Thursday, April 19, 2012

Virtual Town Hall - Piedmont Voice …

The Piedmont Triad Sustainable Communities Planning Project has partnered with MindMixer to provide a virtual “town hall” website dedicated to soliciting ideas and feedback from residents about a broad variety of interesting and engaging community issues. This new public engagement platform allows a more diverse audience of participants that might not be able to attend conventional public meetings.

When I checked MindMixer in April 2012 it had 29 communities; see MindMixer Communities for a list.  They have learned through experience optimal engagement comes when technology is combined with two C’s (Content and Context) as illustrated in visual.  

MindMixer Technology appears to be an effective tool to capture insights with feedback that is relevant. is one of several communities taking advantage of this innovative tool.

The MindMixer web site states:
First things first, let’s start with technology, because it’s still very important. Technology should allow the government agency a diversity of functionality. Crowd sourcing ideas is an important functional element, but so is functionality that supports prioritization, interactive budgeting, and traditional survey questions. Equally important, the public facing design of the technology plays a key role in success. Together, functionality and design provide the foundation for total engagement.
Assuming an agency has adequate technology (preferably MindMixer :), success is contingent on executing the two C’s. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, content is king. Creating and presenting compelling content is difficult for lots of government agencies. Why? Typically the most successful content is either controversial emotional or non-technical. Government agencies often times fear the emotional and operate in the technical (by requirement). Helping these entities understand the importance of creating and presenting content that yields interest and maintains simplicity is critically important.
Compelling content can change the trajectory of engagement effort instantly. Combining compelling content with context can take a community to even greater heights. Offering participants contextually relevant opportunities to participate makes engagement personal. Context should be driven by demographics, location, and interest. Asking a citizen for ideas about a new streetscape works. Asking a citizen for ideas about a streetscape in their neighborhood works better. Asking a citizen about ideas for a streetscape in their neighborhood, while they are walking on the street brings engagement to an entirely different level. Context creates ownership. Ownership leads to action. Action solves problems.
In summary:
The engagement technology you choose is important, but it’s only one predictor of success.  Make your content interesting and emotional. Emotion drives interest.  Add context to the conversation. It creates personal ownership.”  Extract from

As I reflect on the Design Funnel discussed in previous blogs, tools such as MindMixer provide a method of expanding the efficiency of the process of moving through the Design Funnel.  In the wide area of the funnel where degree of freedom is large, Ideas would be captured more efficiently.  In the not too distance past this process was done by going to the library and exploring what may be available as options for refinement into Goals, Solutions, Products, Processes, Services or Experiences.  More recently search engines have removed the inefficiency of this activity.  With this new technology humans and technology should work more in concert to build a more viable approach to discovering and refining the ideas/options that will lead to the objective quicker.
The diagram also includes Triple Bottom Impacts that focus on Social (Quality), Environmental (Sustainability) and Economic (Dollars).  Other views of the Triple Bottom Line Impacts focus on People, Planet and Profit.  The blog A Better Way .... Triple Bottom Line Impacts” discuss this in more detail.

The Southeast Guilford Community Association has a goal to “Develop Alliances with strategic organizations”.  The Southeast Guilford Community Alliances   are focused on enhancing the Quality of Life, strengthening community both now and for future generations, encouraging growth and financial support of community and businesses. They work independently and collaboratively toward that end.    
It occurs to me that the MindMixer tool would be useful to groups such as The Southeast Guilford Community Alliance for engaging the broader community in an interactive Virtual Town Hall.  Community forums and surveys have been used in the past to address this issue.  Another thought is that PiedmontVoice expand to allow smaller independent community Virtual Town Hall Voices.
Hopefully this blog and others at will be useful in triggering ideas that will benefit PiedmontVoice and Piedmont Triad Sustainable Communities Planning Project