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A new activist group, the People’s Budget Athens, is demanding “drastic” changes to the Athens-Clarke County budget to allow some items to be decided through direct democracy.

Imani Scott-Blackwell, founder of People’s Budget Athens, made a case for defunding the ACC police and reinvesting the money in other community priorities during a drive-in “People’s Assembly” on Nov. 20. In support of this idea, she referenced a survey collected by her group in which 84% of people picked policing as a top priority for divestment. This survey had over 1,300 responses, although it was not a scientific sample of residents.

At their assembly, People’s Budget Athens members examined the ACC budget and discussed ways they’d like to see it changed. For example, in addition to divesting from policing, they’d like to create “participatory budgeting” mechanisms within the local government. Participatory budgeting is a process integrated into the regular county budget cycle that allows average citizens to decide how a certain portion of their tax dollars are spent.

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Born to Ghanaian parents, Quarcoo grew up in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. She says her experience with the Reach Alliance offered an encouraging example of locally-led development in Africa.

“I think often when people talk about the continent, they talk about the work that international organizations are doing,” she says. “They don’t talk about the amount of agency that Africans have in their own development. The Reach Alliance project was even more interesting when we uncovered that. It was a great story of agency.”

Quarcoo’s interest in technology and social impact featured prominently in her internship with the MGA program. Through funding from a fellowship with the Open Society Internship for Rights and Governance (OSIRG), Quarcoo worked with Africa’s Voices, a non-profit organization in Nairobi that finds ways to use technology to centre African citizens in Africa’s development.

While at Africa’s Voices, Quarcoo worked on a consultancy project with the Mastercard Foundation, looking at how to use technology to engage with program beneficiaries.

“When you think about development programs, you often think of folks sitting in offices in Geneva saying, ‘Oh, we're doing all of these great things!’ But the beneficiaries of these programs don't really have an opportunity to be involved or give voice to what they're experiencing,” says Quarcoo. “So Africa’s Voices aggregates data to give a clearer idea of what issues beneficiaries are dealing with. That allows us to measure actual impact.”

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Today, DIY—do-it-yourself—describes more than self-taught carpentry. Social media enables DIY citizens to organize and protest in new ways (as in Egypt's “Twitter revolution” of 2011) and to repurpose corporate content (or create new user-generated content) in order to offer political counternarratives. This book examines the usefulness and limits of DIY citizenship, exploring the diverse forms of political participation and “critical making” that have emerged in recent years. The authors and artists in this collection describe DIY citizens whose activities range from activist fan blogging and video production to knitting and the creation of community gardens.

Contributors examine DIY activism, describing new modes of civic engagement that include Harry Potter fan activism and the activities of the Yes Men. They consider DIY making in learning, culture, hacking, and the arts, including do-it-yourself media production and collaborative documentary making. They discuss DIY and design and how citizens can unlock the black box of technological infrastructures to engage and innovate open and participatory critical making. And they explore DIY and media, describing activists' efforts to remake and reimagine media and the public sphere. As these chapters make clear, DIY is characterized by its emphasis on “doing” and making rather than passive consumption. DIY citizens assume active roles as interventionists, makers, hackers, modders, and tinkerers, in pursuit of new forms of engaged and participatory democracy.

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The mayor’s office and several area organizations invited the community out Saturday morning to voice their opinions on how to reduce crime and improve public safety in the mid-Westside of Jacksonville.

The Community Impact Day event near Edward Waters College on Grunthal Street was hosted by the Mayor’s Community Based Crime Reduction Program, New Town Success Zone, Celebration Church and the Mayo Clinic Wellness Rx program.

As dozens of cars came through, participants were asked to fill out a survey with questions about safety in the community.

“What we want to do is get some feedback from the community. The important thing to know about the community-based crime reduction is that the approach is innovative and it’s data-driven,” said coordinator Kendra Mervin. “And when we talk about data, we’re talking about direct feedback from the community. We want to know what the community thinks they need in order to make an impact on crime as well as quality of life issues.”

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Detroit has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 with one of the highest mortality rates in the country, compounding existing public health issues and complicating efforts to provide access to basic services. Throughout the pandemic, the City of Detroit has used its recreation centers to provide access to critical resources such as food, employment resources, cooling centers, and other programming for vulnerable community members, many of whom are accessing these centers for the first time during the pandemic.

