Archives for the month of: November, 2009
Noelle McAfee

Noelle McAfee

In this week’s edition of my podcast, Public Life Today, I interview Kettering Review editor and George Mason professor Noelle McAfee.

I am proud to count Noelle as a friend. I recently noticed a piece in her blog, Gone Public, in which she lays out some directions she suggests we need to go in order for new media (all media, really) to be of most benefit to civic life.

Our conversation was very fruitful and it’s well worth your time listening!

My latest piece is posted at Public Square Today, my blog at Washington Times Communities:

What Public Officials Want To Know About New Technology

So, this is the Internet? by Flickr user NJLA

"So, this is the Internet?" by Flickr user NJLA

In a workshop last week on new technology for engagement at the National League of Cities conference in San Antonio, we had a room full of more than a hundred mayors, city council members, and other municipal officials from across the nation. We thought it would be a good idea to start the session out by asking them to tell us the one question they were hoping would be answered when it comes to new technologies. We passed out index cards and asked them to write it down. We got sixty back, about two thirds of the audience.

What we got in return was a snapshot of public leaders’ anxieties when it comes to integrating new technologies into existing operations. They shook out into four basic areas: Finance; Reach; Implemenation and Use; and Legal and Security.

I go into detail on these at the article here. Take a look!

My latest piece is posted at Public Square Today, my blog at Washington Times Communities:

Gift Cards And Back Alleys

In the bribery case against embattled Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon, the allegations revolve around gift cards. The prosecution says she misused “dozens” of gift cards originally meant for needy families. She says she thought the cards were meant for her all along.

A shadow economy

A shadow economy

Gift cards are becoming a shadow economy, not quite credit but not as liquid as cash, where the anonymity provided by the arm’s-length nature of the deal makes it easy to create deniability. Gift cards are a popular method to pay for illicit transactions ranging from prostitution to drugs to graft.

It’s unlikely that gift cards – which are really just hyper-convenient gift certificates or traveler’s checks – will go away. Indeed, as the recession-lengthened holiday gift giving season begins and retailers are pinning some of their hopes on the continued popularity of the plastic ducats. Consumers spent $24.9 billion with them last year.

This is an example of new technologies outstripping society’s rules. In public life, we too often watch idly as this happens. Instead of playing catch-up, public leaders need to be thinking around the next corner and imagining what kinds of new rules we will need to deal with the new ideas bombarding society’s fabric. New ways of banking, new ways of communication, new meanings for the word “community” – we know all these things are happening. Yet there are few serious efforts to predict, understand, or take into account what these changes will mean for the way public life ought to look.

Read the rest here.

Today I had the great fortune to be able to co-present with my friends Joe Peters and David Campt on using new technologies to engage citizens. We led a workshop at the National League Of Cities’ Annual Congress in San Antonio.

We each covered a different aspect of what it means for public-facing institutions to engage using new technologies. I kicked it off with an overview of what the new, citizen-centric world looks like (based on work that I have been doing with John Creighton) and went through a few very basic examples to get people’s ideas flowing.

I purposefully did not go into social media, as that  was being covered by Joe. David led a lively discussion about the use of keypad technology in face-to-face meetings.

Below is my presentation:

You can download the presentation here.

We got a number of questions in writing from the audience, which Joe and I will be answering on our respective blogs.

My latest piece is posted at Public Square Today, my blog at Washington Times Communities:

Poll: Veterans Ready To Serve On The Home Front

In the first-ever study of its kind, a new report released today by the public policy research firm Civic Enterprises shows that the new generation of veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan are eager to serve their communities and offer their leadership to the home front.

Photo by U.S. Army via Flickr

Photo by U.S. Army via Flickr

However, according to the report, the nation’s returning veterans face a number of obstacles including a lack of information about how to connect to such service, and a majority says no local organization has reached out to them to seek their involvement upon their return. The report was underwritten by Target and by the Case Foundation.

“Our young troops and their families have done everything their country has asked of them,” writes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen in a foreword to the report, which is the first representative survey of this generation of veterans. “Their lives have been changed forever by war, but their dreams haven’t changed at all. They want to raise their children, own a home, go to school, find work and even find new ways to contribute. Most of all, they want to be good citizens. They want to reconnect and renew their relationship to their local communities.”

In fact, according to the survey, almost 9 in 10 veterans said Americans could learn something from their example of service. And 92 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) veterans say that serving their community is important to them. But just half considered themselves leaders in their communities as a result of their military service. And almost seven in ten say they have not been contacted by any community institution.

Read the rest here!