EngagingCities
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An entrepreneurial mindset is key, smart-city managers said at last week's conference.

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Indian cities are a key pillar for the country’s economic growth, having created millions of jobs for its citizens. Their scope and growth potential is only set to rise further. By 2030, cities are estimated to house close to 40 percent of India's population and contribute to 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

YourStory presented the webinar ‘Driving Digital Transformation for Urban India’ in association with AWS and Social Alpha to give insights on how startups and public sector stakeholders are collaborating to create solutions for urban development.
Social Alpha’s Manoj Kumar elaborated on the potential for technological advancements for urban development through smarter governance, improving sustainability and liveability standards, and quality of life. 

“Citizens have access to a lot of services through apps and through the sheer availability of telecommunications' infrastructure and internet access,” he said.

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The website of a government-led project to promote local knowledge preservation and open access to cultural materials will officially launch Saturday to mark this year's Taiwan Culture Day, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) announced Friday.

The Taiwan Cultural Memory Bank project curates historic recollections and documentation through words, images, artifacts, audiovisual assets and other creative mediums to reconstruct the history of Taiwan throughout different eras, the MOC said in a statement.

These collective memories will then be introduced to the world through its website. The project was initiated in 2017 to record the diverse cultures present in Taiwan so that future generations will have access to the information and materials saved in the memory bank.

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The Bystander project by Arts Margaret River aims to transform the real-life experiences of people living in Augusta, Margaret River and Cowaramup into a unique, live performance. The stories will offer a first-hand, personal account into the diverse experiences of 10 locals.

The personal stories will be told by Whiskey & Boots (Mark Storen and Georgia King) verbatim, as part of a live performance set against a backdrop of photographs and accompanied by original, live music.

"The aim of this project is to bring understanding to those living around us," Whiskey and Boots said. "We believe that everyone's story is interesting and valuable and that by sharing stories we are able to be in the world together with greater empathy."

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Earlier this year, Wakefield’s annual Public Health Report was published, celebrating the resilience, stories and ideas from communities across the district during the coronavirus pandemic.

The content in Local Story - an interactive archive created during Covid-19 by arts organisation One to One Development Trust as the Annual Report 2020 for Director of Public Health, Anna Hartley – has now been turned into a video as a trailer for the project.

Local poet Matt Abbott worked with the project’s creative director Judi Alston to devise a poem inspired by the incredible stories and community spirit documented in Local Story and members of the Old Quarry Adventure Playground were invited to each record a line from the poem on their mobile phones.

Anna Hartley, Wakefield’s Director of Public Health, said: “This year’s report allows us to celebrate all the wonderful work that has gone on, sometimes unnoticed, and serves as an archive for communities to remember their stories and experiences during lockdown."

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Perry Village government leaders have decided against changing the name of Lee Lydic Park following an online contest that received hundreds of comments. The feedback received from residents who expressed their opinions showed an overwhelming desire to keep the park named after Lee Lydic, who served the village for 34 years as a police officer and chief, mayor and Village Council member.

The event stemmed from a suggestion made by a community member to Village Council. 

“When members of the community make suggestions, we try to proactively reach out to the community for your input,” village Mayor James Gessic wrote, adding that village government leaders appreciated feedback on the subject. 

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A Town Center has officially been announced as the winner of the Love Thy Neighborhood People’s Choice Awards.

Kim Rogers-Hatfield, vice-president of Engagement for United Way Madison County joined us today to tell us more about their organization and what this award means to them.

A Town Center, Inc. is a community art center and an artist cooperative offering free studio space for participating artists in return for their participation in A Town Center’s events and programming as well as other community engagement projects. A Town Center offers a variety of events and classes to the public.  

LISC Indianapolis started the Love Thy Neighborhood Awards in 2017 to celebrate people and organizations that are transforming their neighborhoods, the community game changers that are making a difference. We wanted to tell the inspiring stories that are sometimes happening behind the scenes and don’t have a platform. Each category winner is awarded $2,500 in unrestricted funds to help further their mission.

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Planners work to improve the well-being of all people living in our communities by taking a comprehensive perspective. This approach leads to safer, resilient, more equitable, and more prosperous communities. We celebrate the role that planning plays in creating great communities each October with National Community Planning Month.

This year's theme — Planning Is Essential to Recovery — highlights how planning and planners can lead communities to equitable, resilient, and long-lasting recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Join the conversation with #planningmonth.

