Citizen Interaction Design (CID)

Community: City of Jackson
Population: 10,000+

pftCitizen Interaction Design (CID) is a 3-year partnership between the University of Michigan School of Information and the City of Jackson in which university staff and students work with government officials to design information-based solutions to community issues. Over the past two years, this effort has produced a dozen products, including:

  • DigJackson website and information campaign, communicating critical information on major downtown construction
  • Distressed Property Report, mapping the locations and processes of condemnation and demolition
  • Open Data initiative, including an adopted ordinance and administrative policy to make government data easily available to the public

University staff works with city staff to ensure consistency and continued development of promising projects. Products are designed to be efficient and sustainable, but most importantly, to approach problems from the perspective of a citizen of the 21st century, who relies on information to understand and participate in their community.


Replicability:

The products of CID are tailored to the community, but designed to address issues that most small Michigan communities face. In particular, these information and communication tools were designed to be easy to implement and maintain, require minimal technical ability, and low staffing costs. Efficiency and sustainability are critical measures of each project. More broadly, the CID program aims to expand reach to municipalities across Michigan in three ways. 1) Work directly with new communities to create custom products. 2) Develop and support a network of CID communities that share solutions and discoveries. (All CID products have a Creative Commons Zero license, allowing free use and adaptation) 3) Introduce the CID model to additional universities in Michigan in order to expand available resources and reach more communities. The CID program has hosted a civic tech conference in Ann Arbor, and is working with MML to develop resources for communities interested in better forms of engagement with their citizens.

Creativity and Originality:

There are many opportunities for students to practice their profession in real-world situations through coops, internships, job-shadowing, and class projects. Frequently they provide a great learning experience, but not a particularly useful product for the client. CID addresses this issue by focusing on partnership. CID students are not given an assignment by a client. Instead, they work with city staff to address a problem area identified by the community, so the staff has a vested interest in solving the problem. The result is fewer reports and recommendations collecting dust on a shelf, and more products that the city is prepared to maintain. The length of commitment is also unique. The 3-year partnership agreement provides more opportunities to iterate on a solution, and faith that new ideas are worth considering because there are resources to continue development over the course of multiple years. Finally, students have a fresh perspective on municipal problems. Again and again, the student products demonstrated a new way to look at things the city hasn’t changed in decades. For example, the DigJackson project worked from an assumption that major construction projects can be interesting and exciting, not just an annoyance that requires traffic detours. This perspective drove many decisions for developing the DigJackson campaign.

Community Impact:

In our first two years, the CID program has provided nearly 100 Masters students, working over 10,000 hours collectively on 18 projects. This is a tremendous level of support in an area where communities are particularly challenged, both in resources and in knowledge. The products of city-student partnerships have greatly improved the city government’s ability to communicate (both speaking and listening) to citizens and respond to community needs. For example, the DigJackson campaign (DigJackson.org) shared weekly updates on a massive downtown street and infrastructure project. It has been so successful that the city is considering expanding the DigJackson brand to additional construction projects. Other CID products have mapped fitness and recreation locations, created walking tours of public art, helped digitize cemetery records, developed anonymous texting services for the police, and enhanced public engagement around the master planning process, just to name a few (complete list of products available at citizeninteraction.org). In each example, the students and their local partners combined creative solutions with sustainable products that won’t demand more from declining city resources . “For the professional-level work they did on the DigJackson.com website, the CID interns were better than the marketing consultants we hired,” praised Assistant City Manager Jonathan Greene. More importantly, city staff and elected officials have experienced new ways of considering our work, and they have been active partners in the projects. The resulting impact goes beyond the benefits of any individual project. The Open Data initiative and the Distressed Property Report are two examples of how Jackson has integrated not just the work products, but the concept of engaging the public with data. People are increasingly engaging in an economy of information sharing, and they will seek to live and work in the places that recognize and support that demand. Through CID, Jackson has begun to recognize the role for municipalities in this information economy, and this partnership has prepared us to better use public data and information tools to engage and attract the citizens of the 21st century.

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Project Multimedia:

Project PowerPoint - Jackson Citizen Interaction Design Example Projects