PPF Blog

Councilmatic a Finalist in Knight Cities Challenge

We’re pleased that Councilmatic has been named a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge, to expand and deepen our non-profit work on civic engagement in Philadelphia.

Bit dramatic example of alert feature placement on Event page (NYC version).

Bit dramatic example of alert feature placement on Event page (NYC version).

Councilmatic is one of 158 entries to advance out of over 4,500 submissions, 20 of which are with us in focusing on Philadelphia. In this effort, we’re joined by local partners Code For Philly and their E.D. Dawn McDougall, and Councilmatic’s creator Mjumbe Poe will continue as an advisor.

Our proposal builds on our unique open city data, and will help residents stay in touch with what’s happening in their communities with “push” alerts:

Councilmatic: Get Alerts for Local Events by Participatory Politics Foundation (submitted by David Moore): Increasing civic engagement by enabling residents to subscribe to alerts for public events, such as city meetings, via email and text messaging.

… for example, a Philadelphia resident who cares about education issues can subscribe to an alert when the education committee meets, or considers major legislation. A resident who follows local concerns in her neighborhood can get regular updates about her council member’s actions and keywords related to her community.

Another page where visitors can subscribe to local issue alerts

Another page where visitors can subscribe to local issue alerts – hoping to bring this to Philadelphia and more cities

More than just a more user-friendly web design, Councilmatic works to close the feedback loop of civic engagement by hosting public comments and communicating them to council staff. As a result of these alerts, Philadelphia groups such as Code For Philly can get SMS updates on committee activity, with links for their members to comment on Councilmatic’s responsive web app (even if they can’t make it in-person to a public event, e.g. during the workday).

Regional journalists  & political bloggers will have a powerful new tool for tracking council activity – for example, email alerts when new committee agendas and minutes are released. City government professionals currently track committee activity by researching on official sites and on Councilmatic, but we can do much more to push timely info out to the public – getting alerts is a key piece of activating the connectors, the community hubs, and spreading local info through local channels such as neighborhood email lists and social media groups. This model has worked for engagement at the federal level with PPF’s OpenCongress and at the state level with the Open States Project data, and now we’re excited to bring it down to the city level – it’s a widely missing piece of open-data infrastructure for other civic developers and community groups, not just for our app.

We’ll develop modular alert features in open-source code as always with our stellar tech partners at DataMade. As with our current HeartGov partnership in NYC, we’ll emphasize SMS options in addition to email and social media for wider accessibility.

Philadelphia groups & journalists– please get in touch with examples of how you’d like to be alerted to local issues. Just email me, david at ppolitics.org, or chat me, davidmooreppf on Skype. Or Tweet at me & Dawn, we’re easy to reach and we’d love to include your story and goals in our full application to Knight Cities.

Not just Philly, but many more Knight Foundation resident cities could use these alerts for local engagement, we’re aiming to cover more (Miami, Detroit, we see you). Even now, get in touch to discuss options for bringing Councilmatic (and future alert features) to your city as a unique open data public resource, simply email us: info at councilmatic.org.

Thank you to the Knight Foundation National Program for advancing our proposal, excited to submit a full version with Code For Philly for these much-requested city features – hoping to hear back in Spring, will update. Feel free to get in touch!

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