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This summer, New Haven architect Ming Thompson worked with interns in a program called “The Design Brigade,” which highlighted the nuanced pandemic-related experiences of the New Haven community.

The Design Brigade internship program lasted 10 weeks beginning in June 2020 and involved three interdisciplinary teams of 21 undergraduate and graduate students whose goal was to build solutions to COVID-19-based problems. The interns worked to design community-based solutions with and for New Haven residents. 

“There is a difference between designing with and designing for,” said Hana Davis ARCH ’20, one of this past summer’s interns and former Weekend editor for the News. “[We learned] how to approach a conversation with someone who has different experiences than you especially when you represent a place like Yale in a city like New Haven.”

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As many Americans get ready to observe Columbus Day Monday, a group of racial justice activists in the Philadelphia suburbs says it’s a reminder that the fight for equity is not over.

Norristown activist Mark Jones helped organize a daylong rally calling for “equity and justice for all people, and especially Black, Indigenous and People of color” with the Montgomery County organization Community for Change.

The rally, explained Vincent, was a way to connect several new activist groups in Montgomery County, which sprung up during the protests calling for racial equity and changes in policing.

Upper Merion resident Stephanie Vincent, another organizer with the group, said the marching has caught the eye of some institutions. She wants to see changes in school curricula and more diverse leadership in local organizations, but that requires activists to start working more closely. She said she wanted the day’s rally to be a “connector event.”

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At a time when urban planners are increasingly being called out for white elitism, Oakland is feeling its way, clumsily at times, down a different, more equitable path. 

Essential Places is an offshoot of Oakland’s “Slow Streets” program, which closed a handful of streets to through traffic so that people could bike or jog while safely social distancing. Surveys administered by the city showed that the program was popular, but there was a problem. Two thirds of survey respondents were white and 40 percent had annual household incomes of $150,000 or more. In Oakland, white residents comprise 24 percent of the population and the median household income is $76,000.

“We got the feedback from the survey and said, ‘Wow, this isn’t representative,” says Warren Logan, policy director for mobility and interagency relations and the chief architect of Essential Places. Pressed by advocates, he doubled down on efforts to get feedback from residents in marginalized neighborhoods, especially in East Oakland, where more than three quarters of residents are Black or Latino and more than half of households are low-income. Residents in these neighborhoods, many of whom are essential workers, have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

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The Downtown Austin Alliance works with key downtown stakeholders—property owners, residents, business owners, community organizations and government officials—to advance their collective vision for the future of downtown Austin.

The Alliance was recognized by the International Downtown Association with Downtown Achievement Awards of Excellence for its work and initiatives related to the Urban Land Institute (ULI) panel on I-35 and Writing on the Walls.

The ULI panel was the first step in a community-driven effort to develop a roadmap for transforming the land and streetscape surrounding I-35 through central Austin. 

Writing on the Walls, a series of public art installations and events held across downtown, was a community-wide celebration of art and activism focused on women’s rights and the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment.

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Tafelsig resident Michael Bell has started a mural art project to get the community to take ownership of open spaces in the area.

The Tafelsig Placemaking Initiative was launched on Saturday July 13 on the corner of Kilimanjaro Street and AZ Berman Drive, next to the Nelson Mandela Youth and Family Centre.

In September last year, the community applied a base coat of paint on the walls in preparation for the art work but could not continue the painting as they needed approval from the City of Cape Town.

In May this year, Mr. Bell, founder of Mitchell’s Plain Online, received approval from the City of Cape Town and support from various stakeholders. It will take about three to six weeks for the art work to be completed.

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Members of an upstart pro-development group are floating a provocative plan to rezone Soho and Noho, two of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, in what represents their first broad policy proposal aimed at alleviating the affordable housing crisis.

Open New York, which was started in 2016, is part of the city’s relatively small YIMBY ("yes in my backyard") movement. Over the last few months, several of its members have been attending the city's planning workshops leading up to what could be the first rezoning of Soho and Noho in decades. The discussions, which have often been contentious, have largely focused on retail and the rights of loft artists, who famously reclaimed the manufacturing district beginning in the 1960s and have been critical of its increasing commercialization.

But to date, the creation of new housing in the neighborhoods has not been seriously talked about as part of a rezoning plan, an omission that Open New York members say speaks to who controls the city's zoning process.

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As more people explore their neighbourhood on foot, a local company is offering education and exercise through historical walking tours in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Stroll Walking Tours launched in August and gives people the chance to learn about art, architecture and history close to home.

