CIVIC ENGAGEMENT - A NEW FAD?

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 14:12.

Following is a piece I posted on BFD in response to Ed Morrison bringing the Boston Civic Engagement Summit to my attention last week.  (the links wouldn’t copy live to BFD when I pasted in my Word doc. there, so I duplicate the post here with live links)

 

Ed,

I did attend the all day Civic Engagement Summit in Boston, Mass last Saturday.    The co-founder of  City Year, Alan Khazei, and Dr. Thomas Sander, social capital expert and author of Bowling Alone  among others, were speakers.  Their messages were powerful – especially Dr. Sander’s.   He should be invited to speak at the City Club of Cleveland.

 

America Speaks, the same organization that facilitated (for about 3 million dollars) Voices and Choices in Cleveland (now weirdly re-named to Advance Northeast Ohio) , was in charge of the afternoon “visioning” session. 

 

V&C  was, I think, worse than a failure in Cleveland because all the time and energy which citizens invested in the multiple feel-good sessions seems to have come to naught.  I think V&C was a “pillow pounding” session intended to sap the energy of volunteer contributors and exhaust them – to allow the Cuyahoga established corporate powers and County office holders to go on about their own agendas un-impeded.   That’s unarguably been the practical outcome in Cleveland, anyway.   The outcome seems to have been manipulated from the top. 

 

 

Manipulation may not be Joe Goldman’s (who MC’d the Boston Summit) problem, but the Boston forum and it’s table-side facilitators and central “theme team” (who cull and edit the computer delivered “visioning” suggestions uploaded from the facilitators) have a huge and unseen latitude in editing and “molding” the message released almost immediately back to the attendees.

 

Because there are still several newspapers active in Boston, the civic “communications” break- out session that I attended in the morning  was almost completely internet ignorant.  In Boston the advice for civic activists was to get to know the person at the “assignment” desk at the local TV and radio channels – and reporters at the newspapers. 

 

I got up and opined that tying yourself to the conventional media was like tying yourself to the Titanic.   I suggested blogging (ala Realneo and BFD and Callahan Daily) and letting Google make the necessary connections with the established media.   Report on the web and the conventional media will come find it….

 

 In Boston civic communication sophistication is considerably behind even the introductory RealNeo session which you invited Norm Roulet to conduct at REI four years ago.     So Cleveland today is, in my opinion, more advanced technologically and results-wise in region-wide civic engagement communication than is Boston. 

 

I will post a more extensive report on Realneo soon.    

 

By the way, the Boston Foundation, which was a major funder for the Civic Engagement Summit, is considering “mapping” the Boston civic network – and the changes that come to it from these face to face seminars which the Boston Foundation is helping to fund.  Tell Valdis Krebs to contact them – there may be some business there…

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