Looking for a roommate for NCDD 2014?

For those of you coming to the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation who want to cut down on your lodging costs, we encourage you to use the comments field on this blog post to find people interested in sharing a room at the conference hotel.

HyattRegencyRestonShotThe conference is taking place in Reston, VA (in the DC metro area) at the Hyatt Regency Reston. It’s a a cozy 4-Diamond hotel in the heart of Reston Town Center, and we encourage everyone coming in from out of town to stay at the Hyatt for your own comfort and convenience! We’ve negotiated a fantastic rate of $124/night (plus tax) for our conference attendees.

If you need to cut lodging costs while still staying at the hotel, use the comment field to post that you’re interested in finding a roommate.  I think you’ll be very glad you’re staying at the conference hotel. Staying at the Hyatt means you can take a break or nap whenever you need one, spend more time downstairs networking, and even room with someone who may become a lifelong colleague and friend. Plus you can partake in all the other hotel amenities like free wireless for guests, the huge fitness center, the pool, and the shops and restaurants right outside the hotel.

We recommend people arrive on Thursday, October 16th, since we start Friday morning and you’ll want to take advantage of some of the cool pre-conference activities your colleagues will be organizing! You should plan to depart on Monday, October 20th (or later in the day on Sunday, October 19th, since we end at 3:30pm. (See the conference schedule here.)

To get the NCDD room rate, make sure you use this link when you reserve your room:


Our cut-off date for the reduced room rate is September 30th, so be sure to reserve your room before then!  I recommend not waiting until then, though, because our room block is filling up very quickly this year.

Here are some things you may want to include in your comment:

  1. Your name, gender, and any special requirements or considerations your potential roommate should know about you (i.e. you’re a smoker or night owl).
  2. When you’re arriving and departing (in other words, which nights you want to share a room).
  3. Email or phone (in case people would like to connect with you directly).

If you have any questions that are not addressed here, check out our logistics/travel page here, and feel free to send me an email at sandy@ncdd.org if you still have questions.

Just because life is meaningless doesn’t mean you should be terrible, and other life lessons

The meaninglessness of life, or, if you will, its absurdity, is a key tenant of some philosophical traditions, most notably existentialism.

Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche are generally regarded as early thinkers in this Western tradition, though I personally find the creative works of Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett particularly enjoyable.

But the existentialists have a problem: if life is ultimately absurd, why not just act like a self-centered fool at all times?

This challenge is a step beyond the derogatory thought that those without religion are incapable of having morals. It’s more than an absence of punishment or reward that presents an issue. An acceptance of the absurd is an acceptance that life is meaningless – that ultimately nothing makes a difference. How you treat yourself doesn’t matter. How you treat others doesn’t matter.

Nothing matters.

There are, of course, ways to address this challenge.

A simplistic response is that, irregardless of deeper meaning, corporeal actions have corporeal reactions. That is – assuming a society is governed by ethical laws, people will behave ethically because otherwise they will face social punishments. Similarly, there may be social incentives to behave well.

I find this argument unsatisfactory.

In our society, for example, many people are willing to cross ethical lines to pursue a social reward of wealth, but not everyone is willing to do so. Of course, you don’t really know how you’ll react to a given ethical situation until confronted with it, but – if social regulations were all that kept people in line, it seems that we’d have a lot more unethical people than we already do. Maybe that’s just me.

I would imagine that different people are likely to respond differently to an absurd world. Depravity nor morality are intrinsic.

Camus explores these different reactions in The Plague.

A small city is quarantined after an outbreak of the (presumably bubonic) plague. Faced with almost certain death, residents react in different ways. Some turn to God. Some turn to alcohol. Some just whither away. And some try to help.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter to the universe which path a person took.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter at all.

If the question to an Existentialist is, “How do you make everyone moral in an absurd world?” The answer is you can’t.

The very meaning of morality becomes muddled in such a world. Each person chooses their own actions, and each person’s actions are their own to choose. There is no right or wrong about it.

But if the question is, “How can I be moral in an absurd world?” The answer is…do the best you can.

