Civic projects are how we accomplish big intentional changes in cities. Why, then, do we know so little about them?
Local governments aren’t the kid brothers of state and national governments. They are grounded in something different: people and places, and the interactions of the two. If you’re going to cover city hall, then, you can’t cover it the way you’d write about Congress or a state legislature. This is the first in a series of articles about how reporters and bloggers can write about city hall in smarter, more satisfying ways.
Most local officials have it wrong about citizen engagement. The point isn’t to hear what the citizens think about issues before the government. It’s about something deeper: understanding citizens’ long-term interests and desires. If done right, it can then lead to a second important goal: Recruiting citizens in taking on a community’s greatest problems and opportunities.
When things you’ve counted on don’t work anymore, advice will fly in from all sides. How do you make good choices for a city or an organization when the alternatives are so different? Take a deep breath, and set about answering three simple but important questions.
The best leaders are those who see dimensions to issues that others don’t. The key to that kind of thoughtfulness is knowing how to question assumptions. Here’s how to build a checklist that will help with seeing problems as like or unlike those that have come before.