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Improving City Services with Collaborative Innovation

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Inspire Boulder

In a networked world, every idea is an inspiration. Inspire Boulder in Boulder, Colorado, is a great recent example of collaboration that would only have been possible in a networked world. The developers created a virtual town hall open to the entire community anywhere and anytime. The project will enable residents to connect with one another and talk about projects, issues, and programs as they would using many social networking websites, only this time the focus is on improving the city for everyone.

Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley talked about the project, saying that the city has very involved, informed citizens, but not everyone has the time or ability to make it to town meetings. As a result, the same voices end up being represented most of the time.

Huntley said:

We know there are a lot of people who are out there who don’t have time to come to public meetings. It simply is too much of a hurdle. Sometimes they e-mail in their feedback, but, too often, they don’t provide feedback at all.

The answer is a website powered by MindMixer, a software program that makes it easy to create a virtual town hall. The program can be customized for any group that would benefit from a wider collaboration, from a school on up in size to a neighborhood in a large city. It allows people to submit, comment, and vote on ideas. With Inspire Boulder, the best ideas with the most support move to the top.

Each MindMixer site has number of forums that are directed at current and future projects. Inspire Boulder includes the Boulder Civic Area Project, Boulder’s Energy Future, Recycling and Waste Reduction, and a Transportation Master Plan, with more forums to come.

The town hall is not only online. As always, the city will hold workshops and the standard town hall meetings. The virtual town hall is designed to expand that work and let more people get into the conversation, especially those who cannot make it to the actual town hall.

Is it working?

Michael Banuelos from Boulder said:

The site had 75 registered users by 8 pm Monday, the first day it was live, and 30 people submitted ideas and 10 people left comments. The notion of being able to get input and have idea collaboration 24/7 is huge. No longer are we in the confines of a regular public meeting. That’s the power of this. And then the best ideas can come to the top organically.

That’s the reason the project is called Inspire Boulder. I again recommend you to take a look at the site and the software. It is a great place to start thinking about how you can incorporate networked collaboration to expand and improve the conversations in your schools, places of worship, village, town, city, or anyplace else that depends on the input of as many people as possible, to reach the best and most collaborative agreements.

Source: “City launches ‘Inspire Boulder’ website for public collaboration, idea generation,” Daily Camera, 08/20/12