How can cities turn complaints into conversations?
If we’re binge watching Parks and Recreation or Gilmore Girls, it seems like the common cultural understanding of the “concerned citizen” is someone who is complaining.
Or, as Leslie Knope says:
“What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.”
Andee Shuster, citizen of Cote Saint-Luc and active user of SeeClickFix, looks at things a little differently:
“Look, people don’t enjoy complaining. And, the people that have to be on the receiving end also don’t enjoy it either.”
Shuster is a long-time community activist within Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec who uses SeeClickFix to report non-emergency issues to City Hall with her phone or computer. “There’s literally nothing fun about complaining,” said Shuster, “But [SeeClickFix] really turns that around, making reporting an issue not feel like a complaint because of the communication and interaction with my government.”
She first used SeeClickFix this past summer when she went with her friend to take their kids to the local splash pad. When they got to the splash pad, the ground was slippery and moss was growing right where their kids were running.
Shuster thought: “The city should really fix this because it’s way too slippery for our kids to be playing on — we could improve this!” Her friend asked if she had heard about SeeClickFix. He showed her how he could take a quick picture of the issue and tag it, and how the app knew exactly where they were in the city before they pressed “Send!” together.
“The next time we went to the splash pad, it was much, much better!”
For Shuster, reporting the splash pad issue on SeeClickFix felt really good — and not just because it got fixed:
“It really didn’t feel like complaining to the city councilor or to the maintenance department. It was sort of a ‘Hey we’re here, this is what is going on, and I thought you should know’.”
Shuster felt like this kind of experience could have broader implications in her city:
“I think it’s about empowering your citizens. It’s not about an us vs. them or a management vs citizens. Instead it really brings people together around focusing on helping rather than complaining.”
But how does this happen? Shuster explains a bit more:
“It’s inclusive. It’s easy. It’s interactive. It’s fast and with very little effort you’re able to make a difference…I made an impact by saying that we could be doing something better.”
Plus, it’s kid-friendly:
“It’s something that easily be shown to other people, including teaching your kids — you can show them how to make a difference, that there are apps out there that help you to do good deeds.”
Lucky for us, Shuster’s experience is not an isolated one. Civic technology tools like SeeClickFix are being used across the country to create better, more productive and friendly conversations between citizens and their governments.
In particular, SeeClickFix was built to be a platform that is both high-tech and high-touch. In other words, it not only provides a space to have some of these conversations online, but enhances the offline conversations that will always (hopefully!) exist.