City Hall 2.0

In the latest issue of American City & County, there is a great article about how government can engage the community it serves. Norwalk has taken some steps but clearly lacks a plan on how to get there. I’ve excerpted the start below:

This article appeared in the February 2012 issue with the title, “City Hall 2.0.”

Access to government drives engagement. The more opportunities residents have to participate in civic activities and discussions, and the more channels available through which they may participate, the better connected they will be to their government agencies and representatives.

A well-run, city or county contact center can centralize customer service and offer residents a variety of channels to communicate with their government, including live agent, Web, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), mobile and social media. Those technologies are not only being used by big and affluent jurisdictions. Thanks to open source software, interoperability and portability, mapping and location-based services, low-cost mobile and no-cost social media, all shapes and sizes of local government can expand access to people, data and services.

Multi-channel contact centers generate citizen engagement by matching technology tools to community demographics and popular devices. Engagement in a community may be boosted through free mobile apps, wireless public kiosks or grant-funded public computers at libraries and senior centers.

Recent elections have demonstrated the power and communication value of new media technologies. The reach of text messages and social media postings can be compounded by a variety of community networks when residents forward information to friends, families and co-workers.

Mobile applications are becoming the most rapidly adopted technology in history and are increasingly important in providing access to the Internet. Mobile phone applications can extend outreach to groups that may be difficult to contact, including visually impaired people and those who are hearing impaired. In fact, low-income residents and minorities are twice as likely to use a mobile phone than a desktop computer, according to recent Nielsen data.

Data and customer feedback from mobile applications and other new media technologies can help drive change and improvement in government operations. Cities and counties can use data from multi-channel contact centers to identify high complaint areas, specific needs for workload and resource allocation, trends in business processes, customer communication requirements, and government effectiveness and timeliness in addressing problems.

For example, if 40 people in a neighborhood complain about a wastewater problem, that data can be used to target resources for capital improvements and to possibly garner votes for a bond program. At the same time, data that identifies two people who called 20 times each may not represent a real problem.

A number of local governments are actively engaging residents through their multi-channel contact centers. The “311 Action Center – We’re On It” in Kansas City, Mo., functions as residents’ central point of contact for city services. The call center receives about 450,000 calls per year, and 49 percent of residents used 311 services last year. After the city upgraded its integrated online service request application in 2009, usage doubled. The city recently launched KCStat, a data-driven, citizen-participation initiative to improve city services, beginning with the highest complaint areas. A related effort, KCMOmentum, uses a social media framework to generate ideas from the community and online discussions.


Boston’s multi-channel contact center handles 94.9 percent of the more than 260,000 annual calls to the city and, in 2011, answered 98.65 percent of calls within 30 seconds. The city also engages residents using social media and a new live online chat service, so they can become the “eyes and ears” of the city. Through “Citizen Connect,” residents report problems and submit service requests to the call center, online and through mobile phones, using a downloadable smartphone application with texting or tweeting.

Thoughts on Civility

After the Community Conversation, the summary of the Community Conversation. Yes the link below leads you to the data collected on the over 50 participants who shared what they thought about what civility meant to them.


click here -> civility_statement (pdf)

The Hour Covers Civility Conversation

A nice article by Danielle Calpalbo on what happened during the Community Conversation on Civility.

By DANIELLE CAPALBO Hour Staff Writer NORWALK — “Bark less, wag more.” That was among the suggestions put forth Wednesday during a salon-style conversation about civility, planned by Red Apples, an education reform group, and Norwalk 2.0, a community development group.
The function took place at Fat Cat Pie Co., where upward of 40 people– councilmembers, political hopefuls and parents among them – chatted over wine and pizza about the tenor of public discourse in the city.
“It’s about civility and chardonnay,” said Lisa Brinton Thomson, a co-founder of Red Apples. “We are trying to pull this town together in a relaxed setting to talk about something important. We’re all Norwalkers.”
For some, the impetus to attend was public education. For others, it was the budget process, which descended last spring, at times, into gridlock and hostility.
“It was the most contentious budget cycle I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Councilman Doug Hempstead. “Civility could use a comeback.”
Judy Meikle, who runs the GED program for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, Inc. (NEON), attended the forum to encourage model behavior among adults.
“Young people watch what we do,” she said. “The way that adults behave – we are setting an example.”
Others were drawn by curiosity, they said, and others to listen.
The audience included candidates for the Common Council and Andy Garfunkel, the Democrat vying to become the mayor.
The sense among the crowd was that civility has taken a battering in local and national dialogue, largely because of the down economy.
“Without job security and with work being outsourced, there are a lot of angry people,” said Olive Hayward, a longtime corporate employee who attended the forum with her husband, Julius, the vice chairman of the Norwalk Parking Authority.
Hempstead suggested that decorum can be lost when critics are able to remain anonymous; he pointed to city blogs, where comments are sometimes seething with vitriol.
“People have lost some of the checks they used to have,” he said.
When they first arrived, visitors were asked to describe civility in a word. Their choices were showcased on their nametags: “Common ground,” ”self respect,” ”tolerance” and “etiquette.”
Visitors were also encouraged to share their ideas with post-it notes, sticking them to posters along the wall that bore prompts like, “Something I can do in my everyday work/life to be more civil…”
Answers will be compiled and published next week in a community report, Thomson said.
“It’s really about letting people identify what they feel, see and care about,” said Jackie Lightfield, the co-founder of Norwalk 2.0.
Susan Wallerstein, a longtime educator and former councilwoman, called the function “the high-touch counterpart to high-tech.” ”We are taking the civility index,” she said.