There is no clear path of morality in a meaningless world, but you can develop your own sense of right and wrong. You can create a moral code and live by it as best you can.

Other people will do what other people will do.

Your own moral code may involve persuading others to live what you would consider a more moral life. Or it may involve ignoring other’s moral inclinations.

It ultimately doesn’t matter.

But at the same time, it matters very much.

It matters to you.

It probably also matters to those around you, but – their feelings may or may not matter to you.

Seeing an absurd world doesn’t mean devolving to depravity. It means making your own choices and doing the best you can. It means trying to be the person you want to be – not because it’s the moral thing to do or the right thing to do, and not because any being here or beyond will judge you for your actions.

It means being the best person you can be because, really – in a world where nothing truly matters, what else is there?


Melbourne “People’s Panel” Connects Citizens to Public Decisions

We wanted to make sure the NCDD community saw an article from The Age about an intriguing new development in Melbourne, Australia where the city council is working with the good people at The newDemocracy Foundation - an NCDD organizational member – to create a “People’s Panel”. We encourage you to read more about it below or to find the original here.

newDemocracy logoYou might describe it as Melbourne City Council’s version of jury duty, except it is far easier to get out of.

A panel of 43 “everyday” Melburnians will advise council on how it should spend its money for the next 10 years, when the randomly selected group is given unprecedented access to the municipality’s financial books and experts.

In a Victorian first, 7500 letters have been sent out to randomly selected business owners, residents and students asking them to be part of a “People’s Panel”. The names of those who want to participate will be put into a ballot to decide the final team.

The $150,000 project is being run by independent research group the newDemocracy Foundation, which has run smaller projects around the country including in the inner-western suburbs of Sydney.

The group’s executive director, Iain Walker, said when armed with all the information, juries of citizens had come to very “sensible” decisions.

“We had citizens come back in Canada Bay and say ‘mow the parks less often’,” Mr Walker said.

He said when given the information the residents realised, although they loved the parks, they could save money by mowing them less often and use the extra cash on something else.

Darebin Council, in Melbourne’s inner north, is also in the process of allowing a citizen’s jury to decide how to spend $2 million worth of capital works. But the Melbourne panel will advise councillors on a far bigger spend – a whopping $4 billion over 10 years.

Cr Stephen Mayne said the project would mean that the “silent majority” would have a much bigger say on future spending, as opposed to the usual suspects of individuals and lobby groups who often strive to defend the status quo.

“This casts aside all the squeaky wheels,” he said. “It doesn’t allow people to use a megaphone to dominate conversations.
“It’s genuinely sweeping that all aside and really well informing a group in the community and letting them come back with a fresh set of eyes.”

Victorian Local Governance Association chief executive Andrew Hollows said advertising a budget through the normal channels might allow councils to meet their compliance obligations. But he believes councils need to have a “deeper” conversation with their residents.

Dr Hollows said there was a growing appetite for innovative community consultation as councils faced tough financial choices in the future.

Melbourne policymakers are facing particularly hard decisions as the city stares down a booming population and changing climate, says council chief executive Kathy Alexander.

“There’s no city in the world where it is business as usual anymore,” she said.

Those in Melbourne’s first “People’s Panel” will be paid $500 each for what is expected to be about 50 to 100 hours work. The makeup of the panel will be finalised in about a month, with the jury handing down their recommendations to councillors in November.

Everyone else can have their say through an online financial tool, which allows people to make their own 10-year budget.
Visit www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/participate for more information.

The original version of this article from The Age can be found at www.theage.com.au/victoria/citizens-jury-of-melburnians-will-guide-6-billion-spend-20140707-zsz7i.html.

CM Call on Digital Public Participation, Sept. 5

CM_logo-200pxWe are pleased to invite NCDD members to join our partners at CommunityMatters for the next of their monthly capacity-building calls series. This month’s call is titled “Deepening Public Participation - Digitally”, and it will be taking place next Friday, September 5th from 2-3pm Eastern Time. 