"I've always been a big promoter of hyper-local," owner-operator Juanita Metzger said. "I would always explore local by shopping independently, by engaging in slow travel, which, walking is the perfect slow travel kind of method."

Metzger has a background in community development and community engagement and used to lead Jane's Walks. She said the idea for Stroll Walking Tours came from a conversation with officials at Explore Waterloo Region.

"It emerged as a bit of a gap in our community that there isn't anybody leading guided walking tours," Metzger said.

"Walking tours are a pretty creative way for people to explore different neighbourhoods and explore parts of our community's history and explore ways of looking at our communities that they haven't really considered before."

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The City of Burnaby’s engagement efforts on the housing crisis has earned honours from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Canada for “Your Voice - Your Home: Meeting the Housing Needs of Burnaby Residents.” 

This project, a partnership of the City of Burnaby and the Morris J, Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, was a six-month undertaking, involving the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing. The over-arching question was simple: “What are the housing experiences and needs of Burnaby residents and what are their recommendations in terms of housing policies and programs?”

To help with the answer, more than 2,600 residents took part, either in-person or online - the largest engagement in Burnaby’s history - and 42 resident recommendations were brought forward, which directly informed the Task Force’s final report.

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Inspired by the success of experimental listening sessions, organizers of the new community relations board announced more sessions in the coming weeks. The first round of listening sessions concluded last night at the City Pavilion. The sessions’ main objective was to get input from Washington residents about how the city can proactively welcome new people to the community and be more inclusive for people already living here.

There were four listening sessions — three virtual and one in-person and virtual — scheduled over the past two weeks. Aimee Appell, chairperson of Neighbors United — Undoing Racism and the pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, 5 Scenic Drive, led the sessions, which were attended by 80 people across the four installments.

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The first time the community hears from you can’t be you asking for something from them,” says Estefania Zavala, Long Beach, California’s Digital Innovation Program Manager. Community engagement can be challenging at the best of times; when communities are reeling from a pandemic, protesting racism, and facing economic uncertainty, engagement and communication are even more crucial — yet even more challenging. In a recent webinarWhat Works Cities (WWC) hosted representatives from Boulder, Colorado, Long Beach, California, and Los Angeles, California who offered guidance on how to engage priority communities, such as English-language learners and immigrants. 

As Zavala points out, establishing regular touchpoints and reciprocal relationships with these communities is crucial. Engagement cannot be a one-way street, nor should it be exploitative, especially since many of those priority communities have higher rates of COVID-19 and are experiencing the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact. Quality, trustworthy engagement can help connect these communities with health and financial resources, and it is imperative that local governments utilize community engagement best practices to do so. The following recommendations are based on the webinar and follow-up conversations with Zavala and other panelists from the WWC webinar. 

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After residents gave input on “bump outs” proposed to calm traffic in one location in Kalamazoo, the city is now switching to “speed humps” instead.

The change comes after the city installed bump outs in one location and held a demonstration of how they work, leading to complaints and criticism from citizens.

After city officials opted to change course, crews began installing the new speed humps, the city of Kalamazoo said on Sept. 24. The city intends to install the humps along four streets this fall.

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Science for New York (Sci4NY) is a group of scientists who volunteer our skills to translate technical and analytical information into meaningful, policy-focused recommendations aimed at increasing the well-being of the city and its residents.

One project mapped publicly available data and public input from New York City’s 59 community boards to highlight science-related inequities across the neighborhoods. Your community might be most concerned about sunny day flooding, broadband availability for remote learning, or access to more medical care. Neighborhoods with lower numbers in key socioeconomic metrics had multiple issues that could benefit from scientific support. Our goal was to use the map as science policy outreach to City Council candidates and community organizers.

We reached these key stakeholders through 21 in ’21, an organization striving to achieve gender parity in the New York City Council through the 2021 city elections. Sci4NY hosted a summer workshop series for its members on how science-based issues including COVID-19, climate change, health, and STEM education impact New York City. The most important lesson we learned from this engagement activity is that our ability as scientists to meaningfully and rapidly identify and synthesize data is very valuable to candidates working to address these issues in their local communities. Currently we are providing support to candidates and community organizers in areas such as maternal and newborn health disparities, green roofs, urban farming, foster care, and climate equity. 

