A better real-time way for Idahoans to engage with leaders.
Make Idaho Better LIVE will be the easiest way to ask questions and get answers.
I live in Boise, and I frequent most of the different civic engagement things around here. City council meetings, round tables, neighborhood association meetings, community school events, I try to check them all out.
So far, I’ve been pretty disappointed. There’s two big problems with these types of things —
Specific place, specific time.
That doesn’t work for A LOT of people. People assume that the only engaged people are the ones that show up to that stuff. I think they’re flat out wrong.
I believe there are thousands of Idahoans that are interested in the issues, trying to be “in the know,” and they want to be a part of solutions. But they haven’t quite found an easy and intuitive way to do that yet. I’m building Make Idaho Better for them.
Not for real listening and learning.
Most of these events are messaging-focused events. Some organization has made up their mind about something, and they’re trying to appear like they care what the public thinks by giving them a chance to comment on the new decision, and then they explain why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Explaining isn’t good enough.
Leaders should take the time to get to know us. And then, after that, make decisions that are in our best interests. Not the other way around — doesn’t work that way.
However, one existing event is closest to my ideal: connecting leaders with engaged residents for important discussions with the goal of informing, increasing understanding, and problem-solving.
The City Club of Boise
Their events are my favorite to go to in this category. However, no event can be perfect, and I have some complaints about the City Club as well.
“For 60 year olds, by 60 year olds.”
A friend of mine had this great quote. And I think it’s totally true. From my experience, the average age in the room is definitely 50+, and the only young people, more or less, are the Boise High kids that are dragged there by their civics teachers.
In person, first. Radio, second.
To their benefit, City Club does broadcast their events, usually in partnership with Boise State Public Radio (NPR affiliate), so that other folks can tune in if they can’t make it in person. That’s a good start, but… it’s radio. The last time this was the best option was decades ago, right?
Not interested in new ideas.
As you may have gathered, I’m something of a rabble-rouser. I don’t really accept the status quo with most things, and I’m trying to find ways to improve constantly. I had some ideas for the City Club, and I reached out several different ways, but their response was consistent and clear: Thanks, but no thanks.
But I’m not giving up on this. I think we should do better.
When I was imagining what a better “live event” format would be, I had a few things stand out in my mind.
Any new community engagement event should be accessible to anyone that’s interested, no matter whether they can get to a specific place at a specific time or pay. There are fantastic tools for this now. I think I’d use Youtube Live to record and stream everything so anyone with internet can be a part of it in real time.
But “listening” isn’t a good enough way to include people that are tuning in remotely. They should have “equal standing” with the in-person folks and be able to interact with the speakers. They need to be able to ask audience questions like anyone else.
And the exact wording of audience questions should be visible to everyone in the audience, and they should have the chance to “up-vote” them so that the most resonant questions get the most attention. I’ve seen Slido used for this to great effect in past Prezi all-hands meetings (I used to work there).
It shouldn’t be a stuffy thing where most people use big words, try to make themselves look smart, and wear ties. Instead of using a conference center venue, let’s do it at a bar, like Penguilly’s Saloon. From my experience, alcohol mixes well with important conversations.
I’m going to try to put all these values together in a new kind of community event called —
Make Idaho Better LIVE
I envision a one-hour event, with 3 leaders that have worked with Make Idaho Better in the past — leaders that give a shit about public perceptions. It’d start with a 10-minute “pitch,” presentation, or explainer on something that each leader is working on to make Idaho better, followed by a 30 minute panel discussion with audience Q&A.
And it will be free. For those that appreciate what we’re doing, and want it to continue, I’ll invite donations through Venmo to @MakeIdahoBetter.
If it catches on, I’d love to do this once a month. I think it’d fill an important void in Idaho political and civic discussion — an accessible, transparent, fun way to interact with your leaders.