We are excited to note that this month’s call features insights from Pete Peterson of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership - NCDD organization member – as well as Alissa Black of the Omidyar Network. The folks at CM describe the upcoming call this way:

Your town is finally in the digital age with a website, online calendar, and Facebook page.  Now you can sit back and relax, right? Not exactly.

An array of online tools is available that can take your digital presence to the next level, promoting collaboration between government and citizens, engaging new audiences, and effectively complementing “analog” face-to-face engagement. It’s time for your town to get online and see what’s out there!

Join the next CommunityMatters® conference call and dig deeper into digital engagement with experts Alissa Black and Pete Peterson. You’ll learn about online public engagement and which digital tools are right for your town.

Make sure to register for the call today!

As always, we encourage you to check out the CommunityMatters blog to read Caitlyn Horose’s reflections on digital public participation as a way to prime your mental pump before the call. You can read the blog post below or find the original by clicking here.

Deepening Public Participation – Digitally

Commutes are too long. Schedules are too packed. Work is too demanding. With today’s busy schedules attending public meetings just isn’t a priority for many people. So how can local government get residents involved in tackling community problems?

The internet is one place that governments are turning for solutions. Digital tools for public engagement can effectively complement in-person meetings, and convenience is only one reason to invest in online participation. Here are several helpful resources to assist in ramping up engagement digitally.

Broadening Public Participation Using Online Engagement Tools outlines five benefits of online engagement: reaching more diverse residents, generating more informed participation, producing concrete data for reporting, and evaluation and setting the stage for sustained participation.

Despite the many benefits of online engagement, there are challenges. Using Online Tools to Engage the Public discusses the challenge of attracting participants and the need for targeted recruitment strategies. Also addressed is the uncertain legal landscape for digital engagement, as some public participation ordinances and policies predate current technology. The PlaceSpeak blog outlines additional issues in digital engagement—technical issues, “lurkers” and the lack of physical cues—with recommended strategies for overcoming them.

Knowing how to select appropriate online engagement tools is an added challenge. There are many considerations—project budget, desired outcomes and a community’s willingness to engage online.

Alissa Black presents a framework for categorizing and selecting digital engagement platforms in Public Pathways: A Guide to Online Engagement Tools for Local Governments. Modifying the IAP2 engagement spectrum, the guide divides the objectives of engagement into four categories: inform, consult, cooperate, empower. The progression of these categories represents a deepening in the level of public participation.

Golden Governance: Building Effective Public Engagement in California advocates for government to deepen engagement. With “deep participation,” citizens are empowered to work with government to make decisions and solve problems. While citizen empowerment shouldn’t be the goal of every public process, it needs to be a tool at the ready. When community members work together on solutions to local problems, there is greater buy-in, more can be done with less, and project stewardship is more likely.

Join Alissa Black and Pete Peterson on our next CommunityMatters conference call Friday, September 5 from 2-3 p.m. Eastern. Learn more about online public engagement and get advice on digging deeper with digital tools. There is no better way to spend your Friday afternoon, so register now!

You can find the original version of this post at www.communitymatters.org/blog/deepening-public-participation%E2%80%93digitally.

job openings in civic renewal (7)

(Washington, DC) This is #7 in an occasional series. See also #6, from late July.

Tenure-track Assistant Professor, Department of Public and Community Service Studies at Providence College. “We invite applicants with teaching and scholarly interests that focus on service learning and community-based research, with particular expertise in the area of diversity and cross-cultural engagement. The first interdisciplinary major of its kind in the United States, since 1994 the Public and Community Service Department has partnered with nearby communities and organizations in the City of Providence.

Research Postdoc, The Center for Promise, Tufts University and America’s Promise Alliance. The Center conducts applied research, exploring how all children and youth experience the key developmental supports they need to thrive and graduate from high school ready for college, work, and life.  Given the collaborative culture of the Center, the person appointed to this post-doctoral position will work on multiple projects. However, his or her primary assignment will be on the following two projects. From Re-engagement to Graduation and Developing within a Youth System.

