The open house, the charrette, the visioning meeting, the public hearing: time intensive platforms for civic participation have shown their limitations in being able to bring a wide swath of community members into the planning process. But web-based platforms like Neighborland, Textizen, and Community PlanIt are allowing a new generation to connect to their local governments.
The editors at Government Technology look at a few other platforms that are new to us. One is Voterheads, "a free online engagement platform that alerts citizens via email when their city, county or school board is discussing a topic that they’re interested in." Another is Open Town Hall, which promises to "[move] the public meeting process online, acknowledging some 21st-century realities and offering a few other advantages too."
"Open Town Hall requires registration, and the topics are presented by the jurisdiction," explain the authors. "Rather than restricting input, said [Peak Democracy co-founder Mike Cohen], it broadens the appeal of participation and brings in many more moderate views. Open Town Hall also requires a geocoded address so that input on an issue can be evaluated based on its location."
A "platform to watch" is Placehood.org: a “virtual place to discuss real places that you want to see transformed.”