Civil discussion about community issues is the goal of a start-up launched last night in Santa Cruz, California. Civinomics is a platform for online workshops and in-person polling, aimed at engaging a wider segment of the public in conversations about local issues and ideas. Where ever those might be.
“It represents the evolution of social media into civic media,” said Chris Neklason, the company’s product management guru and the co-founder of Cruzio, an independent ISP and the host of the ribbon cutting event. “It’s about reducing friction and making things better.”
By putting workshops online and providing tools to moderators, members of the public who might be interested but not particularly passionate about an issue can join the conversation for a few minutes without being drowned out by small but vocal interest groups. As too frequently happens.
Discussions can be started by anyone interested in a topic or developing an initiative in any community. Or the platform can be used to supplement or replace traditional public workshops and town hall meetings. It’s available online at civinomics.com, or you can put a field survey on an iPad and go out get opinions. The app lets canvassers show plans or pictures, and delve into project details while asking questions.
For example, a poll done last month points to a split in the Santa Cruz community over mandatory fees for plastic bags at stores, but a general consensus that the year old ban has had a good impact.
Workshops already underway include improving the high tech economy in Santa Cruz and figuring out ways to let bikes and cars co-exist better on roads. You can sign up for an account and jump into the conversation right away. Or, start one of your own.