Senior program officer for the Democracy Fund, The Open Society Foundations. The senior program officer will have primary responsibility for work on two strategic goals:

  • Establishing a governing interpretation of the Constitution that allows for sensible regulation of money in politics to promote a vibrant and inclusive democracy;
  • Promoting progressive Constitutional values in legal and popular discourse while ensuring diversity of race, gender, professional experience, and ideology on the federal courts.

Senior Public Engagement Associate, Public Agenda. Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues. The Senior Public Engagement Associate works with the Public Engagement (PE) team to develop, coordinate and implement engagement projects across a range of issues areas around the country.

The post job openings in civic renewal (7) appeared first on Peter Levine.

Madness as a Social Construct

I was reading an article the other day which expressed a point I’ve often heard:

Depression is an illness.

I’m no mental health expert, but I know I’m supposed to agree with this. And, perhaps, I do. In theory.

Reinforcing depression as an illness is important for a number of reasons:

People shouldn’t feel shame for seeking help. You wouldn’t feel weak for seeing a doctor after a heart attack, for example.

People should know they can’t control depression. You can’t “snap out” of depression the way you might change an outfit. Dedication, determination, effort – these may not make a difference. And that’s no one’s fault.

So it is important to remind people that depression is an illness. An actual issue. It’s far more insidious than a bad day.

Yet, when I read this the other day, it suddenly stuck me as…judgmental.

If depression is an illness, that implies that there is something wrong with people who are depressed.

Someone who is a mental health expert once told me that depression is only a problem for a person who finds it a problem.

That is, every person has the right to be depressed if they choose to be. A person with depression only needs treatment if they feel they need treatment. If they’re not living the life they want to live or being the person they want to be.

I gather this is a contentious idea within the mental health community, and, perhaps, reasonably so.

The right of depression resonates with my support for the unconventional, but this approach raises obvious concerns as well. If someone thinks they don’t deserve to live, is it then their right to act on that belief? Are we obligated to intervene, or should we rather defer to their individual freedom?

If a person feels this way because they are ill – does that change things?

In Madness and Civilization Michel Foucault documents the history of “madness” throughout the modern Western world. Different things have been considered madness at different times, with different explanations, and, of course, different solutions.

The beauty of Foucault’s analysis is that it goes beyond the articulated scientific layer of the day.

Yes, he explores the scientific rational behind the humors, documenting the believed impacts of hard bile or hot blood. But he goes deeper than that, connecting the medical understanding of the day with the moral beliefs that went into it – and the moral implications which come out of the diagnosis.

It is easier and comforting to think of today’s medicinal understanding as pure science, untainted by the bias of morality. But this interplay is perhaps easier to see when looking back at “medicine” which is pure quackery.

Foucault recounts stories of men whose mania was attributed to “excessive intercourse,” and of women who “invent, exaggerate, and repeat all the various absurdities of which a disordered imagination is capable.” This women’s hysteria, one doctor warns, “has sometimes become epidemic and contagious.”

And, lest you laugh this off as the foolishness of the Victorian era, remember that it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

So, there may be some legitimate science to it, but it seems there’s some social construct to it as well.

Is depression an illness? Well, it seems I don’t know.


Power of Dialogue Training Sept. 18-20 from PCP

We are pleased to announce that the Public Conversations Project is hosting a great dialogue training Sept. 18-20 which features a steep discount for NCDD members. PCP is an NCDD organizational member and we are proud to have them as one of our NCDD 2014 All-Star Sponsors. Find out more about the training below or by clicking here.

Public Conversations ProjectDo you work with groups challenged by deep differences? Do you need new ways to help them engage? Join Public Conversations in Minneapolis on September 18-20 for our signature workshop, The Power of Dialogue.

This Public Conversation Project signature workshop offers a deep exploration of Reflective Structured Dialogue, an intentional communication process to reduce threat and foster mutual understanding across lines of deep difference. Through immersion in an intensive case simulation, participants will learn about the dynamics of polarization and conflict, and explore modes of communication that increase understanding, re-humanize opponents and shift relationships. Learn more and register.