Among large U.S. cities, Detroit is considered one of the least dense with housing, jobs, and food spread out throughout the city. This makes getting around more difficult especially for the quarter of its population who solely rely on transit, biking, walking and rolling to access essential services and places. The city’s recreation centers are spread around the city but often just far enough from bus stops that they can be difficult to find. To bridge the gaps between bus stops and the nearby recreation centers, the City of Detroit sought to partner with a local artist to pilot eye-catching wayfinding to guide residents to resources.

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This summer, a mid-city stretch of Pico Boulevard received bright purple painted curb extensions. They are located at two Pico intersections: Hauser Boulevard and Curson Avenue.

The safety upgrades are part of Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative. The 14-block stretch of Pico from Cochran Avenue to Fairfax Avenue was City Council President Herb Wesson’s designated Great Streets project. With a boost from a 2016 Great Streets challenge grant (for outreach, planning, and some implementation), the Pico Great Street Collaborative – a group of local residents and business owners – facilitated a community-driven design process to make Pico safer, more beautiful, and more walkable.

The Pico collaborative led extensive community outreach to come up with a plan they titled Destination: Pico. The collaborative is partnering with the mayor’s office, the council office, LADOT, Public Works, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, the P.I.C.O. Neighborhood Council, and others to plan and implement improvements.

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Policymakers, businesses and citizens are working together and have focused their energies on the existential threat facing humanity. In Mumbai rival politicians came together to provide food and shelter to thousands of migrant workers. When there was a growing shortage of ventilators, engineering students from Nigeria and India developed low-cost ventilators using locally available materials, while a professor in Italy developed open-source intensive-care units built from recycled shipping containers.

In SA, business and citizens have also come forward and are working with the government. Telkom, SA’s largest telecommunications company, began working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to develop a Covid-19 track-and-trace solution. Telkom used multiple data sources, including the geographic information system (GIS), to track infected people’s movements to determine who they may have exposed to the virus.

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San Jose has been recognized as the nation's most innovative local government by the Center for Digital Government on Tuesday -- fulfilling Mayor Sam Liccardo's Smart City Vision, which aimed to gain this title by 2020.

The Smart City Vision launched in 2016 by Liccardo is a series of values and goals to develop user-centric technology to benefit the community.

One of the most notable initiatives was the recent effort to bridge the stark digital divide in San Jose. Through a public-private partnership, the city was able to connect 50,000 households with hotspots.

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Through the NYCx Co-Labs Program, the City Awards Winners $20,000 and the Chance to Pilot Test Solutions to Protect Tenant’s Rights and Prevent Tenant Harassment in the Inwood and Washington Heights Neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan.

The New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) together with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), NYC Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants (MOPT), and the communities of Inwood and Washington Heights today announced the winners and honorable mention for the NYCx Co-Labs Housing Rights Challenge, inviting innovative, tech-enabled solutions from startups, technologists, and innovators from across the globe.

“Communities know best what their highest priority needs are and the NYCx Co-Labs Housing Rights Challenge leverages that community knowledge to create real-world results for these residents,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. “The City of New York congratulates winners Heat Seek and JustFix.nyc and honorable mention awardee 3x3, all of whom are creating impactful solutions for New Yorkers.”

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Community members are the best judge of what investments are needed at their local park, rec center, or library. Rebuild works with neighborhood nonprofits, advisory boards and friends groups, and existing community associations to keep residents engaged and informed about Rebuild projects in their neighborhoods. 

The public gathering limitations of COVID-19 have challenged Rebuild to rethink how to keep residents engaged in the improvements coming to their neighborhood. 

This article shares three things to know about how Rebuild is working with communities to plan high impact improvement projects:.

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Spurred by the disastrous impacts of COVID-19 on Chicago’s South and West Side communities and summer uprisings calling to defund the police, Chicago United for Equity set its sights on a goal: to inform Chicago’s communities on the city’s budget process and how they can have a say in it.

Derived from the 2019 Vote Equity Project, CUE developed the People’s Budget Chicago, which traveled around the city in a bus tour. At each stop, community members got to create their own budgets by allocating a hypothetical $100 among six categories: health, education, housing, infrastructure, community resources and the carceral system (police). Afterward, Chicagoans compared their personal budget to the city’s 2020 budget.

