Columbia World Projects (CWP) today published a report to advise the New York City Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) on the adoption, launch and continued use of a digital platform to foster connections between residents and city government. The report, which emerged from a series of working groups convened by CWP, summarizes the meetings and outlines concrete recommendations to empower residents to engage city government and to cultivate more responsive structures of governance.
The report identifies how the CEC can enhance resident power in decision-making, work specifically with diverse and underserved communities to foster civic participation and trust, and systematize the use of their digital platform across agencies within city government. As the pandemic brings even greater urgency to these conversations, the report proposes possibilities for expanding digital access while still providing opportunities for low tech and offline forms of engagement.
“We are honored that the Civic Engagement Commission chose to work with us on this initiative. The participants we brought together, representing multiple sectors and geographies, offered diverse perspectives, which enriches the constructive input we are able to offer in this report,” said Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects’ Director of Research and Engagement.
In a series of five convenings held between April and July 2020, CWP brought together representatives from municipal governments, academic institutions, the private sector and community-based organizations in New York City. In these conversations, participants examined how the CEC might encourage residents to use new digital platforms for civic engagement; build capacity inside government agencies to realize the potential of participatory platforms; and develop practices that bolster, rather than erode, civic trust. The working groups also explored how best to launch and implement Decidim, a digital tool built to promote participatory democracy and adopted by the CEC.
Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission, said of the report: “The Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) is deeply grateful to Columbia World Projects for facilitating a rare and special convening of multi-sector experts to guide our work to build civic participation to enhance civic trust and promote democracy in NewYork City. The encouragement, support, ideas and advice we gathered during these gatherings have advanced participatory democracy and reinforced our development as a nascent City agency.
“Since the convenings, the CEC has launched www.participate.nyc.gov, a site built with the Decidim platform in order to strengthen civic engagement, a platform covered extensively in the report.” Dr. Sayeed further noted, “We treasure the partnership with Columbia and all of the convening attendees and are excited to work together with everyone to raise the momentum for greater civic participation in our City.”