  • The dynamics of polarization and conflict, including the effects of strong emotion on our capacity for communication
  • The difference between the intent and impact of speaking
  • Ways of speaking, listening, and asking questions that open up conversation and relationships
  • Core components of Reflective Structured Dialogue


  • A “dialogic” mindset: the ability to create a space for multiple complex or conflicting views
  • Questions for personal reflection, opening dialogue and shaping conversation


  • The process of dialogue – preparing participants, planning, facilitating, and participating – via an extended dialogue simulation
  • The power of connecting with practitioners from different fields who are committed to transforming conflicted conversations

We encourage you to learn more about this great opportunity and to take advantage of the NCDD discount! Find out more and register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9qm0j6f08c7992b&llr=c55866bab

how to teach the constitution of cyberspace

Tomorrow at the American Political Science Association, I’ll be joining Hahrie C. Han (Wellesley College), Cathy J. Cohen (University of Chicago), and Joseph Kahne (Mills College) on a panel on Civic Education after the Digital Revolution Date (10:15 AM-12:00 PM, Omni Palladian Ballroom, DC).

This is one topic I’d like to discuss: Students should understand and be able to critically assess the basic rules and structure of the Internet, much as they should understand and be able to criticize the US Constitution. But the Internet is harder to grasp, for both teachers and students. How should the “constitution of cyberspace” be taught (if at all)?

The US government as an institution that students should understand in order to critically assess it. To be sure, the government is large and complex, it has changed over time, and it has both proponents and sharp critics. Yet it has one fundamental document (the US Constitution) and one impressive justification (in the Federalist Papers) that provide focal points of debate. Students can learn a lot by reading the Constitution, some of the Federalist Papers, and some critics of the Constitution and then applying their knowledge through discussions of historical and current controversies.

In contrast, Web 2.0 has no constitution and no Federalist Papers. I admire perceptive theorists of the new media landscape: Benkler (2006), boyd (2008), Castells (2000), Lessig (2000), Shirky (2008), Sunstein (2007), and others. None of these authors would claim to be the James Madison of cyberspace. They did not have the authority to write its fundamental rules, and they do not offer highly general justifications of it. Their writing is too difficult to be assigned directly in most k-12 classrooms. Their scholarship has not been digested for youth audiences, nor has it prominent expression in political discourse. If there is a Gettysburg Address for the new media environment, I have not seen it.

I do not presume that the US Constitution is preferable to the rules of cyberspace or that the framers of the Constitution are more admirable than the architects of the digital world. The Constitution requires critical evaluation; the Internet has attractive features. I would simply assert that it is harder to understand cyberspace than the US government because only the latter has an authoritative code (the Constitution) and official justifications that we can read and critically evaluate.

The post how to teach the constitution of cyberspace appeared first on Peter Levine.


When he was 35 years old, Siddhārtha Gautama sat under the Bodhi tree. For 49 days and 49 nights he meditated.

He achieved enlightenment.

Thereafter, he was known as Gautama Buddha, or, more simply, the Buddha. The enlightened one.

The word “enlightened” here, of course, is a translation – a stand in for several Sanskrit words with subtle meanings. “Enlightened” seems to be the best English can do, and this translation is really borrowed from Kant’s understanding of Aufklärung.

But, lax language aside, Buddha achieved permanent enlightenment, a state of peace and calm, free from suffering. Nirvana.

Presumably, one who has not achieved Nirvana cannot accurately conceptualize it, but, what I find perhaps most remarkable is the idea of this as a permanent state which lasts throughout an enlightened one’s life.

One can almost imagine fleeting moments of enlightenment: I imagine renaissance paintings of light and color. Brief gasps of clarity and meaning. Synapses straining toward meaning. Rare breakthrough which fade to an ineffable haze.

To imagine this as a lasting state seems inconceivable. Eventually the details of life settle in. One gets hungry or tired or busy or distracted. If you achieve enlightenment, do you get up and go to work the next morning? Answering emails and dropping kids at soccer practice don’t seem enlightened tasks.

If you manage to experience even a brief moment of awareness, can you hold on to that state, that enlightenment, while going about your mundane tasks?

