The Maple Ridge municipality is overhauling their website and, among other goals, wants to incorporate a way to have better direct communication and discussion with citizens. Dave Speers, Maple Ridge’s Neighbourhood Development Coordinator, asked a few people to take a look at the software platforms they are considering. As one of the organizers of the Neighbourhood Champions group, I was included in that group.
Here’s the problem they are trying to solve: Communication between citizens and the municipality is generally either one-way (via notices posted in the paper or signboards), or via phone or email conversations (which are limited to a small number of people), or via council meetings (which aren’t a great forum for discussion and are hard to get to for many people).
As an example, imagine a neighbourhood that is having traffic problems. Currently, a few people might write letters to the municipality and the municipality might do a traffic analysis and install some stop-signs.
That’s all well and good, but maybe the people who wrote the letters are only complaining about a small part of a larger traffic problem that will not be addressed by dealing with one specific aspect. Maybe other people have ideas about how to fix the problem at its source. Maybe other people would be annoyed that the altered traffic patterns in their neighbourhood affect them and they weren’t consulted and didn’t have the chance to comment.
This approach might be better: People concerned about the traffic problem have the opportunity to join an online discussion group where they can lay out the problem in detail and discuss solutions with people from the municipality. The municipality would have a much larger set of information and would be able to make use of the problem-solving skills of people affected by the problem. Citizens would have the opportunity to be better informed, both about the original problem and about the reasoning behind solution.
The municipality is considering a number of software packages to enable this kind of communication. The three favourites are:
Please feel free to take a look at and share any comments you have. I’ll collect up all the comments and forward them to Dave Speers.