What Does Civility Mean to You?

Maybe it’s a sign of why economic development is stalled out in Norwalk, but the early feedback about our Community Conversation has been an unhealthy focus on politics. Of all the things a community conversation can be, a narrowly focused litany of who said what when is what it is not. Listening is an undervalued art form.

Norwalk 2.0 is winding up the Norwalk Listens, the first city-wide survey devoted to listening to what people, whether residents, visitors or businesses have to say about what they think about Norwalk. We will be releasing some results from this summer long survey at our November 3, FUNdraiser.

In the meanwhile, here’s some links to what civility conversations look like on the web:

Norwalk’s own Steve Rappaport’s book Listen First:

The End of Listening as We Know It: From Market Research Projects to Enterprise Value Creator by Yoram (Jerry) Wind, Lauder Professor of Marketing, the Wharton School, and Stephen D. Rappaport, the Advertising Research Foundation

Called “the world’s largest focus group,” “free mind-reading,” and other superlatives, many researchers have grabbed onto social media listening as the latest way to harvest consumer “insights” from “rivers” of “authentic, unfiltered conversations” in the social Web. Few willrefute the notion that listening is a priority for companies of all sizes. However, we argue that its potential is severely limited by the conventional mental models held by so many people today. The widely shared mental model is short term in focus and fails to lay the groundwork for an enduring model of listening, one that will provide companies with insights, competitive advantages, and the ability to create value through time, and carry them through the disruptions we know will inevitably occur (though we’re not sure when or how, quite yet.).

The Book blog

A Civility Quiz on Everyday Life

Thoughts on Civility

How do you view civility?

  • The five main things that spring to mind when I envision a “Civil Campus” are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
  • Examples of civil behavior that I have witnessed on campus during the past year include:
  • Examples of uncivil behavior that I have witnessed on campus during the past year include:
  • Creating a civil campus is important to me because…
  • What role does respect play here on campus?
  • I agree/disagree with this statement: The encouragement toward civility will help our students become more engaged, caring citizens of the world. Why?
Choose Civility Symposium
Inspired by the book Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct, by Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. P.M. Forni, Choose Civility is an ongoing community-wide initiative, led by Howard County Library. The Symposium is a free annual event, usually in October, that explores the role of civility with notable key note speakers. For more information visit, www.choosecivility.orgWork of P. M. Forni. Stengths

What Does Bullying Behavior Look Like?

A Community Conversation on Civility

A Community Conversation on Civility Gathers on October 12th
NORWALK – Norwalk 2.0, a community development advocate, working with REd APPLES, a grassroots non-partisan community coalition organized around improving Norwalk Public Schools are co-hosting a Community Conversation about Civility on Wednesday, October 12th from 6-8 p.m. in the Fat Cat Pie Co. special events room at 3-Wall St.
Both organizations want to start a conversation about how we as citizens behave in public.  Whether it’s the Board of Education, the board room or public hearings, the climate of community discussion is in peril. What can citizens of Norwalk do to renew a sense of civility and respect?
The event is free, and open to the public.  Light snacks will be provided by Fat Cat, and a cash bar will be provided for those wishing to have a glass of wine. Come, listen and share your ideas about what you are willing to do to change our community culture from one characterized by dysfunction and bullying to one built on respect and civil discourse.

Fairfield County Business Journal Thinks SONO Pops

Another nice article in the Fairfield Business Journal chatting up the startup vibe and pop-up buzz that Norwalk 2.0 delivers:

A popping city

 | Jul 29, 2011 | Comments 0

Artist Duvian Montoya at 136 Washington St.

A partnership between Norwalk 2.0 and the F.D. Rich Co. in South Norwalk has filled a vacant spot with temporary retailers and impetus for a lively downtown and richer economy.

“One of the things that we want to do in SoNo is engage the streetscape. You have to have feet on the street for that to happen,” said Emil Albanese, chairman of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, tasked by the city to promote commercial attractiveness and strengthen its economy.

Albanese said the pop-up shop model is perfect for SoNo because the area is similar in nature to that of the Brooklyn neighborhoods Park Slope and Williamsburg and Astoria in Queens, which have all experienced strong development as cultural centers.

Norwalk pop-up shop art market

“When you want to implement something like this it can’t just be good for the one, it’s got to be good for the many,” Albanese said. “It’s taken a long time to get where we are today, but we’re clearly on the right path.”

Albanese said he expects to see ground broken at the long stalled 95/7 project early this fall. The project will bring 200-plus residential units and around 500 residents to the other side of the Maritime Center in SoNo.

“With that you’ll really start to see the retail district moving closer to the Maritime garage and you’ll see Main Street beginning to grow,” Albanese said.