In Herman Hesse’s Siddartha, he chronicles another man’s journey to enlightenment. His hero, a contemporary of the Buddha, takes many paths in life. He is a Brahman, an ascetic, a businessman. He leads all these lives, abandoning each when he realizes he is no closer to enlightenment than he was before.

All he finds is meaninglessness.

But Siddartha is a tale of enlightenment. The end of the story finds him, near the end of his life, as a ferryman by the river.

He leads a simple life and has all he needs.

He has achieved Nirvana.

And just as Siddhārtha Gautama’s journey was a path – a moderation between indulgence and deprecation – the path of Hesse’s Siddhartha is needed to be a journey as well.

He needed to starve, he needed to feast, he needed to love, he needed to lose. It was only by experiencing all this, living all these lives, that he ultimately found that rare, lasting state of peace.

In Buddhism, we all strive towards enlightenment. It is a long, possibly endless journey, spread over many lives. We are born, we experience, we die, and we are reborn to experience more. Some lives we get closer to enlightenment and some lives we lose ground.

And, perhaps, some day, in some life we can have that crystallizing moment, that brief insight of clarity, that sacred spasm of meaning.

And if you can hold on to that moment, you become buddha, become enlightened, achieve Nirvana.

You are free from suffering and reborn no more.


Can Pinterest Make Local Public Engagement More Effective?

We were intrigued by this commsgodigital piece on the ways that Pinterest can be used by local government officials for public engagement, and we wanted to share it with the NCDD community. The article was penned by Andrew Coulson, a local community engagement officer, and you can read it below or find the original commsgodigital piece by clicking here.

Pintresting: 10 tips for using Pinterest in local government

At 4 years old Pinterest is still recognised as a young social media platform. It has survived the storm of its first steps in society and has been accepted as a survivor. As a tool for potential engagement, I love it.

We started using Pinterest at the City of Salisbury very early on when it was still in Beta and in some case studies have been recognised as one of the first councils in Australia if not the world to use it as a tool in Community Engagement.

Pinterest overview

Pinterest is a free platform that basically resembles those old scrapbooks you used to keep as kids but instead of keeping paper clippings, stamps and stickers you can pin pictures on boards that link back to a whole world of things you want to make, bake and fake.

For those of you not on Pinterest here’s a quick overview of how it works. You can use Pinterest to upload, save, sort, and manage images as well as videos, known as ‘pins’, into collections on ‘boards’ you have created.

Pinners can browse others pins on the main page as well as follow friends and search specific topics/pins opening up a whole world of lost time. If you see something you like you can then pin it to your board and by using an additional ‘Pin It’ button can even pin direct from most websites. Interaction can be increased by liking and commenting on others pins and if you’re feeling collaborative you can start a pin board others can contribute too.

But how does this fit in with local government and council services. Jokes often refer to Pinterest as an abyss of wedding preparation boards and cakes you’ll never even attempt to make. But with just under 400,000 people in Australia using it (and rising) Pinterest holds a different key to peoples online experience because of its heavy reliance on the visual.

My top 10 tips for using Pinterest

Here are my 10 tips why and how local government could look at harnessing this free communication and potential community engagement tool. Some basics on how to set up, use and have a play.

1) Pinterest is growing every day. In over 4 years it has amassed over 70 million users worldwide. Yes the stats in Australia are low and slow but with Aussie trends often following America its potential here is huge. Stats show 8 in 10 users are female so think about how your council could harness this when setting up boards, preparing images to share that are maybe more female friendly. I spoke with The South Australian Country Fire Service recently about how pictures of hot fireman (come on we all know sex sells) could drive amazing traffic to other more serious boards about Bush Fire Survival and Health and Safety.

2) Plan your boards. Boards can be pinned too randomly but if you’re setting up a specific board to highlight an event or service; planned in advance boards can also tell a story. Pics you pin will start at the bottom of a board and fill from the top. A great way to tell a story is to think about pinning your pins in order. So for example if telling the story of a 3 day conference then pin pics from day three first and finish with day one if you want the story to go in order down the board. This is probably our best planned board showing the story of the making of our council film. In this case the story starts at the bottom and finishing at the top with the finished product: Lights, Camera, Action!