This year, the city saw a large increase in responses to the annual budget survey, receiving a total of 38,336 responses, five times more than the year prior. While every ZIP code was represented in the survey responses, 45% of respondents resided on the North Side.

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Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca debuted the “Community Voices Public Forums” series Friday as part of their Reimagining Public Safety Collaborative

Its launch marks the transition to the next phase of the partnership, which encourages Ithaca and Tompkins County residents to offer input toward the development of an equitable plan to reimagine public safety. The live-streamed forum began with remarks from Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino who then invited the public to share their perspectives on and experiences with public safety in Tompkins County. 

Molino said that the County is in the information gathering stage of the process and is continuing to seek community feedback to inform the plan. Officials from the County and City, including Mayor Svante Myrick, and working group members tuned in while the community provided feedback in 2-minute increments. 

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With the aim of expanding citizens' rights related to political participation, the Rafelbunyol Town Council carried out a participatory process focused on determining the official name of the Public Nursery and Primary School No. 2, which opened its doors in September 2019 without an official name.

Usually, it is the Public Administrations or School Boards who establish this denomination, but under the mentioned objective, and in order to improve the quality of the public decisions through mechanisms of participative democracy, the city council delegated the adoption of this decision to the citizens, specifically to the educational community of school nº2, and especially to its students, the real protagonists of the educational centre, which also allowed to promote the active citizen involvement in the public decisions from early ages and to promote the citizen empowerment among children.

The participatory process was therefore structured in two phases: Firstly, the School Board, in which the school's management and teaching staff, the students' families and the Town Council are represented, selected and approved four proposals for the name of the school; and secondly, a democratic voting exercise was carried out on these four proposals, by means of which the students, aged between 3 and 12, decided on the name of their school.

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Young people in the north London borough of Brent have launched the first phase of a public campaign calling for major changes in the way that public spaces are planned and designed – in order to be more inclusive of their needs. It follows a research and engagement project titled ‘Seen and Heard’, which was commissioned by Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture, and focused on the rapidly transforming neighbourhood of Wembley Park.

With the pressures of private development and disappearing space in London, creating and maintaining public space that is safe, creative, programmable and welcoming to young people is a growing challenge. The Blueprint Collective – a part-pressure group, part think-tank that comprises over 100 people aged between 15 and 24– says that it’s critical to take young people’s particular needs into account.

Through workshops and activities in collaboration with Brent Youth Parliament and urban design researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE), the Blueprint Collective developed the ‘Blueprint Charter’ – a manifesto calling for the needs of young people to be at the heart of the design of public spaces in Wembley Park, Brent and beyond.

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Each year Rebuilding Together honors three individuals who are making a difference for communities in need and awards three affiliates for their leadership and innovation. Take a look at this year’s recipients.

Rebuilding Together Fox Valley in Menasha, Wisconsin received the Award for Excellence in Programming. The award is presented to a Rebuilding Together affiliate who has developed creative and innovative ways to serve neighbors in their community. 

Rebuilding Together Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee received the Award for Excellence in Community Engagement. The award highlights the most creative and innovative ways Rebuilding Together affiliates partner with other agencies in their community to provide impact to the community or, more specifically, to a local neighborhood.

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Are you a CUNY game designer looking to sharpen your skill and have some fun? This November, CUNY students will have the opportunity to compete in our EGD Game Jam. From Nov 20th to Nov 22th, CUNY game designers will have just 2 days to create a game based on a specific theme. During the duration of the event there will also be workshops and other opportunities to grow your game design knowledge, as well as raffles for prizing from our sponsors! Only CUNY students are eligible to compete. This jam is being held remotely over Discord and Twitch.
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The City Market East Plaza – a longstanding yet previously neglected cornerstone of the emerging Market East District – received a makeover complete with a grant-funded rain garden and bocce courts, and mobile parklet alongside programming provided in part by the neighboring YMCA.

The space has seen a more diverse and active community presence than ever, and community members have expressed strong feelings of belonging and inclusion thanks to the new outdoor offerings.

Indianapolis City Market and Big Car Collaborative joined forces to upgrade the plaza and also developed collaborative, mutually-beneficial relationships with a number of partner organizations in order to broaden the net of community engagement and representation and to support each other in their work toward making downtown Indianapolis a place the entire community can call their own. 