The current pop-up project that will last in a space at 136 Washington St. until the end of August is an art market, where screen-printing workshops, and two art exhibits are being held.

Nightlife outside Norwalk pop-up shop art market

“We looked for ideas that would generate feet on the street, bringing new people to South Norwalk to have an experience that was unique and fresh,” said Jackie Lightfield, chief problem solver at Norwalk 2.0, a community development program company for Norwalk.

Norwalk 2.0 provides the space and act as mentors in how each project comes into play.

“In 2008, we introduced to the Norwalk Arts Commission the idea of displaying art in vacant storefront windows as part of the Sounds of SONO concert series,” Lightfield said. “As the economy challenged property owners to maintain leased space, we came up with events like an indoor, winter farmers market to keep these retail spaces activated. This certainly isn’t a unique concept, downtown areas across the nation have been turning to artists and pop-up style events to combat the same issue, but the idea that we had was to create a retail incubator that would act as a farm team and generate businesses that would grow into sustainable leaseholders.”

Downtown SoNo

Lightfield said property owners had doubts about whether the concept would work. A feasibility study commissioned by the Redevelopment Agency reported last fall that the idea of a retail incubator would not be successful.

“Fortunately T.R. SoNo Partners, an affiliate of the F.D. Rich Company, decided that they were willing to experiment with us,” Lightfield said.

Through the support, Lightfield began to model projects that would fit in South Norwalk. Lightfield said because pop-ups are temporary they also have to be compelling and enticing to work.

“From our perspective, we welcome pop-up shops as temporary tenants,” said Stephanie Pelletier, SoNo representative for F.D. Rich. “It’s a win-win for everyone, the vacant spaces are temporarily occupied, the temporary tenant is able to conduct business, the existing merchants are happy that the area is busy and visitors to SoNo have even more to do. Having activity in a space for lease keeps everything looking lively and is attractive to potential tenants looking for a longer term lease.”

Pelletier said a temporary tenant usually has a time frame in mind for their retail needs.  “So we work with the tenant to determine the best available space for them.”

F.D. Rich provides the space and electricity and the tenant provides the rest like tables, chairs, cash registers, lighting, clothing racks and whatever is needed.  A certificate of insurance, rental fee and letter of agreement are all that is needed to open up shop. Any other special permits are the responsibility of the tenant.

The SoNo Design District has leased several pop-up shops in Norwalk, from clothing retailer Nat Nast to the most recent series of art shows at the 136 Washington St. space.

“Surrounding businesses are always pleased when the neighboring stores and spaces are filled with merchandise and activity,” Pelletier said. “We encourage all of the SoNo businesses to co-promote with each other and certainly, the idea of a pop up ‘special store’ is appealing to shoppers seeking an authentic shopping experience.”

Pelletier said one of the reasons that F.D. Rich has focused on SoNo is that it retains a urban vibe that is hard to duplicate and can be just as hard to capitalize on without the proper fostering.

“I think a pop-up store, here and there, while we seek longer term tenants, is a terrific strategy that adds value to the SoNo scene and provides a great opportunity for retailers and merchants to experience all that SoNo has to offer,” Pelletier said.

Info on the Peeps Show

Peeps Show Opening/Pop-Up Gallery-August 24. 6:30-10pm. SONO

Twelve Firing Circuit Artists will be exhibiting at the mARTket Pop-Up Gallery
136 Washington St., South Norwalk, Ct. (home of the old Sweet Rexies/next to Donavan’s).

Opening Reception:
Wednesday August 24, 2011 from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Gallery Hours:
Thursday and Friday – 4 pm – 10 pm
Saturday – 3 pm – 10 pm
Sunday – 12 noon – 6 pm
or by appointment (contact any artist below)

Special Events:
demo and instruction by Lori Lohstoeter.  Thursday from 7-10pm (description below)
collaborative clay installation project with Denise Minnerly.  Friday from 7-9pm (description below)

Watch how an artist sets up an interesting still life using every day objects.
Watch how an artist builds an image starting with line and adding value for creating dimension.

Enjoy talking with an artist about drawing.

Enjoy a free drawing lessons filled with tips and shared techniques.
Lori is an experienced art instructor. She teaches drawing at Norwalk Community College as well as creative computer programs with private students: your creative computer help line.  For complete information on Lori, go to her website:


Come and participate in a collaborative installation project.  Each participant will mold their own ball of clay into a small house to be included in a future gallery installation.  Artist Denise Minnerly will guide you through the process of creating your version of a home with her intuitive imagination and vision.  For complete information on Denise, go to her website:

Heather Braxton, Mario Cipri/845-490-4402, Mari Gyorgyey (facebook/mari georgyey and her art), Elisa Keogh Karen Larocque, Susan Leggitt, Regina Sender Levin, Lori Lohstoeter, Denise Minnerly, Derek Uhlman, Karen Vogel, and Carla Wales

SPACE DONATED BY Tom Rich, managing Partner of T.R. SoNo Partners, an FD Rich Company affiliate.

EVENT SPONSORED BY Norwalk 2.0 whose mission is to engage residents, businesses and community organizations to work together and create an authentic, creative, economically diverse and sustainable future.

For information check out the website at