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connect / 2016

Local civic engagement is hard. Let’s make it easier.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by The Burg

The Burg is an innovative digital public square that connects communities and gives los angeles residents the tools to address local issues and #buildbettercities.

Please describe your project proposal.

The Burg is an online platform that will make it easy for individuals to address the local issues of their community in real time. The Burg will connect members of a district and allow them to communicate directly through collective expression (i.e. petitions, campaigns, public service projects). By creating a private space dedicated to informing and organizing members of a community, the Burg will connect LA residents and cultivate civic engagement in a truly innovative way.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Public/open streets gatherings
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have
  • Voting rates

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

We built the Burg in response to the lack of local civic engagement and community involvement we noticed in our city. After meeting with dozens of local organizations, neighborhood councils, and community leaders, we realized that the central problem facing local civic engagement is how widespread and disconnected our communities are. The online hyperconnectivity that defines our relationships with our friends, family, and even our work life is noticeably absent when it comes to local civic involvement. In fact, there is no easy way for a community to share information and take action over local issues.

In response we created The Burg, a digital public square built exclusively for your community. The Burg is an online and mobile based platform that brings together the different elements of civic engagement on a single platform, from local discussions and citizen driven projects, to information about upcoming policy and city planning.

Residents submit posts which are then seen, discussed, and upvoted or downvoted by the community. In this way the most pressing and important issues are brought to the forefront for everyone to see and interact with. Community members will have the option of making different types of posts, including simple text posts as well as more complex options such as petitions, campaigns, videos, polls, and projects.

The Burg will also connect communities with their elected leadership and government organizations. Elected officials and publically funded offices such as LAPD, LAFD, Neighborhood Council and City Council will have unique verified pages to inform and communicate with their Burg. From these pages they can make public posts as well as solicit feedback on certain issues through polls and direct Q&A’s posts.

When a new user wants to join The Burg they will need to either prove they are a registered voter, or register to vote online, right then and there. We also provide an option to join The Burg for those unable to register to vote. We have collaborated with the nonprofit group Rock the Vote to provide a quick and easy way to verify and register voters online through The Burg. A Burg user’s community will consist of their City Council district, with the option to expand to include neighboring areas if they choose.

At the heart of this project is our belief that cities are home to a vast reserve of untapped potential in the form of actively engaged residents. People do care about the areas they live in and they want some say in direction of their city. By making communication easier, information about local issues more accessible, and organizing readily available for all, we can unlock some of that potential. We believe through the use of technology, we can make LA the best place to connect by lowering some of the barriers that inhibit civic engagement.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

We will consider The Burg a success if we accomplish the following:

  1. Expand the number of people who play an active part in their community and local politics

  2. Improve communication between residents as well as between community leaders, elected officials, and civic organizations

  3. Increase voter registration and turnout

As a nonpartisan platform, our goal is not to push a particular political agenda. Rather, we aim to get as many people involved in their community as possible and give them the tools to improve their city. Although it is difficult to measure civic engagement on the local level, there are a number of reliable indicators we will consult, such as voter turnout, the instances of locally driven campaigns and petitions, and the prevalence of community oriented discussions around public issues. These metrics, along with direct feedback from elected officials, organizations, and community leaders will give us a measure of the success of The Burg. Furthermore, by requiring users to register to vote or verify their status to access The Burg, we aim to directly increase voter registration.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Staff
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research