Knight funds The Civic Commons to build on existing citizen engagement efforts to provide new ways for citizens to learn about local issues. Here, Dan Moulthrop from The Civic Commons, writes about its impact.
Sam Bell is an auto mechanic in an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. He calls himself an "eco-conscious" auto mechanic, and what that means, practically, is that he recycles everything he can at his garage (The Lusty Wrench), and he rides his bike to work every day. It also means that he takes a very active interest in his community. As the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district began public engagement on their proposed strategic plan, he grew worried that the district's commitment to sustainability was little more than "lip service." He had tried to raise this at public meetings but to no avail. So, in late December, he turned to The Civic Commons and invited the community to join in a conversation about his ideas.
At first, no one seemed to be paying attention. Since then, though, a few hundred people have accessed the conversation and almost 30 have participated in some fashion. The real success, though, lies in the fact that as a result of his efforts online and in the community, Sam recently got a meeting with the district superintendent. Here's what he posted on the Commons about that meeting:
"We wound up spending nearly an hour together, instead of the 20 minutes I had asked for. I think neither of us was unhappy about having spent so long....I invited him to call the Cambridge MA Supt of Schools, whom he turns out to know through involvement in a committee on which they both serve, to ask about their experience. He is willing to do so, and has asked me to furnish him information from other school systems which have managers of sustainability in place."