Wednesday, April 19, 2017

12 Empowering Ways to Engage in Civic Affairs

It's evident that there's a growing desire among people, especially here in the U.S., to get involved in civic affairs. 
While online organizing can be an effective means of bringing about change, there's something powerful about showing up in person to talk with public officials and connect with others who are fighting for the same causes. 
We've pulled together a list of 12 ways to boost civic engagement. The list includes several suggestions from Lawrence Grodeska, founder of CivicMakers, a San Francisco-based social enterprise that offers collaborative civic tech tools, consulting, and other services for public agencies and nonprofits. 
1. Join a participatory budgeting initative: Participatory budgeting enables citizens to vote on how public and other funds should be spent. As we reported recently, the concept is becoming popular in the U.S. PB, as it's commonly known, can be done on a very small scale - at schools or community organizations - or on a larger scale, in cities, counties, and states. It's also a great opportunity for kids to learn and have a voice in budgeting processes. 
2. Attend city council meetings: A easy way to stay up-to-date on issues affecting your city is to attend local city council meetings. If you're unable to attend, check your local television listings as many community television stations broadcast council meetings. 
3. Attend town hall meetings: Town halls give constituents a way to connect directly with state and local representatives. They're all the rage now, as people are energized to make their voices heard, but they've long been a part of civic discourse and engagement at all levels of government. 
4. Join or create a Civic User Testing Group: The Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup), which is based in Chicago, is a community of residents who get paid to test civic websites and apps. It's an emerging field, but as open government platforms and tools become more commonplace, it's poised to spread around the country. 
5. Start or join a Civic Saturday club: Civic Saturday clubs are gatherings for people who want to learn more about politics and civic responsibility, engage in their communities, and reflect on the challenges we all face. 
6. Run for office: If you're ready to make a next-level commitment to improving the lives of your neighbors and fellow citizens, consider running for office. For information on getting started, check out VoteRunLead and 
7. Get involved in placemaking projects: Placemaking is a way of reclaiming public spaces, such as sidewalks, plazas, streets, and parking lots, as community spaces. Placemaking includes everything from street art projects and mobile libraries to pop-up public spaces, complete with classes, music performances, and other activities. 
8. Work for local government: One of the best ways to learn about the political system is to get a job in your local government. The connections made and hands-on learning experience will provide an invaluable glimpse into the functioning (and sometimes dysfunctioning) of government. 
9. Explore community land trusts: Community land trusts, which ensure community stewardship of land, are primarily used to ensure long-term affordable housing. Get involved with your local land trusts to have a say in the future of your town. 
10. Read the Constitution: How many of us have read the U.S. Constitution in its entirety? If you're overdue, make time to read it and further your understanding of the core tenants the U.S. is founded on. You can read it at 
11. Support independent journalism: More than ever, it's crucial find and support news outlets that are guided by a commitment to the truth rather than the political leanings of their owners. 
12. Turn off your TV and put your phone down: When it comes down to it, engaging more in your community often involves the simple act of turning off your television or gadget and getting out into your community. You'll meet people you might not have otherwise, get a first-hand look at the workings of your local government, and find ways to engage that are a good fit for you and your family. 
To get regular tips and resources about offline civic engagement, subscribe to the CivicMakers newsletter.
Header photo by mauro mora via unsplash. Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sweden Opens World’s First Mall for Repaired and Recycled Goods

(Photo by ReTuna Återbruksgalleria)
by , Good News Network: 
A new generation of recycling has now gone from local drop-off centers to a shopping mall that sells only repaired or upcycled products.
The new recycling establishment, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, has nothing to do with the fish; instead, it was named after the Swedish town in which the building is located, Eskilstuna, Sweden.
The facilities contain both a recycling center and a shopping mall. Customers can donate the items that they no longer need, then shop for something new - all in one stop.
Dropped off goods are sorted into various workshops where they are refurbished or repaired accordingly. Products are then sorted into 14 specialty shops that include furniture, computers, audio equipment, clothes, toys, bikes, and gardening and building materials; all garnered from second-hand products.
The center also includes a café and restaurant with a heavy focus on organic products, as well as a conference and exhibition facility complete with a specialty school for studying recycling. The center, which is operated by the local municipality, has benefitted the local economy by creating 50 new repair and retail jobs, and providing space for private start-ups and local artisans.
The biggest bonus for the Swedish community is how the center relieves local government from the tremendous burden and expense of disposing of unwanted goods while turning potential “waste” into profits.
“Our idea is that the customer comes here and leaves for example some furniture and clothing that can get tired or have no use for anymore,” says Anna Bergström, center manager ReTuna Recycling Galleria. “Then you go a lap at the mall. Maybe find a new jacket and a new framework that will make the photograph of the grandfather unique and extra fine. Since you eat organic lunch in our restaurant to gather strength to go another lap and find new flowers for the garden and a new lamp for the living room. When you leave here, you should feel that you did something good for the environment and that they shopped climate.”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Co-Creation - The Death Knell For Creative Agencies?