Beyond the projects related to the science policy map, Sci4NY has piloted a number of other collaborative projects in the city. These include: lending technical input on pesticide legislation; better ways to improve composting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and ways to identify climate change knowledge gaps in order to improve community resiliency. We also worked to bring local policymakers and scientists together at events to learn from each other and simply interact more.

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Decentralization in Nepal has given local governments a new level of decision-making power and accountability to citizens. But their limited resources and experience have been a major hurdle to governing effectively. The government of Dhangadhi, the gateway to Nepal’s far west, has improved oversight of one of the city’s biggest budget items, small-scale infrastructure, by introducing new transparent policies, digitizing its processes and creating new channels to engage citizens and seek their feedback on project performance. The reforms have allowed engineers to generate contracts easily and remotely. Officials can make evidence-based decisions based on analytics from the new data system. Residents can alert authorities to issues in real-time and get problems promptly fixed too.

The reform was part of a larger public financial management program being carried out in Dhangadhi called Sustainable use of Technology for Public Sector Accountability in Nepal (SUSASAN). Run by the Canadian development organization CECI, it aims to help the newly created local governments to increase accountability to their communities. They worked with social entrepreneurs from YoungInnovations to build a series of civic tech tools that make public information more accessible to citizens. YoungInnovations also had experience building a tool to monitor government contracts at the central level, which they developed with the support of the Open Contracting Partnership. The team believed a similar approach could be applied successfully at the local level in Dhangadhi.

They were right. With the help of these three organizations, the Dhangadhi government has established a new data-driven approach to managing small-scale infrastructure projects. Its cornerstone is a digital platform, called the Infrastructure Management System (IMS), which allows the municipality to know at all times whether projects are being completed on time, on budget and to their specifications. 

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In May, more than 1,000 residents signed a petition asking to install bike lanes along "the Main Street of Texas." The following month, the Austin City Council passed the measure and announced the creation of temporary bike lanes along Congress, between Riverside Drive and 11th Street.

Earlier this week, the City of Austin announced the bike lanes will become permanent. The traffic cones and plastic markers installed to designate the lanes will be replaced with flexible delineator posts and parking stops to create a physical barrier between cyclists and vehicles. 

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Last week, the City of Toronto launched something called BigArtTO. A public art extension of a pandemic-borne community-engagement plan (ShowLoveTO), it's not a festival exactly. The city goes with the phrase "city-wide public art celebration," and in execution it means that art (by Toronto artists) will be projected onto walls throughout all 25 wards, with each piece appearing for four nights only.

"These are memorable moments for people to fall upon," says Joe Sellors, project manager of BigArtTO and Year of Public Art at the City of Toronto. Last week, outdoor gatherings in the region were reduced to 25 people. Even Nuit Blanche is going online this year, and the ban on city events will likely be extended through winter. BigArtTO doesn't fill the gap, exactly, but it does aim to bring a bit of art, a bit of spectacle and a bit of hope to Torontonians by potentially reaching them where they live.

Sellors says the project got rolling this summer, as an extension of the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild (TORR). "[We were] trying to create projects or opportunities for people in their neighbourhoods to get outside, leave their homes and still feel safe."

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The eagerly awaited report from the UK’s first-ever nationwide citizens’ assembly on climate change launched earlier this month. Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six select committees of the House of Commons. It bought together 108 UK citizens over 6 weekends to provide recommendations on the question: “How should the UK meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?”

Citizens’ assemblies are the latest in a long line of research and advocacy on deliberative forms of democracy. Such processes bring together groups of citizens reflective of a wider population to learn about, discuss, and provide recommendations on how to address important issues. After decades of experimenting with these processes on environmental and science-related issues, it is heartening to see them enter the mainstream.

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As we approach the U.S. Census Bureau’s Sept. 30 deadline, we asked Latinx immigrants in three South Side neighborhoods — Back of the Yards, Pilsen and South Chicago — about the census and listened to their fears, hopes and the resources they want in their communities.

 

Whether or not they participate in the decennial count, many want their neighborhoods improved, and ultimately their communities recognized. And that can become very personal. 

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A group of eighth grade middle school students is raising money to purchase and preserve land along the Nonesuch River in Saco.

"I have taught for 15 years and rarely in my experience have I met a group of students so dedicated to the ideas to better their community." said teacher Andrew Ferch.

Ferch is helping to guide this group through this very ambitious project. The Sebago Eight is teaming with the Saco Valley Land Trust to raise $70,000 to purchase an eight-acre parcel of private land along the Nonesuch River in Saco to forever preserve.

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