my original opinion of the project. While there are clearly many challenges to moving the Flats Forward, the city seems to be trying to take a better approach to addressing them. I’m looking forward to see what will rise from it.
It’s really easy to get involved in The Civic Commons. Registration is a few short steps. As part of the push for transparency, you do have to provide your full name so that everyone is equally aware of whom they are dialoguing with. And the terms you agree to adhere to their 7 principles, which ensures the conversations are productive and respectful.
At one time or another we’ve all thought that we didn’t have a place to share our voice where it could make an impact. Now, when it comes to some of the projects going on in our backyards, we do.
The Civic Commons 411:
- Join the Conversation
- Help Move the Flats Forward
- Like The Civic Commons on Facebook