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In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, local, independent grocers are focusing more deliberately on serving their communities, going out of their way to provide the goods that customers that they often know by name need. These grocers continue to fill an important niche in the landscape, often serving communities that do not see much investment from national chains with top-notch customer service and a focus on community development and local food.

This article highlights three Michigan-based, independent grocers  to see how they are centering the needs of their communities and continuing to foster inclusive food systems during the pandemic.

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Frisco Town Council members signed off on the new Comprehensive Vision & Project Implementation Plan for the Frisco Adventure Park at the Peninsula Recreation Area.

The final plan represents more than a year of development through public meetings, stakeholder interviews, advisory committee hearings and more, and will serve as a guiding document for officials to gradually improve one of the town’s most prized amenities over the coming years.

“This was a really monumental effort,” said council member Melissa Sherburne. “We set out two, maybe three years ago at this point to have a collective vision for this area, and to be moving forward with purpose and strategy so that future councils really understand what the community vision for this area is.”

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A committee that helps guide New York City’s annual participatory budgeting process has urged the City Council to revive the community-focused initiative after it was indefinitely suspended last month.

The process allows each councilmember to allocate money to proposals voted on by residents of their district, and is a crucial way to drive civic engagement, the Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee wrote in a letter to Speaker Corey Johnson Wednesday. They urged Johnson and the Council to meet with them and develop a plan to relaunch participatory budgeting by Nov. 9.

“Participatory budgeting is more important than ever,” the Steering Committee members wrote. “PB provides exactly what New Yorkers need right now to feel connected and empowered to create change.”

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Reverend Rachel Green and other community members have attempted for years to get the city of Durham to install speed bumps on Alma Street as well as Benjamine, Maple, Spruce and Taylor. Community members even submitted signatures in an attempt to get speed bumps installed. But their requests were denied because of the city’s strict requirements for speed bumps as well as emergency route designations. 

Now the community is trying a new approach. The city of Durham, partnering with a Durham-based non-profit called SpiritHouse, has received grant money to turn Alma Street and the aforementioned four other streets into collaboratively designed, pedestrian-friendly shared streets. The grant money is part of a program called Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery administered by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The money will fund street calming measures including new traffic circles, crosswalks and curb extensions that residents are hoping will make their streets easier to navigate.

Aidil Ortiz, a program manager at SpiritHouse also hopes that the shared streets project will culminate in a better relationship between the city’s planning mechanisms and the community.

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Bike Lane Uprising is a cyclist-led civic tech platform focused on making cycling safer by making it easy to report bike lane obstructions. They just released a mobile app that makes it easy to report bike lane obstructions as users see them. Simply take a photo and report obstructions. The company uses the reports to find trends in data to hold violators accountable and prevent future obstructions.

While many miles of bike lanes exist, to keep cyclists safe, they’re often blocked by drivers who use them as free parking. By creating a central database of bike lane obstructions they are able to highlight problem areas and trends surrounding bike lane violations. They work with local organizations, city departments, and companies directly in an effort to prevent future bike lane obstructions.

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New parking signage is set to be installed near the carpark at the new Mount Louisa walking track following community feedback.

Townsville City Council is installing the new parking signage along Weston Street and Bayswater Road to dissuade track users from parking in unsafe ways along the street.

Deputy Mayor Mark Molachino said, “Council has received feedback from residents on Weston Street about the impact parking is having on their homes and we are installing these signs to restrict parking and help address those concerns.” 

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More planting, seating and the addition of bike and scooter parking are some of the changes that will be implemented in Takapuna’s town square design, following public consultation.

Over 100 submissions were received in the public consultation from 20 July to 14 August 2020, along with feedback from organisations and groups who will use and operate in the future space.

Feedback was received on various aspects of the design, including its capacity to hold events, suitability for the Takapuna Sunday Market, safety, greenery, seating, wind and shade.

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“My personal history influenced my path, my values and my leadership approach,” said Lynn Pelco, Ph. D., associate vice provost for community engagement and director of the Service-Learning Office at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Community Engagement and Impact.

Pelco received the 2020 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities on Oct. 21. The award honors a midcareer scholar-administrator for their leadership and impact.

“This award is so important to me because it highlights the scholarly approach that I and other university administrators around the country have taken to community-engagement work,” she said. “Especially in 2020, when university budgets are under such severe stress, this award reminds us why forward-thinking institutions are recommitting to their community-engagement missions and actively supporting their community-engaged scholar administrators.”

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