What is the Speed of Citizen Involvement?October 31, 2009
Since I first got involved in my neighborhood association in the mid-’90s, the speed of communications related to citizen involvement has changed quite a bit, and we now have a range of ‘velocities’:
- The speed of the neighborhood newsletter – Monthly, often with long lead times. For example, there was some challenge getting this month’s Portland Plan workshops into neighborhood newsletters.
- The speed of e-mail – Staff often sends notice of meetings to interested parties by e-mail, but still has to notify a few people who have not embraced computers by postal mail.
- The speed of Twitter (or an RSS feed) – Effectively instantaneous. I was a little chagrined to learn that an exchange I had with Mayor Adams during the hearing on the Climate Action Plan had been Tweeted and Re-tweeted! (No, believe it or not, I don’t tweet – at least not yet.)
I caused a little bit of a stir with some activists a week or so ago when I posted topics for an upcoming meeting. I wasn’t posting anything that wasn’t already online on the bureau site, but it was buried deep inside Portland Online in a PDF file, while it was much more prominent here. Activists were griping that I was ‘breaking’ the news here and they hadn’t been notified by staff even though that had requested to be on the interested parties list. In fact the staff e-mail notice (and postal mail notice to a few people) went out that week, so the difference in ‘velocity’ is really the only thing that created the stir.
My question, readers, is how do we manage citizen involvement effectively for City planning efforts when we have this wide range of velocities for communication? How do we use each medium to its maximum benefit without disenfranchising some people?
I’m looking forward to your thoughts.