I took this photo at the July 13, 2013, North Park Community Association Bird Park Summer Concert featuring Todo Mundo. There were hundreds of neighbors enjoying a beautiful community event. Now imagine every single one of them had an easy way to engage about issues or chances to volunteer or other developments in their part of the neighborhood. That is exactly what NPCA’s Real Connect project will be. Vote for it here. Or read more…
For those who want to have an easy preview to read the entire entry, including basics, timeline, milestones and how we’ll verify how well it worked, our basic application is below. Just a reminder, we were limited in how much we could write or how complex we could get for $5,000, but this is a low-cost solution that we plan to make useful for every community in San Diego. Also, since this is my personal site I want to take a moment before the application to thank Jay, Michael, Steph, Kevin, Juan, Ethan, Chef Max, Chelsea, Odette, Adam, Eddie, Julia, Bobby, Maggie and every other member of The Linkery and El Take it Easy team that helped my wife and I enjoy meeting some of our best friends over the past 8 years. All while having great food, sourced responsibly from farmers who cared about what they grew and served by a leadership team who cared about the cooks, dishwashers, servers, barbacks and everyone else who touched our dining experience.
The Linkery’s last day is July 15, 2013. While I am excited for what the new owners have in mind for the space, I can’t help but be a lot sad to see so many people I appreciate moving on.
Real Connect Basics
As for our Real Connect program, it builds on some of the ideas that San Diego Foundation Center for Civic Engagement is working towards. Most specifically, the belief that our entire community is stronger if we can all meaningfully participate. The plan is to work with an amazing guy named Jeffrey Johnson of Code for San Diego, who is a really savvy web developer and has agreed to help us set up the platforms we need. You can read more about the kick ass ways he is helping the City of San Diego get its data act together here and follow him on Twitter here. We are going to combine use of three already-available tools to make it super easy for people who live in North Park to be heard AND do something without necessarily having to attend a bunch of long, often boring meetings (yes, I realize I shouldn’t be calling our Planning Group meetings or our Business Association meetings or our Community Association meetings boring, but if we are really being honest, for most people they kind of are). Here’s the technology we plan to use:
- Textizen – A cool app that lets people text their issues into a database that we can then respond to.
- LocalData – An app that lets communities create and track easy to use location-driven survey tools to get better information from neighbors
- Shareabouts – The link is actually to Open Plans, a non-profit that has created customized tools to help foster better civic engagement and foster getting truly responsive local governance.
We will work with our pro bono tech genius to get the ball rolling using the best combination of these sources along with the free Nextdoor platform to create a rich model for allowing people to participate in the way that works best for their needs. Obviously if you don’t have a phone that texts, a computer, laptop or some other device, this limits our reach. But we will be identifying the scope of that issue in North Park and potentially working with senior providers like Elder Help of San Diego and possibly Foundation for Change for similar barriers in recent immigrant populations to potentially bridge those gaps.
Once the technology is in place and the bugs are worked out, the fun begins! We’ll embark on a multi-phased communication & promotion effort to reach as many North Park residents and businesses as possible. The best input model in the world is worthless if we don’t let people know it’s there. So we will go hi tech AND low tech, using technology and our feet to let neighbors know there’s an easy-to-use system available to let everyone get involved and link concerns/volunteers/local issues with the right “fix.” This will be an exciting pilot program that could provide San Diego with a remarkable and innovative way to reach people who can’t make the Councilmember coffees, the Planning Group meetings or the trips down to City Hall. One additional item we will work to incorporate – the City’s already existing email-based public comment form! We’ll also be working on a parallel track to find out the best time and best manner to get key information from the public to elected and other decisionmakers. It’s a big project to take on with only $5,000, but if we can prove that true citizen engagement is NOT expensive, we may very well change the way we as neighbors and business owners interact with our communities and our officials. And then the only question will be how others respond to the information we now know they have. Fun times. If you live in North Park (or somewhere else, actually) and want to help out, please email any of the contacts at the bottom of this email.
Vote for us here (you have to sign up for a FREE Voice of San Diego account to vote, but please do, the news is well-researched and we really need every vote we can get)
Thanks for reading!
Idea Tournament: North Park Community Association
Real Connect: A model for direct neighbor input in town council/community planning group actions
This project is the creation of a scalable community-driven model for true neighbor input. Real Connect utilizes existing technologies and community-based organizations to better understand the concerns of the silent majority. We intend to solve the problem of making decisions based on the few citizens who have the time or ability to show up to a meeting. Real Connect doesn’t replace the deeper analysis that Planning Groups, Commissions or City officials perform. Rather, it augments the time-intensive analysis with “opinions on the ground.”
Real Connect is about making it easy for regular San Diegans to participate in their own neighborhoods. Rather than being the development of an entirely new web-based application, Real Connect is a process that combines multiple existing technologies to simplify the core community “loudest voice wins” problem. The process includes three simple steps:
(1) Neighbors can text, call or email any issue and have it fed into a relational database that queues the issue based on the nature of the concern and the date;
(2) The database is monitored by one central community group (e.g. town council, community association, planning group) and anonymized entries are open to the public. The monitoring community group assesses on a bi-weekly basis if any action is required; and
(3) The monitoring community group forwards the information item on to either the elected official, city department or business/non-profit/philanthropic/academic department to address
At the end of 12 months, the project will yield a tested, scalable model for community input that allows regular San Diegans from various communities to more easily communicate their preferences.
Budget, Timeline, Execution Plan
$15/month for hosting (12 months) – $180
Technical Support/Set-up from Code for San Diego – pro bono
North Park News & Uptown News Advertisements – $1,800
Door-to-door “knocking campaign” (2 volunteers/2 employees at $10/hr) – 80 hours – $800
Social Media Informational Campaign – pro bono
Flyer/Recycle take-back promotion – $1,200
Website optimization for survey forms/database management – $770
Project evaluation tool development with Competitive Edge Research – pro bono
Total Budget: $4,750
0 to 30 days: Work with Code for San Diego to set up location-based input platform, back-end and hosting
0 to 45 days: Work with vendor to complete northparksd.org optimization for input management of community input
45 to 120 days: Launch Social Media, Print Media campaigns to raise awareness of available Real Connect tool
100 to 180 days: Overlapping “door knocking” campaign with end of initial phase Social/Print Media campaign
100 to 120 days: Work with survey consultant to validate project evaluation tool
180 to 300 days: Execute Real Connect pilot test with North Park Planning Area boundary
300 to 365 days: Use customized evaluation tool to identify degree of success and potential system modifications. Prepare final reporting assessment.
- Execution Plan
The execution of this plan tracks the timeline above. The primary points of contact will be NPCA Board Members: Omar Passons, Sean Karafin & Jeff Kucharski, who will be the community monitoring team for the pilot test and coordinate all “knocking campaign” and other project activities.
The NPCA team has already identified technology partner Jeffrey Johnson of Code for San Diego to provide technical support and development for the start-up phase. The team has identified the initial establishment at which to craft the technology solution using a combination of Textizen, Localdata and Shareabouts and modeled in part after the developing Capital Improvement Program infrastructure input web application.
Milestones will be assessed with mandatory reporting to the NPCA Board by the project team at monthly meetings. Final results will be provided in a full execution report.
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