3) Secret boards. To help with tip 2 and also 6, Pinterest gives you the opportunity to set up a board in secret. By setting a board to secret when setting up it means not only does the public not see it until its ready to be launched but it allows you to plan and pin appropriately. This is helpful when starting a new board as each board cover shows the last 5 pins you have pinned and I will never let a board go live without those 5 spaces being filled… for me that’s like leaving an egg as your user profile pic on your Twitter, it looks unprofessional.

4) Pinterest board layout. Once you have set up a number of boards you can edit their position on the page. This is helpful to highlight certain boards as with most websites people’s eyes are drawn to the middle of the page. If you put your most recent or popular board in the middle then engagement is likely to be higher. You can also change each board cover photo which is important as I have read that people are more likely to open a board if the cover image is inviting you in. For example a smiling person or cute animal. Check out our homepage layout.

5) A picture is worth 1000 words. A picture will tell a story. A picture can evoke memories. A picture can aid discussion. Pictures are accessible across cultures, religions and languages. Next time you take photos think about how you can use them on Pinterest as well as your community magazine or website. Need I say more?

6) URL secrets. If pinning from another person’s board be aware that the picture will more than likely have an embedded URL. To check before you pin just click through the picture and if it does have a web link embedded you will be directed to that website. Its better safe than sorry as you never know where the image originally came from (under each image it should also say the URL). If pinning direct from a website the picture will automatically embed the web site URL for you.

Use this to your advantage. If the URL is unsuitable for a council board or you are uploading a picture directly from your computer, under the edit tool you can actually change or add a URL. This is important as in turn it can drive traffic back to your website and who wouldn’t want people finding your website simply by you pinning a great image of what services you offer in council.

7) More URL secrets. Pinterest is still new enough that most customized URLs, how people find your collections, are still available. As a council image is important claiming your URL while you can is crucial. This will allow you to make it easier share your Pinterest elsewhere and for people to find you especially if you’re not the only council with that name in the world. I work for the City of Salisbury of which there at least 2 others in the US and UK.

8) Use to inform in advance. Pinning pictures before an event; for example of speakers with bios, visual workshop content and videos of past opportunities may help people decide whether the event is for them rather than a standard heavy text based flyer/email. You can then enhance ticket sales by embedding a URL that takes people direct to your ticket sales page. Then once the event is over you can use the board to pin pictures of what happened and close the loop, great for feedback. Here is one of our upcoming events, the 10th Salisbury Writers Festival.

9) Share your photos. Like data sharing Councils have access to content people want so why not share your photos. Local councils have collections of pictures people would love to see and share dating back many many moons. Often these pictures just sit in archives or on databases and would never see the light of day once taken. 20+ photos can get taken at a ribbon cutting for a new leisure centre but only one will actually be used in your council magazine… so why not share the others; they have value to the people in them, connected to them and to the history of your area.

10) Collaborative projects. On Pinterest when you set up a board you have the option to add other people, who have Pinterest accounts, to the board so they can contribute. Now this one does come with a little warning as you have no way of moderating another person’s contribution until it’s already live and this could be a risky tactic for local government. However imagine the possibilities.

Ask your community to pin ideas for budget spends, park renewal designs or nominating priority areas that need attention. The comments function can then be used to provide feedback on pictures collected. Of course you can always set up a board and ask people to share pictures in other ways (Email, Instagram, Twitter) which you then pin on their behalf with a named credit. This is something I did when collecting photos of a 30 year old iconic playground as pre-engagement before looking at renewing the site through a full consultation process.

So there we have it, 10 tips why and how Pinterest for Local Government is a Pinteresting concept. I’m sure there are many others reasons to so why not let us know by commenting below and please do share how you use Pinterest especially in local government.

Happy pinning.

Picture credits: Top – The Art of Pinterest by MKHMarketing
Other pictures – City of Salisbury Pinterest.

You can find the original version of this commsgodigital piece at www.commsgodigital.com.au/2014/08/using-pinterest-local-government-pinteresting-concept.