The Michigan Municipal League identified eight essential assets that make communities vibrant places in the 21st Century (21c3). Our purpose is to help local officials identify, develop, and implement strategies that will grow and strengthen Michigan’s communities in the coming decades. Messaging and Technology is one of the eight assets that help local government achieve greater transparency and create new virtual meeting places where people across spectrums of society can share their input and ideas.
I recently came across this article in Fast Company on Analytics for Local Governments. Big data and transparency are key ingredients for bigger cities with big IT budgets. Now smaller communities have the opportunity to track how they are performing, utilizing Compass from Revelstone. I highly recommend taking the time to investigate Compass performance analytics and benchmarking platform for local governments.
How can we make our city a better place to live? This seems like a simple question and one that is often mulled over by local officials on a daily basis. The key part to the question is “WE”. What are local officials doing to include their citizens to become part of the solution to the question? And better yet, how are you as local leaders utilizing technology and communications to foster civic engagement?
I came across the question via the website changeby.us, which is a social network for grassroots leaders. This is a simple, yet exceptional use of technology for citizens to share their ideas, to work with their local leaders and to generate ideas to make their community a better place. In today’s fast-paced society of constant, partial attention, with many distractions, there is fierce competition to engage the community. Local leaders and citizens, though, have a common bond that helps with this attention span conundrum. They care about their community! Here is the challenge for Michigan’s local leaders; how do you embrace and utilize technology to facilitate more social connections between you and your citizens?
With one click, a tweet or status update, information can be easily shared. Although utilizing social networks for sharing information is important, local leaders should also utilize technology engagement to create and support opportunities for people to interact with others. Engagement technology should connect people, build relationships, increase participation in governance, simplify community discovery and enhance the ability to act. Creating a technology engagement plan is vital to increasing civic engagement in your community. What will you do in your community?
This week we’ll be up north on Mackinac Island for the League’s annual convention. The team at the League has put together an outstanding agenda and keynote speakers that are sure to inspire you. We are certain you’ll be able to take these “tools” back to your communities and incorporate many of the great placemaking ideas discussed.
One of the best parts of the convention for me, is the ability to network with local officials from around the state. We also focus on spreading the League’s mission, “The one clear voice for Michigan communities”, by utilizing our technological footprint to spread information, via Facebook, Twitter (our hashtag for convention is #mmlconv) and our numerous blogs. Make sure to visit http://convention.mml.org.
We also have a special convention smartphone app for Androids and iPhones. This free download will give you the agenda, blogs, social media feeds and all sorts of convention information right in the palm of your hand.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss innovative ideas to utilize social networking to enhance civic engagement, and cloud computing to support community operations, make sure you come visit me in the In•KNOW•vate technology hub. I’ll be there from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm on Thursday, October 4th. I’ll be able to demonstrate and walk you through your technology-related questions. I hope to see you there.
In less than a month hundreds of local officials will take part in the Michigan Municipal League’s annual convention on Mackinac Island. This is the premiere placemaking event in Michigan and you should “stop what you’re doing” and attend this convention. League staff have put together a tremendous agenda that will give you information from the day-to-day operations of being a municipal official to the high value targets of innovative placemaking strategies.
I’m very excited that Jeff DeGraff, the “Dean of Innovation”, is a keynote speaker at the convention. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Jeff speak on a few occasions and his approach to innovation, competing values and the principle of “See One, Do One, Teach One” have inspired many to become more innovative and “take multiple shots on goal”.
As Jeff states in the video below “until you make room for something new, there will be no opportunity to do something”. So again, I say stop what you’re doing and take the opportunity to be a part of the League’s convention in October.
How is technology changing the way you innovate in your community? Not all stories can be told in 140 characters, but when communities use the communication power of social networks, they are actually creating a less anonymous city and citizens are more encouraged, and willing to engage in community activities. This small change in a communication/engagement strategy is a prime example of how technology is supporting municipal innovations. Recently, I shared some useful insights on navigating and enjoying the power of the social media. Here are some other trending technologies that I’ve come across on the Internet.
#BigData – “Data is a critical asset for state and local government. What happens when you have too much data, and how do you make sense of it when data volume is growing 40% per year?”
#Cloud – “Cloud computing represents a fundamentally different way for government to architect computing resources.”
#Mobility – Global mobile data will increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015 and there will be nearly one mobile device per capita by 2015. Read how the Virginia Information Technology Agency is increasing employee productivity with BYOD.
#M2M – This is machine-to-machine communications, where one device transmits data wirelessly to another device. Read The Center for Digital Government‘s piece on M2M and Smart Technology.
Advances in technology have allowed even the smallest municipalities to cost-effectively innovate. Cutting costs and doing more with less is highly important in the municipal marketplace. Don’t underestimate the power to effectively innovate because of the increases in the above technologies. Communities should no longer be discouraged to try something “new” because they may fail. Failure can be a learning opportunity and believe me, most of the above trending technologies, have failed somewhere along the way.