Ensure you're talking to experts in community recruitment & management
by , The Drum:

The broadcast model of advertising is dead.

Audiences, especially younger audiences, do not trust mainstream media outlets, Government, politicians, banks or big business and if brands are not careful, they will also fall into this growing bucket of institutions that have lost touch with their audiences.

Young people are becoming increasingly disenfranchised. This is hardly groundbreaking news, but recent global events seem to be making matters much worse. The banking crisis, Brexit and Trump getting elected all typify the disconnect between generations Y and Z and the ‘establishment’. Add to this fake news and who could blame these young people for being suspicious of what they see on TV or read in a newspaper.

Young people have a serious problem with traditional sources of information. The ways that information is shared has changed dramatically. Anyone can now be a publisher, a brand or media owner in their own right. Audiences don’t have to rely on news organizations for their news any more.

The world has changed for brands and brand marketing too. Brands have long understood the need for an authentic connection with their audiences. But smart advertising alone is not enough to engage young people who are searching for meaning in their relationships. Brands need to engage at a deeper level with their audiences who are making purchasing decisions based on what a brand stands for. A popular and successful way to create an emotional connection is to align with passion points of the target. Using music or sport has been hugely successful.

Cause is also now rapidly becoming a significant mobilising agent for youth audiences who care about the world around them. Young people don’t just want to know that a brand has integrity. They want to be involved; they want to be part of the conversation and play an active role.

Creative agencies largely still believe that they have the best ideas. And why wouldn’t they? There are some incredible minds in the creative agency world, but there is also a great deal of ego. And there has to be. You have to come up with the best ideas in the world for the biggest brands in the world - and for the biggest fees in the world. Who owns the idea? What does that even mean? Why do the majority of brands insist on developing their marketing strategies in isolation from their audiences?

Concepts are developed by creative teams, then in some cases, they then hit qualitative testing - which can either meet with approval or the idea gets killed. It’s the way it has been done for a long time. Creative agency groups have a significant chip in the game, with billing for global powerhouse brands numbering in the many millions. So its understandable that they should want to maintain the status quo. But the audience has already moved on.

There is more audience research and data than ever before - which should mean good news for audiences. However, a recent study by Havas found that “Some 60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is 'just clutter' that has little impact on consumers’ lives … that failure means globally consumers would not care if 74% of brands disappeared, with that figure rising to 94% in UK”. If this research is to be believed, there is a fundamental change needed in the way brands operate, especially in the UK.

So how do brands break out of the old model, create an authentic connection with their audiences and start making content that isn’t just ‘clutter?’ Co-creation is where brands are brought together with the audiences in creative communities to generate insights and ideas that lead to content. It seems painfully obvious that brands who want to know what their audiences think and feel should involve them in the creative process, but remarkably few actually do.

Brands have the opportunity to be a facilitator for new ideas, to become a platform for creative expression. Young people today want to be the architects of the brands and the causes they care most about. Empowering the audience gives a sense of shared ownership and sense of shared purpose that cannot be achieved through traditional approaches to marketing.

If you are a brand that is interested in co-creation, here are a few pointers to consider:
  1. Start by building a community. It’s important to find the right voices to contribute, so make sure you are talking to experts in community recruitment and management.
  2. Allow innovation to travel upstream. Don’t be afraid to let your audience explore new approaches to old problems - be brave.
  3. Be dynamic. Allow the ideas (not the old model) to drive the solution.
There is a huge opportunity for creative agencies to harness the power of co-creation for their clients by getting involved now. It’s just the ideas may not always be born in the boardroom. If you are a brand that is looking to get closer to your audience, create content that has a much greater chance of landing successfully and all for a fraction of the price, then perhaps co-creation is for you. 

Simon Voysey is partnerships and marketing director at Latimer. He Tweets at @Moorchat.