Day #100: Virtual town square

Where do we go from here?

Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.

  • Idea: A digital platform for focusing and growing conversations about bettering Richmond.
  • Difficulty: 1 — People care, technology need only be used to bring them together for better conversations and easier collaboration.

Day #100. It wasn’t always pretty or brilliant, but we made it. I’ve learned an incredible amount during this project (more on that in about a week), but one thing that stands out is the willingness of people to listen to ideas and civilly offer criticism or alternatives while discussing difficult issues. Richmond needs a “digital town square” where this type of engagement can be focused and these incredible conversations can continue and grow. 

The attendance at Richmond City Council meetings doesn’t always suggest it, but people in this city want to be engaged. Facebook and Twitter are frequently abuzz with people discussing issues, and it seems like every resident is informed and has an opinion about policies like the Shockoe Bottom development plan or Stone Brewing. These scattered conversations are rarely heard, or in this case read, by those who need to hear them the most. 

Andreas Addison, Richmond’s Civic Innovator, is working to capture these conversation in a project called ImproveRVA on the mindmixer platform. The project allows residents, who subscribe via Facebook or using an email address, to engage in rich conversations and polls about issues like transportation, neighborhood building, and education.

This is far from the first attempt at building an online platform for civic engagement, and probably won’t be the last. The platform needs that breakthrough idea that transforms it from MySpace and Friendster to Facebook, but imperfection is far from a reason to stall the pursuit.

There are dangers to moving part of the public forum online. Some of those who need their voices heard the most don’t have easy access to computers or the Internet. But the benefits of boosted engagement outweigh the dangers at this point. 

Over the coming decades, decisions made at the local level will be more important than ever. Civic participation will be essential to finding the best ideas, creating coalitions, and building a better Richmond. A “digital town square” is the logical next step in collaborating to reach these invaluable goals. 

Writing 100 articles about ideas to improve this city has been an incredible experience. The comments and conversations are what made it sustainable and enjoyable. I hope that these conversations can find a new home and continue thrive in a “digital town square.”

Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation. 

  • error

    Report an error

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

There is 1 reader comment. Read it.