As new and improved technology solutions are introduced, local officials have many difficult decisions to make about implementing new technologies, sometimes at a sizeable investment, or stay with the status-quo and squeak out another year with their current software and hardware. Don’t be fooled, both decisions have costs associated with them, and sometime staying with the status-quo will not save time or money.
So what is your community’s IT forecast? Right now is the perfect time for you to look at cloud-based solutions for your community’s day-to-day operations. Today, the cloud levels the playing field in terms of access to enterprise class hardware and software for communities of all sizes. No longer do you need huge IT budgets and numerous IT staff to have the latest and greatest.
One solution that you can implement right away, is to look at moving your e-mail and office productivity applications to the cloud. When I talk to different communities throughout Michigan, I find most are using Microsoft Office for their productivity suite of software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) and Microsoft Exchange for their e-mail server. I also hear that costs associated with staying current with the newest versions of the applications are too high to implement across the board. This leads to some city staff having different versions of the software and having to play the “Save As” game so that all documents can be shared. This is a waste of time and can cause many problems.
Microsoft now offers Office 365, which is their cloud-based solution that combines the best of both worlds (desktop and cloud). You only pay for what you need, which can be determined by a per user basis, through subscription-based access. It is easy to setup and use, your staff are already familiar with the applications. Office 365 allows your staff to work from virtually anywhere, with any device. Office 365 for government can cost as little as $3.50 per user, per month. All this while having your e-mail server protected and monitored 24/7 by a team of Microsoft specialists in a state of the art data warehouse.
Recently the Michigan Municipal League implemented Microsoft Office 365. With Exchange online, we’ve moved our e-mail to the cloud and no longer have to spend resources keeping our on premise server patched, protected, backed up and monitored. The League’s plan includes the current Microsoft Office desktop applications. By combining Office with Office 365, we have anytime, anywhere access to our applications, data and communications.
Discover Office 365 for yourself with this short video:
Here are a couple of useful links to stories that will help you navigate the social media world. Both social media neophytes and seasoned veterans will find this information helpful.
First up, from Mashable.com, a terrific social media resource on the Internet, a list of 12 essential cheat sheets on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Also includes some tips on social media etiquette.
Next, a friend e-mailed me this morning saying he came across A Politician’s Guide to Social Media, and thought it was another good reminder to those in public office on how to conduct themselves in the social media world. There is a short little video that you can watch from GovGirl which gives the following advice:
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see in tomorrow’s paper.
Know your agency’s social media policy.
Talk like a real person.
Abide by campaign and open meeting laws.
Never cross the streams!
The best thing about the Internet and social networking sites can also be the worst thing. Too much information and it becomes a daunting task to figure out where to start. I hope these links and sites give you some insight on navigating and enjoying the power of social media. As always, feel fee to contact me or comment on this blog for additional discussion.
Mobile experiences impact the way we work, live and play.
I’m not talking about the old American Express commercials with Karl Malden. I’m talking about our obsession with our mobile devices and how they are only a few feet from us at all times.
Mobile devices are changing the way we live, from how we share information, to the places we go and even to the way we prefer to communicate. Technical advances in wireless broadband give us all the power of the internet at our fingertips anytime, anywhere. In a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project report on mobile technology, 46% of all American adults own a smartphone and most use their devices to go online.
Mobile apps tie directly in with our social networking sites and allow all of us to share and/or “check-in” from our current location. This “current location” could be in your community. Communities should embrace the mobile app market, which can allow for direct communication with citizens and visitors to highlight parks, downtowns, and events.
There are a number of apps, such as SeeClickFix and App-Order.com, where citizens can report and get neighborhood issues fixed. This is a powerful tool for creating citizen engagement. Adding mobile applications to a community’s arsenal of communications, creates a better social connection with citizens, allowing citizens and municipalities to form a true partnership.
In today’s global society of “@” symbols, status updates, viral videos and #hashtags, it has never been easier for organizations to communicate with current followers or reach vast amounts of new followers. This is the same for communities of all shapes and sizes. Social media has given communities the low cost, efficient communications ability of any fortune 500 company.
The saying goes; a picture can say a thousand words. Well, a video can be even more powerful and allow you to produce a complete narrative. With minimal investment in a video camera, video editing software and utilizing YouTube or Vimeo (video social media sites), every community has the opportunity to highlight their unique assets.
Innovation is about bringing ideas to life, using creativity to look at, and even try something different. In a recent article I read “The 6 Questions That Lead To New Innovations” it said “innovation usually involves a fresh perspective on something that already exists”. Being innovative is different from being an “inventor”, and building something new.
I didn’t “invent” the social network, but neither did Mark Zuckerberg. However, I do use the power of social networking applications every day to amplify the League’s brand, push placemaking initiatives, and create connections from around the world. You can implement these same strategies to highlight your community’s assets and build a stronger social connection with your citizens.
Powerful communications tools already exist. Facebook and Twitter are easy to use, and they’re FREE. They will help you expand your reach and give you new opportunities to tell your community’s unique story. Look at the 6 questions of innovation to come up with new ideas to use your existing social networks. If you don’t have a social presence, these questions can help bring new ideas to your current communication strategies.